of 252 /252
Venezuela the miracle of music Chefi Borzacchini

Venezuela the miracle of music

Embed Size (px)

Citation preview

Page 1: Venezuela the miracle of music

Venezuelathe miracle of music

Chefi Borzacchini

Page 2: Venezuela the miracle of music

2

Page 3: Venezuela the miracle of music

Miguel Ignacio Purroy

President of Bancaribe

hen one talks of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, one talks of more

than a miracle. A miracle presumes the intervention of superhuman or divine forces, but the explanation of what has happened with the System is totally human and of this world: the wonderful combination of the Venezuelan people’s musi-cal sense, Maestro José Antonio Abreu’s unlimited vision, the establishment of a series of values that has given meaning to the project, and its organization based on clear relationships of discipline, order, division of labor, and defined goals. These four factors, in an especially virtuoso blend, have been the driving force behind the most important musical project un-dertaken anywhere and have also made it not only sustainable over time but also increasingly solid.

This program has already been functioning for 35 years, and everything points to it having more and even better years ahead. In point of fact, back in 2004, when Bancaribe sponsored the first book, which told the story of the System, its milestones, achievements, and testimonies under the title Venezuela Bursting with Orchestras, we were convinced that this story was only just beginning. Since then, the System and all its components have given only joy to Venezuela and the world, with Gustavo Dudamel as its most outstanding emblem, but not the only one, gaining recognition equally at home and abroad, every day, through concerts before massive audiences, interpretations that are now considered historic and have been preserved in recordings under the most demanding

music record labels, tours that have taken in practically the entire globe, wholesale recognition from the most outstand-ing musical authorities -conductors as well as musicians and composers-, all of which culminated in 2008, with the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, today one of the most presti-gious awards coveted by everyone devoted to the arts.

Five years have elapsed since that first book, and now, to cel-ebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of this portentous work and Bancaribe’s fifty-fifth anniversary, we are sponsoring this new compendium of the story, memories, and high moments of the System of Orchestras under the stimulating title Venezuela, the miracle of music. This new book brings the earlier one right up to date, develops the issues more fully, and, as though that were not enough, approaches new subjects and somewhat rounds out the “report and accounts” of the System from re-newed perspectives and drawing on different testimonies and items of information. So, the work we are presenting today is, in fact, a new and original one. The author, Chefi Borzacchini, has brought skill and passion to the challenge of capturing in her writings the wonder of the System’s evolution.

From this book we have garnered the following admirable figures: more than 300,000 participants, 100 beginners’ orchestras, 150 children’s orchestras, 146 youth orchestras, 25 music groups in the Special Education Program, 342 chil-dren’s and youth choirs, and 363 chamber music ensembles. At first glance, these impressive figures are an indicator of

3

Page 4: Venezuela the miracle of music

how the System is being extended to the masses, and that has certainly happened. But on closer look, we find that this influx of students has never posed restrictions on the excellence and quality of the results. In other words, the System has proved to us that quantity can accompany, expand, and enhance quality.

Equally admirable are programs such as the Penitentiary Aca-demic Program implemented in Venezuelan prisons, in which more than 2,000 inmates have taken part and today has some 600 pupils under the slogan “an orchestra in every prison,” or the programs that allow handicapped children and youngsters to enjoy making music to the full. Then there is the “Music in Schools” program with choirs in schools in low-income areas sponsored directly by Bancaribe, which has become such a large movement that we are able to attend a major event each year that brings all the schools together; that means more than a thousand voices in a single choir that produces an almost celestial sound from a virtuoso group of human voices. And we must not forget the Youth Festival, which if we count the first time it was held, under the name of Festival Bancaribe, is now to hold its sixth annual event, intended, as always, for the general public who continue to fill the auditoriums.

Music truly can change lives. “It saved my life,” says a young participant. In point of fact, music turns living into a festival, a celebration as, by giving life meaning, an objective, it fills it with freedom and creative possibilities. So, one way or another, thanks to these orchestras, music goes to the people, touches them deep down, and elevates them to the dignity of being themselves, of acknowledging who they are without restrictions or fears.

Obviously, we cannot but be deeply satisfied with our deci-sion to accompany this project for many years now, and we have done so because we realized, from day one, that there was a clear convergence of the System’s values and those of our bank: a sense of social responsibility towards the country, because this is not something that is alien to either the orches-tras or our bank or something to which we are indifferent, as

we carry Venezuela in our souls and it is the objective of all our efforts; industriousness, in other words nothing of importance is achieved without tenacity, without perseverance, without working day after day, regardless of the conditions in our surroundings; transparency and honesty, doing everything entrusted to us with professional honesty, without sharp prac-tices or injustices, always with transparency, without indul-gence or laggardness, and without alleging difficulties for not performing our tasks; the combination of serious, thorough, unwavering individual work and teamwork, based on the con-viction that, without others, we will not get far, that only with others we will reach the most valuable heights, because yes, the goal is a collective one and is reached only together, but no team works if it is not made up of individuals with a rigorous formation and an inexhaustible sense of responsibility; and daring to combine tradition and innovation, because tradition gives us the basics and experience and innovation is essential for growing, creating, and opening up new horizons.

But above all, both the System and the bank are clearly committed to the present and, in the present, we legitimate nothing with our past and we trust nothing to the mists of the future. The best way of honoring the past is to take the best it has to offer and make it better today. And the best thing the future can hold for us depends on our being capable of guaranteeing it today, making the present a moment that is pleasurable, amiable and livable. For example, we are deter-mined to defeat the conditions that are a breeding ground for poverty. In fact, the System cleanly breaks the social and eco-nomic vicious circle that produces social inequality. We also firmly believe that poverty can be overcome and vanquished with good work, in-depth education, and a balanced distribu-tion of benefits as factors that undermine the foundations of inequality. Cooperating in this task is one of our firmest purposes and yet another reason why we support this project headed by Maestro Abreu.

4

Page 5: Venezuela the miracle of music

Now then, there is one last point I wish to emphasize. In the case of the System, none of its successes would have been possible had it not be equipped with a management, planning, and work structure that draws from the best traditions of the world of those who undertake collective works and works for the community: sustained leadership (embodied, in this case, by Maestro Abreu and a group of founding pioneers); indefatigable, creative workers (the thousands and thousands of children and young people who have made playing music the very meaning of their lives); and the effective, hardwork-ing administrative staff (that group of people, always in the background, without whose daily, disciplined, committed efforts we would have never heard the System emit a single chord). Any undertaking, of whatever kind, be it economic, social or artistic, becomes established thanks to a similar support network, and for which there is no substitute.

But besides this highly effective structure, mention also needs to be made of a fundamental alliance: the alliance that has been achieved between the State, the private sector, and the Venezuelan people. The first two as unwavering and uncon-ditional sources of support for the orchestras, and the last, the people, organized in that particular kind of nonprofit association that is faithfully represented by the members of the System; a three-pronged alliance that demolishes any myths about the lack of discipline and constancy of our people, the reluctance of businessmen to put their backs into something that does not produce cash dividends, and the im-possibility of a respectful and productive partnership between the private sector and the State.

In short, it has to be said that this marvelous result, which is tangible in the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras, points unerringly to the true possibility of a better Venezuela. That is why, in many parts of the world, similar attempts are being made and that the creation of the Ibero-American System of Children’s and Youth Orchestras is about to happen. In other words, Venezuela is also able to export en-lightenment, talent, and hope and share them out generously

to other lands –our lands- giving more brilliance, greater splendor and a clean sonority to musical harmonies, those harmonies that are typical of the unending task of our species of becoming more and more human. Because, as Maestro Abreu maintains, “one can never say ‘mission accomplished” of great projects as, paraphrasing the Olympic slogan, they can always reach higher and be stronger.

Five years ago we wrote that “Venezuela deserves these or-chestras” and that these orchestras deserve a better Venezuela because, in order to achieve that, they work unceasingly, day and night, with the spirit of those who do their duty with an incomparable sense of enjoyment.

“Play and fight,” yes, to get ahead.

June 2010

5

Page 6: Venezuela the miracle of music

6

Page 7: Venezuela the miracle of music

here are journalistic works that one does not manage to define objectively because they are impregnated from start to finish with emotions and sentiments. That is what happened to me with the two publications I’ve had the pleasure to dedicate to the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs: Venezuela Bursting with Orchestras (2004) and Venezuela, the miracle of music (2010), both commissioned and edited by Fundación Bancaribe.

The original title was particularly apt at a time when the System was leaving behind its time of sowing. On that occasion we compiled the memories of this project’s progress –started in 1975– during its first 30 years and its early triumphs at home and abroad. But the buds were about to open and send forth an aroma that was to spread with great exquisiteness. Barely a few months had elapsed when, in 2005, all the flowers had opened and the tree was laden with fruit. So, Venezuela, the miracle of music tells how the rich harvest of a triumphant program is being gath-ered in. It is, moreover, an opportunity to recall how thousands of Venezuelan children, adolescents, men, and women who have been assimilated into the System have caused new riches to burgeon in our land: bunches of orchestras, forests of musicians, and vast crops of citizens of all ages, disciplined, tenacious, and satisfied at having achieved a better future.

I have the honor to offer this new book on what the world has called simply “the System.” In it, I sought to reflect the won-derful reality of a country that has risen up as a world power, capable of exporting its most luminous face and, on the most coveted scenarios, of hoisting the flag of equality (because all children and young people regardless of race or social stratum can have access to education and art), the flag of tolerance (be-cause in an orchestra, each member must adopt a democratic attitude and show respect for his fellow musician with whom he shares a music stand), and the flag of individual and collective self-betterment (because they must all be perfectly in tune in order to achieve, as one voice, high levels of excellence in pursuit of applause). In these ten chapters, in which I have combined a variety of genres –interviews, testimonies, monologs, articles, biographical sketches, analyses, and reviews–, I offer a wide-

ranging feature story of the most authentic and progressive humanistic, social, and cultural phenomenon that Venezuela has brought about in the past half century.

I dedicate this book, first of all, to the thousands of children, adolescents, professional musicians, and teachers of the System who are traveling the world with their message of happiness and the singular energy that is so typically Venezuelan; to the thousands of mothers and fathers who have accompanied their children in the struggle to achieve goals and triumphs; and to the hundreds of workers, guides, and managers of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation who have devoted themselves to promoting, taking care of, and loving all those children and young musicians.

As a journalist, my thanks go to José Antonio Abreu for his con-fidence in me and the support he has given so that I might, with total freedom, recreate his story and that of his young musicians. And, as a Venezuelan, I dedicate this book to Maestro Abreu, for whom I foretell a Nobel Peace Prize for having heaped love, tolerance, joys, union, and a sense of the meaning of life on so many Venezuelan children, adolescents, and families; for having created this social and musical formula for rescuing our children from the horrors of violence, drugs, and material and spiritual poverty; and, last of all, for having turned Venezuela into a coun-try of music, of great musicians, and for being the inventor of a new universal model for teaching music that is indisputably a contribution for the advancement of this art.

I also wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to the presidency and board of directors of Bancaribe and Fundación Bancaribe for having chosen me to produce this second book in their endeavor to depict, preserve, and disseminate the cultural memory of Venezuela as the best gift we can offer present and future generations of Venezuelans and as a testimony to what we have all worked for so that Venezuelans who have yet to be born may appreciate and corroborate their lineage with pride.

June 2010

Chefi Borzacchini

The Author

7

Page 8: Venezuela the miracle of music

Contents

Emblem of splendor / Article on the Simón Bolívar

Orchestra -12

Eternally young / Article by Santos López -16

Symphony Orchestra Superstar / A selection of reviews from

the international press -22

Sheer Energy / Review by Joshua Kosman -28

Four snapshots from London / Chronicle by Reynaldo

Trombetta -30

The repertoire that’s not rehearsed / Review by Marjorie Delgado

Aguirre -31

The great batons’ dream / Opinions of Venezuelan and foreign

conductors -32

The sound of a continent / Recordings -36

Leaving emotions in their wake / Testimonies from personalities -38

The crowning moment / Article -40

Around the world with the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth

Symphony Orchestra / Infography -44

A choral chronicle: 35 years on / Account of the first tours, concerts,

and rehearsals and the début of the first Youth Orchestra -72

Dreaming a forest / Testimonies from the founding members of the

System -80

Frank Di Polo: We gave our all / Interview -86

The orchestra-school: a seven-star philosophy / Attitudes and skills

the System develops in children and adolescents -90

The bounties of the System / Infography -96

Igor Lanz: we form well rounded individuals for society /

Interview -98

Words of praise from converts / Opinions from Rattle, Penderecki,

Holloway, Djupsjöbacka, Vulliamy, Pelinka, and Kwak -100

A musical echo heard way down in Patagonia / Accounts by Ulyses

Ascanio and Florentino Mendoza -102

Venezuela’s biggest social and education revolution / Opinions from

Tulio Hernández, Esteban Araujo, Alberto Grau, Carlos Paolillo,

Patricia Van Dalen, and Patricia Phelps de Cisneros -106

Breaking the vicious circle of poverty / The System: pillars and

fundamental objectives -112

The musician from my neighborhood / Article on a concert in the Caracas

barrio of La Vega -115

Ripple effect in the family and the community / Testimonies -116

There’s a place for everyone in the System / Special Education

Program -120

The orchestras set them free / Prisons Academic Program and Prison

Symphony Orchestras Network -124

A light on the road / Testimonies from the System’s youngsters and their

mothers -128

A fresh chance at life /Testimony from Lennar Acosta -136

A stellar life / Biography -48

José Antonio Abreu, at the high point of his career / Interview -50

Voices raised in admiration / Opinions from Plácido Domingo,

Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, Wynton Marsalis -64

Recognition of an exemplary life: Awards and Accolades /

Infography -68

Venezuelan youth: a harvest of triumphs

The pioneers of this miracle

The System: a model of peace and progress for mankind

Music saved my life

The forger of dreams and realities

III

IV

VII

I

8

Page 9: Venezuela the miracle of music

A breeding ground tended with discipline / The System’s programs

and teaching structures. Platforms for achieving goals -140

Foolproof artistic and managerial tenacity / Interview with

Valdemar Rodríguez -146

Instruments with a heart / Luthiery Academic Centers -150

Excellence as the loadstar / Latin American Academies -152

A two-way world conservatory / International agreements and

exchange arrangements with the world’s music centers -154

The country of music / How the System and its nuclei have multiplied

around the country -196

The System is also a choir of voices / Interview with Lourdes Sánchez -202

An academy to grow singing / Article on Margot Parés-Reyna -204

Entrepreneur in a major key / Article on Libia Gómez de D ’Adonna -205

A single song from Vienna to Caracas / Article on Gerald Wirth -207

Springboard to the vanguard of music / Article on the System’s music

ensembles and festivals -208

A stage for celebrating splendor / Bancaribe Youth Festival and

Música Bancaribe program -210

“When I mention the orchestras, my heart is filled with stars”/

Interview with Edgar Dao -212

The country is one big orchestra / Infography -114

How great the management ensemble sounds! / Testimonies from

and interviews with González, Bottome, Méndez, Baroni, Árvelo, Ana

Abreu, Méndez, Liddye de Pérez, Celis, Velásquez, Méndez, Rojas, and

Dávila -218

The platform for “Playing and Fighting” / Simón Bolívar Musical

Foundation, the System’s organizational structure -223

It just goes to show / Article on the closing concert of the 2010

national tour in Maracaibo -232

The dawning of a new generation of musicians / Article on the new

National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela -238

“The most important developments in symphonic music

are happening in Venezuela” / Interview with Simon Rattle -240

The 21st century conservatory / Center for Social Action

through Music -244

Dudamel deciphers the score of his life / Biographical sketch,

international tours, and accolades -160

Dazzling, energetic, and brilliant / Press reviews -164

Duda-mania has its angels / Article on the publicity phenomenon and

Dudamel’s début with the Los Angeles Philharmonic -168

Interviews out loud / Selected excerpts from interviews -170

Painting a portrait with testimonies / Rattle, Marina Mahler,

Ladenburguer, Abreu, Reinshagen, Quilléveré, Argerich, Osawa,

Domingo, Borda, Abbado, Jones, and Barenboim -176

Music and stagecraft / Javier Vidal -177

With Bernstein’s magic baton / Article by Eloísa Maturén -178

New sap on the horizon / Biographical sketches of emerging talents:

Matheuz, Vásquez, Carreño, “Pacho” Flores, Olivo, Vivas, and Arias -180

Edicson Ruíz: A tremendous leap from San Agustín to Berlin /

Biographical sketch and interview -186

Claudio Abbado: a maestro seduced by the tropics / Interview -188

Top-notch teaching

Venezuela bursting with choirs and orchestras

A flourishing cultural enterprise

The future of music is here

Talent for export

VIII

VII

VI

IX

X

9

Page 10: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 11: Venezuela the miracle of music

Venezuelan youth:a harvest of triumphs

If anyone were to doubt, if anyone were to hesitate, if anyone were to think that this is a barren land, we would only have to come

to this concert hall to listen to the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony

Orchestra in order to leave with our hearts full of hope.

Arturo Uslar Pietri

I

Cha

pter

The Venezuelan Youth Orchestra celebrates its thirty-five years of successes on its new stage, the Simón Bolívar Concert Hall at

the Center for Social Action through Music

Page 12: Venezuela the miracle of music

e can close our eyes and let our ears and hearts be our guides. Then we will be

ready to tune into another frequency and feel that enormous and powerfully perfect wave of freshness and mischief that sweeps over us. None of us, nor anyone who has listened to the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra (SJVSB) -became in 2011 the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra- during a rehearsal, a gala performance or a matinee in Venezuela or at any venue elsewhere in the world- will be able to forget those sounds that plunge us into the nostalgic void of its violas and cellos; cradle us in the virtuoso warmth of its violins; that, without pause, shake us with the force of its percussion and plunge us into the depth of its horns, trom-bones, and trumpets to then swiftly envelope us in the sweetness of its flutes and oboes.

The concert over, we open our eyes once again and can no longer doubt. Futile considerations aside, we are left with the conviction that we have witnessed, for a moment, a flowering of 21st cen-tury music and art offered up from Venezuela by an orchestra of young people who have assumed

their own challenge: that of reinterpreting symphonic music with vitality and energy and with their polished and convincing technical formations, dusting off the classics’ creations.

With freedom and a natural intuition, our musi-cians have restored to us an intense and elevated Mahler; with their enamored spirits, they have flirted with Vivaldi, Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky to allow us to enter their works of fantasy; with daring and singular self-confidence, as though it were the first and only time they had played him, they offer us the gift of Mozart’s joy and genius; and with the rhythmic legacy of this small corner of the planet where they happened to be born, they offer us the catchy, passionate works of Bernstein, Revueltas, Ginastera, and of their fellow countrymen Estévez, Castellanos, and Carreño.

It is not easy to sum up the virtues of a musical enterprise that bears the name of the Libera-tor of America, but what we can do is to tell how the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra became the lode star of the complex network of

of splendorEmblem

12

Page 13: Venezuela the miracle of music

Venezuelan youth and children’s orchestras and a “symphonic iceberg” for Latin America and the entire world.

More and more of an orchestra

Handled like a precious diamond that, from the start, had to be cleaned, cut, and polished, its beautiful shape discovered, protected, and looked after with care, its creator, José Antonio Abreu, visualized the SJVSB as the great sym-phony orchestra of the American continent. He dreamed a great future for it, of global proportions, and, right from the first concert in 1975, he molded it as a dynamic, modern, and demanding ensemble.

Like a veteran chess player, Abreu designed a meticulous strategy to cause an earthquake in the orchestra world: he opened the doors to the

most outstanding and daring young musicians, from the north, south, center, west, coasts, and plains of Venezuela, to give the ensemble a nationalistic character and a distinguished temperament, so that all its members would be Venezuelan. He put emphasis on the individual and collective training of its members; after careful analysis, he proposed including the most varied challenges in the repertoire, maintaining a pace of rehearsals of fundamental works of academic music; and, above all, he himself took up the baton of the newly-formed orchestra and offered it love and a father’s strictness.

Most important of all, he managed to clearly convey a forceful message that has been handed down to the present day, to all the generations of young Venezuelans: make music to the highest level, forgetting that the musicians of the New World are at a disadvantage compared

The SJVSB at the Royal Albert Hall de Londres, during its presentation in the Proms 2001. In 2011, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra received 20 minutes of ovation

13

Page 14: Venezuela the miracle of music

to other players born in the cradles of the great composers.

Thirty-five years later, Abreu and the youngsters of the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orches-tra have changed the course of history; they climbed their own dream, reached the summit of their challenge, and emerged with a series of paradigms: 1) Never will a Venezuelan child have to wait so many years to have his instrument and become a musician only when he is an adult; 2) Never again will a Venezuelan musician feel inadequate and at a disadvantage, either artisti-cally or because of the teaching he has received, when faced with the power of the Asians, Europeans, or Americans; 3) Venezuelan players will never hear again the phrase, “No vacancies,” because Venezuela will have lots of symphony orchestras; and, 4) Never more will being a musi-cian in Venezuela be something for amateurs with no opportunities in the job market.

Always young and fresh

How has the SJVSB sounded throughout these thirty-five years to the point where it has found its place in “the heaven” of international venues? The answer is to be found in every concert and in every one of the many comments it has elicited from the music critics. For those of us who have been privileged to follow its music for more than three decades, the answer lies in that it has become more and more of an orchestra, it has grown in every sense without losing its energetic, daring, and vivid personality, managing to balance a polished technique with renewed and modern interpretations of the repertoire, and offering moments of sound full of wisdom and tonal structures charged with emotion.

Despite the maturity the System has achieved, it has never lost its freshness and youthfulness. It nourishes new players, generation after genera-tion, both in the “mother orchestra,” Simón Bolívar “A” and in Simón Bolívar “B,” created in

Before going out on stage, the members of the brass section pose for a photo Dudamel and Yo-Yo Ma in Caracas

14

Page 15: Venezuela the miracle of music

2001 under the Orchestral Academic Program, which takes in the most outstanding players from the new groups of graduates after subjecting them to a series of rigorous auditions. The Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra “B” has been under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, an exem-plary heir of the Venezuelan virtuosi.

Since the start of the 21st century, the SJVSB “B,” guided by the experience of the “mother” orchestra’s founding teachers, has successfully completed major international and national tours, changed our audiences at home, and had a great impact abroad, filling theaters and stadiums. To achieve this, it has been subjected to a strict program of artistic training, taking on musical works of great magnitude (such as Mahler’s Resurrection with Rattle or the première of Penderecki’s Seven Gates of Jerusalem or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Abbado), and has undergone an intense plan of advanced training on exchange programs with ensembles of enormous international prestige, such as the

Empire Brass, Netherlands Blazer Ensemble, the Sonus Brass Ensemble, the Spanish Brass Quin-tet, the Berlin Philharmonic String Quartet, the Portland String Quartet, and Chick Corea and his Trio.

Triumphal tour

In February 1975, a few months after having given its first concert, the SJVSB started its first international auditions. From the start, Abreu aimed for the best scenarios, the most demanding artistic venues, and the most prestigious music festivals. The world travels thus far of both this orchestra and the Na-tional Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela can be broken down into roughly three stages: the first, from 1975 to 1994; the second, from 1995 to 2004; and the third, from 2005 to a promising future, if the agenda of invitations, engagements, and contracts being coordinated by FESNOJIV (now Simón Bolívar Musical

Mahler’s Resurrection in 2004, in the Ríos Reyna concert hall, marked a milestone in the history of the SJVSB

15

Page 16: Venezuela the miracle of music

Foundation) and managed by the international artists’ agency Askonas Halt is anything to go by.

In that first stage of world tours, the main aim of Abreu and his youngsters was to make themselves known and to “sell” the project of creating youth orchestras of a high artistic level to the world. So, their takeoff was highly original and caused an impact, particularly in America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, and Uruguay), and they also demonstrated their growing abilities in Europe and Asia, playing in Spain, France, Holland, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

For the SJVSB, this was a stage of artistic “baptismal fire,” when they came into contact with great soloists (many of whom came to Venezuela, others who were guest soloists during the tours) and fulfilling a disciplined agenda of concerts in Venezuela, mainly at the José Félix Ribas concert hall (their first home for concerts and rehearsals) and at the Ríos Reyna concert hall, both located in the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex. During this first stage, the orchestra also made a profitable incursion into

the world record market. And all this resulted in the creation of a firm, secure international platform for the years that were to come.

Children who play like angels

With his clear intuition and perfected strategy, in 1995, José Antonio Abreu knew that the moment had come to show and confirm to the world how the System had progressed and developed and how, at the same time, music had become a tool for saving many lives. So, he decided to pack his bags with fresh sap: the youngest musicians and also the adolescents began to cross seas and mountains, erasing the farthest borders with their sounds, ready to seduce the most demanding audiences with their joy and their three-colored jackets. Stages never dreamed of were filled with mischievous angels and adolescents bursting with energy, all conspiring in Venezuela’s National Children’s Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra.

Alternating the tours, these two orchestras were heard in France, Spain, and the United States (1995); Brazil and Chile (1996); Mexico and again in Brazil (1997); France and Italy (1998

Santos López

Noon is the age furthest from death.

Youth is irreverent towards the inexo-

rable. This rebelliousness is a fertile

invention, a sky with multicolored

stars. Youth lives in friendship. And

the sun is the glory of summer: when

burgeoning nature is full of vigor,

energy, and forms.

Rimbaud is the paradigm of the

young poet, insurrectionary and

rebellious. In a fragment (Twenty Years Old) of his poem Youth, he

said: “Instructive voices exiled...

Physical candor bitterly quelled...

Eternally young

The delight of children in London caused by young Venezuelan musicians

16

Page 17: Venezuela the miracle of music

Adagio. Ah! The endless egoism of

adolescence, Its studious optimism:

How the world this summer was

full of flowers!”… The poem ends

with a prophesy: “But you will set

yourself this labor: all harmonic and

architectural possibilities will surge

around your seat.” Rimbaud is talking

symbolically of youth, the image of

the world in that season: the arch

of nature, its ascendency in form

and matter.

José Antonio Abreu has created a

brand that is upheld by the dream of

being eternally young: a symphony

orchestra forever flowering under the

summer sun with the vigor offered

up by the fire of the solstice.

Today, it is practically impossible for

society not to like whatever young

people do: sports, fashion, perfumes,

cars, adventure, the pharmaceutical

industry, medicine… Societies have

invested a lot of effort and technol-

ogy in keeping us young. Being

eternally young is the ideal and the

dream. However, we know that sum-

mer has left spring behind and that

it will give way to autumn and then

to winter.

Every once in a while, our cultures

are shaken by that feverish youth that

evolves in its own juices and dances

to the rhythm of its own drum beats.

In their day, The Beatles represented

being young at heart the world over.

Today that role has been taken by a

young man like Gustavo Dudamel,

who, in John Lennon’s best style,

conducts his band of youngsters on

the best stages and before the largest

and most discerning audiences,

captivating them with his youth.

Shakespeare already said it in The Tempest: “We are such stuff as dreams

are made on,” and that stuff common

to both is youth.

(Poet)

Colon Theater in Buenos Aires hosted the National Youth Orchestra in 2001. In 2011, in this theater the orchestra had reached an unprecedented success: Audience stood up for 15 minutes with applauses

and 1999); Germany, Jamaica, and Brazil (2000); Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina (2001), and once again in Italy, Germany, and Austria (2002).

In spring, summer, autumn or winter, the vibrant presence of these young Venezuelan musicians did not go unnoticed in any of the cities and theaters where they débuted: whether at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington D.C) or the UN’s head-quarters in New York; at the Amazonas Opera House, Manaus or the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro; in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico; at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris; in the legendary National Academy of St. Cecilia or in the Vatican’s Clementine Chapel; or in the great theaters that are home to the Berlin Philharmonic and the Munich Philharmonic; or in Latin American venues, such as the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires or the SODRE Cultural Complex in Uruguay.

It could be said that the autumn of the year 2000, when the National Children’s Orchestra did a tour of more than six cities in Germany, marked a milestone in the international history of our orchestras. During Expo 2000, the World’s

Fair held in Hannover, there was a Symposium of Concerts dedicated to the World’s Youth and Children and our Children’s Symphony Orchestra was the one to open the event.

For a spectacular finish, they appeared at the Berliner Philharmonie for the first time. This was how Carolina Wendel of the daily Westfalisahe, described that performance: “It was an unforgettable experience. A sudden burst of applause erupted in a yellow, blue and red musical sea, and then the audience fell silent

17

Page 18: Venezuela the miracle of music

in astonishment – a silence so complete you could hear a pin drop- as the young conductor Gustavo Dudamel made his way on stage and, with firm steps, took his place before the atten-tive gaze of two hundred youngsters. As the performance of the repertoire got under way, the audience, who couldn’t believe their ears, succumbed totally. A display of artistic beauty created by violins leaping like dolphins, com-bined with the children’s masterly performance, flooded the theater, astounding everyone there.”

A new energy travels the world

Another exceptional year was 2002, as the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela undertook two long series of performances in more than fifteen cities in Italy, Germany, and Austria that marked its artistic career and were

to make it, some years later, the Europeans’ most indulged orchestra, and also launched Gustavo Dudamel’s artistic career as the world of orches-tral conducting’s young promise.

Even among the many triumphs garnered by our SJVSB wherever it appeared, September 29, 2002, stood out because it was the day the relationship of respect and mutual admira-tion between the famous English conductor Simon Rattle, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, and our orchestras was born. That evening, there was an unprecedented celebration in Germany’s most prestigious concert hall and the most convincing testimony was offered by Rattle himself: “Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony sounded incredible. This is one of the most wonderful concerts that have been held in this concert hall. Never have I seen here

The Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela at the home of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002

18

Page 19: Venezuela the miracle of music

such long standing ovations as there have been today. This is one of the world’s greatest youth orchestras, and Gustavo Dudamel is a director of exceptional talent.”

On the pinnacle of success

The third round of international tours, starting in 2005, has been the most exciting and has show-ered our Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Sym-phony Orchestra and our country with nation-alistic glory. Our musicians have gone forth to travel the world firmly convinced that this is no longer a project or an unknown orchestra. They have set forth full of self-confidence, joy, and a tremendous sense of responsibility, because they know that they are gathering in the harvest of a seed sown thirty-five years ago. And they are the most palpable proof of the System’s success.

A distinguished Asian critic, Chen Jie of the China Daily, promoted the appearances of SJVSB in 2008 with these words: “You will witness a fascinating blend of daring souls, fiery and passionate, of young hearts dedicated to an adventure. (…) You can hear virtuosity of the strings and woodwinds, the strength and polish

of the brass and the vibrant percussion. (…) As more outstanding Venezuelan musicians hit the international circuit, the world is taking notice that a new musical energy, unique and original, is traveling the world.”

The international tours of the last five years (2005-2010) are proof that Venezuela has al-ready earned a name in international symphonic circles. “In the United States, Europe, and Asia, in all the cities where we go,” tells J.A. Abreu, “we can see how our music moves both special-ists and young audiences and children to the very depths of their souls; and how the endless ovations, sometimes as long as 20 minutes, spill over into the street when, after the concert, the public are waiting to give a triumphal reception to our young musicians.”

This fascinating third international tour of the SJVSB’s (2005 to date) has included perfor-mances under the batons of Gustavo Dudamel, Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, Diego Matheuz, and Christian Vásquez at major festi-vals, congresses, and cultural events: Beethoven Festival (Bonn, 2005 and 2007); Ibero-Ameri-can Festival “Sevilla entre Culturas” (Spain, 2007);

Young music students in Chicago receiving the System’s medals from Abreu and Dudamel, in 2009

19

Page 20: Venezuela the miracle of music

Lucerne Spring Festival (Switzerland, seasons 2007, 2008, and 2010, the last two years as resi-dent guest orchestra); International Edinburgh Festival (Scotland, 2007); 48th Season of The Proms (London, 2007); Universal Forum of Cultures (Monterrey, Mexico, 2007); Berlin in Lights Festival (New York, 2007); Casals Festival (Puerto Rico, 2008); Helsinki Festival (Finland, 2008); Salzburg Festival (Austria, as resident guest orchestra, 2008); and a number of events during the 17th Cajastur Music Week, including the bestowing of the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts (Spain, 2008).

Probably no other symphony orchestra in America has given so many performances in such a short artistic career as our SJVSB: concerts in Chile, Argentina –here with the pianist Martha Argerich- and Uruguay, in 2007; in practically all the cities in Germany in 2005, 2007, and 2008, obtaining ovations of 20 minutes or more; in Italy (2006 and 2009); in Mexico and the United States (2007, 2008, and 2009); in Spain (2007, 2008, 2009); in Finland, Austria, and Switzerland (2008, 2009, and 2010); in Portugal, Canada, France, England, China, Korea, and Japan (2008 and 2009); in Canada, Austria, Italy, France, United States, England, Spain and Portugal (2010); and Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Austria, England and Turkey (2011).

From passionate Beethoven to catching Mambo

Technical versatility, musical ductility, and vigor; there is no other explanation for what our SJVSB does when it takes on an enormously demanding program containing composers from the symphonic repertoire and, minutes later, during the encores, is capable of getting the most serious and immutable audience up off their seats to offer them its sparkling fiesta with the same interpretive and technical rigor, put together from lively, catchy mambos and danzones by our Latin American composers.

In his article, “Emotion,” published in the German daily Waz, in 2007, the critic Markus Bruderreck

said of the SJVSB’s concert at the Essen Philharmonic: “… What is it that so delights the people who hear them? Is it the joy of playing they immediately convey? Is it the bloom of youth or is it the professionalism and musical know-how that astonishes so…? Dudamel’s and the SJVSB’s Beethoven, is marked by a carefree pathos and an iron force and immensity to the point where the listener shrinks in his seat… And then, in a way that is so exciting and with such temperamental pieces, they switch to the bewitching rhythm of the Mambo… that is why the Simón Bolívar is in a class on its own and incomparable.”

The point is that the qualities of our SJVSB are its technical skill and its high degree of pro fessionalism, which allow it to tackle an extensive repertoire that goes from symphonic classics, both Venezuelan and international, to modern and experimental pieces, always reserving a place in each and every one of their concerts for our most prolific Latin American and Venezuelan composers: Mozart, Copland, Ginastera, Bruckner, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Kha-chaturian, Bartok, Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Schubert, Chopin, Donizetti, Telemann, Handel, Gershwin, Bizet, Puccini, Verdi, Mahler, Berlioz, Debussy, Poulenc, Grieg, Holst, Purcell, Brahms, Bach, Bernstein, Beethoven, Ravel, Liszt, Scar-latti, Rimski-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Barber, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Stravinsky, Wagner, Schumann, Prokofiev, Villa-Lobos, De Falla, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Penderecki, Joaquín Rodrigo, Marlos Nobre, Piazzolla, Blas Emilio Atehortúa, Inocente Carreño, Reinaldo Hahn, Alfonso Vidal Tenreiro, Antonio Estévez, Carlos Figueredo, Evencio Castellanos, Juan Bautista Plaza, Antonio Lauro, Alfredo Del Mónaco, Jorge Sarmiento, Julián Orbón, Sil-vestre Revueltas, Federico Ruíz, Paul Desenne, Diana Arismendi, Juan Carlos Núñez, Arturo Márquez, and many more.

The SJVSB has also been a platform for launching the artistic careers of a long list of Venezuelan soloists it has accompanied over a period of three decades: Alexis Cárdenas

Isabel Palacios, Maurice Hasson, Cecilia Núñez, William Alvarado, Fedora Alemán, and Ramón Román

Page 21: Venezuela the miracle of music

(violin), Alicia Gabriela Martínez (piano), Fedora Alemán (soprano), Aquiles Machado (tenor), Carlos Duarte (piano), Cecilia Núñez (soprano), Claudio Muskus (baritone), Mo-rella Muñoz (mezzo-soprano), Karin Lechner (piano), Sergio Daniel Tiempo (piano), David Ascanio (piano), David Núñez (violin), Edith Peña (piano), Gabriela Montero (piano), Idwer Álvarez (tenor), Inés Feo La Cruz (mezzo-soprano), Isabel Palacios (mezzo-soprano), Iván García (bass), Sara Catarina (soprano), Iván Pérez (violin), Jaime Martínez (oboe), Luis Julio Toro (flute), Maurice Hasson (violin), Margot Parés-Reyna (soprano); Moisés Torrealba (mandolin), William Alvarado (baritone), Clara Rodríguez (piano), Elena Abend (piano), Judith Jaimes (piano), Alirio Díaz (guitar), and José Francisco del Castillo (violin); and also some of the orches-tra’s main members who perform regularly as soloists: Jesús Hernández (violin), William Mo-lina (cello), Andrés Eloy Medina (oboe), Ramón Román (violin), Valdemar Rodríguez (clarinet), Víctor Rojas (flute), Carlos Villamizar (violin), Frank Di Polo (violin), Jorge Montilla (clarinet), Rainer Ossot (horn) Elvis Romero (English horn), Christian Jiménez (cello), David Medina (clarinet), Benjamín Gatuzz (violin), Carlos Vegas (violin), Gonzalo Hidalgo (bassoon), Francisco Flores (trumpet), José Gregorio Nieto (cello), Gaudy Sánchez (trumpet), and Santiago Garmendia (violin), to name but a few.

And, of course, there is a long list of international virtuosi whom the SJVSB has had the honor to accompany, among them: Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute), Placido Domingo (tenor), Luciano Pavarotti (tenor), Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Alicia Larrocha (piano), Lazar Berman (piano), Schlomo Mintz (violin), Ruggiero Ricci (violin), Igor Oistrakh (violin), Vladimir Spivakov (violin), Martha Argerich (piano), Henryk Szeryng (violin), Pinchas Zukerman (violin), Luis Rossi (clarinet), Maurice André (trumpet), Rafael Puyana (harpsichord), Cho-Liang Lin (violin), Ilya Kaler (violin), Montserrat Caballé (soprano), Aprile Millo (soprano), François Le Roux (baritone), Renata Scotto (soprano), June Anderson (soprano), Jaime Laredo (violin), Juan Diego Florez (tenor), Ruggiero Raimondi (vio-

lin), Frank Fernández (piano), Joaquín Achúcaro (piano), José van Dam (baritone), Eugene Fodor (violin), Monique Duphil (piano), Paul Badura Skoda (piano), Stefan Popov (cello), Paquito D’ Rivera (saxophone), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Herlin Riley (drums), Steve Davis (trombone), Sean Jones (trumpet), Vincent Garner (trom-bone), Henk van Twillert (saxophone), Joo-hiun Shin (flute), Walter Blanding (saxophone, clarinet, and tenor), Jadwiga Rappe (contralto), Romuald Tesarowicz (bass), Emily Magee (soprano), Andreas Scheibner (bass, baritone), Lorin Maazel (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Itzhat Perlman (violin), Kirill Gerstein (piano), and Wynton Marsalis (trumpet).

Aquiles Machado, Alexis Cárdenas, Gabriela Montero, Carlos Duarte, Edith Peña, and Frank Di Polo

Chick Corea, Pinchas Zukerman, Dolora Zsajic, and Claudio Arrau

21

Page 22: Venezuela the miracle of music

n the pragmatic world of international music, no businessman, record company or manager can afford to underestimate the

effect that the media, advertising, and jour nalists and music critics have on the connection an orchestra manages to achieve with its audiences. And this ingredient has definitely not been lacking in that perfect, delicious recipe for world success created by the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra, its conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, and other ensembles belonging to the System.

Here and there, in any of the world’s major cultural venues -Paris, Milan, Lucerne, Berlin, Vienna, New York, Montreal, Tokyo or Buenos Aires-, the merits of our young musicians, backed by an artistic-social feat, are real and convincing. And anyone who has not heard of this “new musical wave” is definitely out of touch. Now everyone knows them. For some audiences –in London or Vienna, for example-, mentioning Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Sym-phony Orchestra is, the same as naming their favorite artists, their stars on this earth, as though they were rock or pop idols.

However, becoming part of the small, strict star system of the world of classical music does not happen overnight or without having earned it. The ovations to the talent of our young Venezuelan musicians, tickets sold out months before their concerts, and the agenda of engage-ments and performances that gets busier by the year have also turned our SJVSB into a media phenomenon, with very little investment in advertising but a lot of strategy relying on word of mouth and the multiplier effect of applause.

Here is a selection of press reviews and articles that reflect historical moments in the international career of our 21st century musician-ambassadors, who have created a lasting matrix of opinion among those who have finely tuned ears and the keys of their computers ready to shoot off reviews and laudatory com-ments… incidentally, always treated with con-siderable suspicion by those who regularly have in their hands the power to build up or destroy personalities and artistic careers.

superstarSymphony Orchestra

22

Page 23: Venezuela the miracle of music

England 1989

“The quality of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra was a revelation. The conductor, Eduardo Mata, obtained from the musicians a full, rich, round sound of particu-lar brilliance that is not common in the majority of European orchestras.” (David Nice, journalist, The Guardian)

Japan 1991

“… Rarely, in Japan, have we had the opportunity to listen to a truly spontaneous explosion of pure joy such as the one we witnessed at the end of the performance by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra at Tokyo’s Bunkamura Orchard Hall.” ( Jason Roussos, Japan Times)

“… No sooner had the performance started when I realized that this was an orchestra with an immense critical capacity. A sense of unity ema-nated from its music, which nevertheless, allowed each personality to show itself. The members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra interpret with total confidence and self-esteem.” (Kojin Omura, music critic, Akahata Journal)

Brazil 1997

“Before an auditorium overflowing with specta-tors, among them hundreds of music students and the entire National Brazil Symphony Orchestra, the Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela performed at the reopening of the National Theater’s Villa-Lobos concert hall. They started out with the Brazilian and Venezuelan national anthems, and after each of the seven pieces on the program, the audience broke into applause, getting to their feet, ending with an ecstatic ten-minute ovation. It was truly a total revelation.” (Cultural Section, O Globo)

Germany 2000

“Since yesterday, there is more than one teacher who would like to have the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in their classroom. The reason is that the effect those 223 young musicians

had on the children was greater than the effect wrought by the movie The Lord of the Rings II, which has just opened here in Dusseldorf. The kids were so attentive that they forgot to talk. For one hour, the orchestra played Latin American music for the schoolchildren of Dusseldorf and Neuss. In other words, it was a concert for children given by children. The repertoire, consisting of works with rhythmic drum rolls, rapid swishing of maracas, and brilliant trumpets, managed to get the warm South American temperament to transcend continents and languages, enthralling everyone. Dudamel and his musicians managed to amaze the audience.” (Düsseldorfer Satdtpost)

Germany 2001

“A yellow, blue and red sea covered the stage of the Philharmonic. There were 223 young Venezuelans between the ages of eleven and eighteen. Their twelve double-bass play-ers started the concert with an outstanding pianissimo. Then the string section joined in with their robust energy, while the brass crowned the performance with fire. The young conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, turns music into an authentic event. The precision with which an orchestra of this size performs Tchaikovsky is admirable, with

The actor Michael Douglas celebrates with the youngsters of the National Youth Orchestra after the concert

23

Page 24: Venezuela the miracle of music

impressive timing and vibrant intensity. They be-gan the Russian composer’s Fourth Symphony with genuine power, and were immediately followed by the excellent soloists. One of the highlights was the perfect pizzicato and the impressive tempo they achieved in the last movement. In Rossini’s Overture, the conductor allowed the orchestra to play alone and as it willed. This is a young conductor with exceptional talent, vision and authority. One wonders how he manages to bring these youngsters so close to the true symphonic essence of music. The tempera-ment of the orchestra fully complements the colorful music of Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela. Complex rhythms and multiple metric changes did not seem to pose any difficulty. Bernstein’s music, at the end of the concert, sounded with such brilliance and strength it was as if the young musicians were actually living the drama of West Side Story.” (Kölner Stadtanzeigar)

Argentina 2005

“When the baton of Gustavo Dudamel gave the first signal to the Venezuelan Symphony Orches-tra, it gave the impression that he was standing before an ensemble of uncommon orchestral brilliance, with rapid reflexes and adjustment, and especial power for playing the most varied genres (…) Each section of the orchestra shows an exemplary degree of discipline and that was

evident in Tchaikovsky’s majestic Slavonic March, which Dudamel’s gestures and sinew took to its maximum expression. Fabulous and unforget-table.” (Héctor Coda, music critic, La Nación)

United States 2006

“Waves of talent from Japan, Korea and China have brought new blood to classical music since the 1980s. A vigorous second wave arrived from Finland and other Scandinavian countries starting in the 1990s. Now, get set for a third wave, from an unexpected source, Venezuela. It might turn out to be the biggest wave yet given its huge base: around 250,000 youngsters who have received free instruments and music lessons through a one-of-a-kind state-supported music education system”. (Chris Kraul and Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times)

Spain 2007

“It is difficult to recall an orchestral ensemble with such richness of sound and such flexibil-ity. There is no section in this Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra that does not stand out on its own merits. The sound of the strings is exceptionally rich, while the brass sounds with outstanding definition and brilliance. The excep-tionally brilliant initial fanfare was the prelude to the most extraordinary sounds that we have

Page 25: Venezuela the miracle of music

heard in Seville.” (Andrés Moreno Meginbar, critic, Diario de Sevilla).

“(…) Applause was not enough. The public of Seville paid tribute the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela with their most enthusiastic greeting: ‘they clapped to the rhythm of bulerías’ shouting ‘Torero!’… They started the concert with a moving interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s La Valse, responding to an almost imperceptible movement of Gustavo Dudamel’s baton… The varied repertoire also included Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, the William Tell Overture by the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini, and a repertoire of Latin American works consisting of Suite No. 2 of El sombrero de tres picos and Danza from La vida breve, both by Manuel de Falla, El Malambo from the ballet La Estancia by Alberto Ginastera, Silvestre Revueltas’s Sensemayá, and Mambo by Pérez Prado… Before starting the piece by Ginas-tera, the concert hall was plunged into darkness while the musicians changed their formal dress for jackets with Venezuela’s national colors. When the lights went up again, the audience cheered this nationalistic gesture for several minutes. (…) As is traditional, the musicians played the Mambo while dancing and waving their instruments. They infected the audience with their tremendous display of enthusiasm and explosive energy. Nearing the end, Dudamel left

the orchestra without a baton and sat down in the percussion row to play the bass drum, while his fellow musicians showed their delighted at this spontaneous prank (…).” (Olivia Liendo, El Nacional, Venezuela)

England 2007

“(…) At the concert by the astonishing Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, it was the performers who let rip in what must have been the most joyful Proms performance ever.” (Paul Gent, The Telegraph)

“… There are some great youth orchestras around today, but none of them is as exciting to behold as this (the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra).” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

“It wasn’t just the promenaders who were on their feet at the climax of this sensational concert from Venezuela’s hottest and most inspiring export: the entire audience and orchestra were stomp-ing to the furious beat of the Malambo from Ginastera’s Estancia. By then, the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra had shucked their sober jackets, donned the sunny national colours, and were spinning their instruments, doing Mexican waves, and threatening to lead the audience in a conga around the Albert Hall. It was a joyous

Three important moments for the SJVSB: at Palau de la Música in Valencia, Spain; at Carnegie Hall in New York with Simon Rattle; and at the Metropolitan Art Space in Tokyo

Page 26: Venezuela the miracle of music

and edifying spectacle (…). The program began with Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony, and it was probably the performance of the season so far. The energy that comes off these young players is astonishing. In the climax of the first movement, a tremolando up the octave in the first violins almost took my scalp off. But it wasn’t just the all-out dynamism of the players that thrilled: it was their insight, too. (…)The searching clarinet solos were almost autobiographical in their solitude. And so it was again with the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. One would have expected this orches-tra to whack out the percussion and screaming mariachi trumpets of the Mambo, but what came as more of a revelation was the sweetness and ten-derness of Bernstein’s ballads – and, in the carnival at the concert’s climax, the sheer sensuousness of the playing. Really, it was humbling. (Edward Seckerson, The Independent)

England 2008

“When these virtuosic Venezuelan youngsters play – especially the hyperactive music of their own continent– the sense of the New World remaking, refreshing and rescuing the Old is overwhelming.” (Richard Morrison, music critic, The Times)

Switzerland 2008

“(…) The orchestra brought all its weight, its mag-nificent color, and its enormity into play, making the walls of the great concert hall of the KKL, the headquarters of the Lucerne Festival, tremble.” (Fritz Schaub, editor, Neue Luzerner Zeitung)

“(…) To no orchestra or director have hearts been so generously given as they were to the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and its conductor Gustavo Dudamel during the Lucerne Festival.” (Sonntag Argauer Zeitung)

“Go home, tourist” reads a banner on one of the rails of the bridge that divides the Swiss city of Lucerne. But if applauses were words, one might perfectly well conclude that, yesterday evening, many Swiss said to the Venezuelan musicians: ‘Don’t go or at least come back, please.’ And it was not only the applause inside the concert hall (which was packed full), but the applause they received when they left Lucerne Cultural Center, in what seemed to be a kind of red carpet bidding them farewell, while a video camera recorded this unusual incident for posterity (…).” (Marjorie Delgado Aguirre, El Nacional)

26

Page 27: Venezuela the miracle of music

Canada 2009

“One would expect these musicians to have only Latin rhythms in their veins. But the magic they brought to the piece by Tchaikovsky was memorable. Even the quietest parts of the Fifth Symphony soared.” (Toronto Star)

United States 2009

“You don’t usually here shouting like this from the audience at an orchestra concert. You don’t usually feel this kind of excitement at an orches-tra concert. I can sit back and judge whether it’s good or bad or getting a little out of hand as the group continues its rise, but the phenomenon is undeniable and pretty incredible. What the orchestra is best at is visceral energy and rhythm; its members connect to the music they’ve learned by playing it as though it were all about youth and vigor and fire…” (Anne Midgette, The Washington Post)

“The orchestra now tours the world becoming one of the most iconic orchestras in the world, so it’s a great honor and a big emotion to receive it in Houston.” ( Jerome Gray, NBC)

Switzerland 2010

(…) Tchaikovsky means sure success for the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The version of the Italian conductor (Claudio Abbado) of Symphony No. 6 was, quite simply, staggering, going from an electrifying allegro molto vivace to a moving intensity in the final addagio lamentoso. The audience in Lucerne remained silent for several seconds at the end of the piece only to immediately get to their feet in an interminable ovation. Before that, Abbado had given a surprising interpretation –owing to its sense of the dramatic and sensuality- of the symphonic suite of the opera Lulu by Ablan Berg with the Viennese soprano Anna Prohaska. In the Prokofiev, played by an orchestra with the energy of the SJVSB, the brilliance was even overwhelming. Abaddo’s musical, social and even emotional identification with Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra is such that any technical deficiency took a back seat. What remains is a sensation of authenticity, of truth, of a reinvention of music, which gives the concert a feeling that is refreshing, intimate, and profoundly stimulating. ( J. A. Vela Del Campo, El País. Spain–Lucerne)

27

Page 28: Venezuela the miracle of music

Joshua Kosman

If you were to judge the Simón

Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

solely from the exhilarating video clip

that’s been making the rounds on the

Internet - the one of the young players

and their music director, Gustavo

Dudamel, kicking the stuffing out

of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo” at

London’s Royal Albert Hall in August

2007 - you might easily conclude that

this is one of the most dynamic and

daring ensembles around.

And if you caught their remarkable

concert in Davies Symphony Hall

on Sunday night, you’d know you

were right. Appearing as part of the

San Francisco Symphony’s Great

Performers Series, Dudamel and his

orchestra unleashed an extraordinary

musical fireball, which they then

shaped into the form of music by

Shostakovich, Bernstein and more.

The level of musical sophistica-

tion and eloquence on display was

astonishing, but so too was the sheer

energy involved.

Crowded into Davies like so many

supercharged particles - the orchestra

tours with an unprecedented 180

musicians, of whom only 140 could

fit onto the stage - these players

seemed to be straining to cut loose.

And although the concert, which

ran more than 2 1/2 hours, included

plentiful stretches of lyrical and

translucent playing, its real glories

came when the performers mustered

a huge and rhythmically compelling

noise - in the aforementioned

Sheer Energy The Mambo fills every stage with joy

28

Page 29: Venezuela the miracle of music

Mambo, in the terrifyingly explosive

second movement of Shostakovich’s

Tenth Symphony, and in ferocious

excerpts from Alberto Ginastera’s

Estancia.

For observers of the music scene,

Sunday’s concert was a double intro-

duction. On the one hand, there was

the orchestra itself, the pinnacle of

Venezuela’s practically unparalleled

government-sponsored system of

music education (…). On the other,

there was Dudamel, who became

music director of the orchestra at

17 and now, at 26, is probably the

most talked-about conductor in the

world. Two years from now, in a fasci-

natingly high-stakes gamble, he is set

to become music director of the Los

Angeles Philharmonic.

To some extent, these two facets

turned out to be one. To witness

these musicians in collaboration is

to understand just how closely their

respective sensibilities are bound up

with one another.

Dudamel’s approach to the music

- his taste for fiery tempos and

emphatic accents, the brash impetu-

ousness of his phrasing - is mirrored

in the sound of the orchestra, with

its agile strings and focused, slightly

aggressive woodwinds and brass.

And it’s rare to see an orchestra and

conductor so rhythmically attuned,

as though Dudamel’s beat were only

a confirmation of what every mem-

ber of the orchestra already knew in

his or her bones.

In interviews, Dudamel talks about

the conductor being a member of

the ensemble, but he’s not alone in

that kind of rhetoric. What’s rarer is

to see a conductor actually walk the

walk: Not once in the course of the

evening did Dudamel take a solo

bow. Every acknowledgment of the

audience’s tumultuous applause was

in the bosom of the orchestra.

(…) Conducting the entire program

from memory, Dudamel infused

every movement and every measure

with a feeling of urgency and clarity

- not a single moment seemed like

a throwaway. But at the same time,

he avoided the obvious danger of

overstressing things and losing a

sense of priorities.

In the Shostakovich, he gathered

up the potentially sprawling strands

of the expansive opening move-

ment - a marathon that in the wrong

circumstances can swamp the rest

of the symphony - and sorted out

the most important elements from

the subsidiaries. The result was a

discourse whose shape and direction

never flagged, and in the subsequent

movements Dudamel deftly elicited

the music’s blend of dark humor and

blazing self-assertion.

The Symphonic Dances from

Bernstein’s “West Side Story,”

occupying most of the second half,

were done with wonderful fluency

and freedom as well as utter rhythmic

precision. The program concluded

with a selection billed only as “music

from Latin America,” which turned

out to be a sampling of dance-

flavored pieces by Ginastera, Arturo

Márquez and Pedro Gutierrez.

The encores were truly that -reprises

from earlier in the evening of

Bernstein’s Mambo and Ginastera’s

Malambo- but now done up with

exuberant dance moves and flashy

twirls of the instruments, by players

who had donned windbreakers in the

blue, red and yellow of Venezuela.

The mood was one of triumphant

pride, well-earned and widely shared.

(Chronicle Music Critic, California,

United States. 2007)

29

Page 30: Venezuela the miracle of music

Reynaldo Trombetta

IThe boy’s eyes open wide at the

succession of fugues of Bartok’s

Concerto for Orchestra. We have

reached the fifth movement, and

eight-year-old Vincent Connelly

still can’t believe what he’s hearing,

even though he’s a musician too. He

arrived in London this morning to

enjoy Dudamel’s concert. He left

his double bass at home. Vincent

plays in the Big Noise Orchestra, the

project inspired by the System in a

poor neighborhood in Scotland. In

the seat next to him, his father is filled

with pride for the young Venezuelans

excelling themselves on the stage

of the Royal Festival Hall, during

their 2009 tour. After all, his son is

going –slowly but surely- along the

same path. At the exit, I greet him

(we met a year ago in Scotland) and

he comments: “I think about the

British kids, when they’re not on the

Internet, they’re drunk, and I have a

feeling that this music could help to

save them.”

IIDuring a talk on the banks of the

Thames in April 2009, I heard

something extraordinary. An

English musician who travels often

to Venezuela claimed that, thanks to

the System, violence has been curbed

in the barrios or shanty districts of

Caracas. The audience -foreign to

all that- breaks into applause. And

I understand how difficult it is for a

European to understand how things

are in Venezuela and the true social

impact the System is having. In

Europe, a poor person does not go

hungry or have his life threatened

when a stream bursts its banks; and

violence –when it happens– involves

an adolescent being stabbed in a

disco once every couple of months;

it is not the violence of 39 people

shot every day. Based on his personal

experience, it is impossible for an

English person to understand how

much courage a kid from Carapita

or Catia needs to have to exchange a

gun for a clarinet.

IIII bump into them as I leave the

concert. The encore over, three

English teenagers were shouting and

jumping up and down as though it

were a rock concert. Theirs shouts

were so loud that the youngsters

from the orchestra bombarded them

with tricolor jackets and caps. “It’s not

that we like classical music,” admits

one girl, wrapped in a Venezuelan

flag. “But this is something else, it’s

more intense,” explains another.

“Besides, it was Gustavo Dudamel!”

completes the third. Quite apart

from what the critics say, this youth

orchestra has stolen the hearts of the

British public. These teenage girls

don’t understand anything about

Shostakovich or Stravinsky. All they

know is that Dudamel is the guy who

sparked off an interest in the minds

of the English for the 2007 season of

The BBC Proms. And that is already

quite something in a country where

fame does not even last Warhol’s 15

minutes.

IVThe day after arriving in London, the

orchestra held a rehearsal that was

open to the public (although “open”

is figure of speech, as the concert hall

quickly filled up and, to keep order,

they had to close the doors). The

2,000 people who watched Dudamel

Four snapshots from London

conducting on that occasion enjoyed

it as much or more than those who,

in the evening, would also fill the

Royal Festival Hall to overflowing.

Among the audience I recognized

several musicians from the highly dis-

tinguished Philharmonic Orchestra.

Some months previously, Dudamel

gave them a workshop on con-

ducting and now they were hoping

to continue to learn. In the evening,

after the concert, I saw Lang Lang

–one of the world’s most famous

pianists– rush up to Maestro Abreu

to propose a joint project. Musi-

cians, cultural promoters, and critics

are clear that the future of music is

linked to Venezuela.

(Venezuelan journalist and photographer)

30

Page 31: Venezuela the miracle of music

Marjorie Delgado

Never before had they walked in

single file, in an almost perfectly

straight line, or with serious faces. On

the contrary, wherever the musicians

of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan

Youth Symphony Orchestra go,

they give free rein to their engaging

self-confidence. Ask anyone who saw

how, in August 2008, at the Mozart

Theater in Salzburg, Austria, a full

concert hall stood up to dance the

popular song Caminito de Guarenas

interpreted in impish spirit by the

Atalaya Ensemble.

But on December 17, 2008, they

were subdued. They were stepping on

ground where, for a long time, there

was practically nothing, where exis-

tence had left proof of its fleetingness

in the bloodiest possible manner.

In Hiroshima, the musicians of the

SJVSB lived what was possibly one of

the episodes that has most touched

their emotions offstage, much more,

perhaps, than those many other times

when the public gathers outside the

theater, forming a kind of red carpet

to get their autographs, give them

flowers or applaud them as they walk

by trying to sum up what they feel

in a “Thank you”; much more than

when journalists from all over the

world jostle to get the best photo

or a statement, which they offer in

the most natural manner possible,

or when a solitary Venezuelan flag

waves among spectators who may

not even have a very clear idea of

where the country where the musi-

cians they have just seen are from.

That day, in Hiroshima, they learned

a great lesson.

How should they play in that city,

today rebuilt, after seeing the burnt

out tricycle, no longer merely an ob-

ject but the metaphor of so many lost

lives? “With more force,” answered

one of the violinists, and perhaps

that phrase sums up the musicians’

attitude on and off the stages where

they have received long ovations even

from the harshest audiences.

Once inside the theater, changes in

the time zone and having to cope

with low temperatures don’t matter.

It matters more that, when least

they expect it, a musician whom

they admire is sitting quietly in a seat

waiting for them. In August 2008,

the conductor Daniel Barenboim

slipped quietly into the rehearsal.

On departing, he left a note on a

napkin, just one word: “Amazing.”

The SJVSB’s international tours are

a litany of fleeting experiences but

eternal consequences.

It has not always been easy. In Tokyo,

the pianist Martha Argerich lifted

her gaze, did a slow sweep of the

orchestra, and said to them: “Don’t

think that the Japanese are going

to stand up to applaud. They’re not

the kind of audience that does that.”

The Venezuelans bit their lips. They

did not pale with fright, but they did

blush at the warning. That evening,

they went on stage without vacilla-

tion and obeying just one rule: to be

themselves. When the first part came

to an end, a man stood up and ap-

plauded at length; then he set off for

the dressing room. It was the famous

Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa. For

some that was it, but, at the end of

the concert, they put the sobriety of

the Japanese to the test, who not only

stood up but wrestled to get one of

the musicians’ tricolor jackets.

During a concert at the Berliner

Philharmonie in September 2008,

Gustavo Dudamel did not know

what to do when he realized that

all the musicians had already gone

backstage and many of the spectators

were still applauding. Stay backstage

or come out again? There was no

protocol for that situation… In

a spontaneous gesture, he came

back with a few members of the

orchestra, who found themselves in

a situation for which they had never

rehearsed, just as they will never be

able to rehearse the emotions they

experience on each stage.

(Venezuelan journalist)

The repertoire that’s not rehearsed

Paying tribute to those who fell in Hiroshima, 2008

31

Page 32: Venezuela the miracle of music

ne of the most distinctive attributes of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth

Symphony Orchestra from the start has been its large number of players –normally between 150 and 200–, as well as its capacity to adopt different formats. Thanks to the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras, Venezuela has become the biggest “producer” of musicians in the world, which means that it can count on any number of professional players and be strictly selective when it comes to putting together an orchestral ensemble that will cause an impact for the premières of new works or important international engagements.

The point is that this is not just a question of numbers; it has to do with the reaction caused by watching a general rehearsal with 250 musicians and a choir of more than 250 voices, for example. It is no secret that some of the conductors who have been invited to conduct the SJVSB feel some trepidation when it comes to standing before that immense orchestra.

For others, however, it is an extraordinarily stimulating experience as Simon Rattle would put it, for example, who on his first visit to Venezuela in 2004 commented to us: “In Berlin,

some musicians tried to describe to me what was happening here in Venezuela with regard to the number of child and adolescent musicians who are being trained. And I couldn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes, right from the time I arrived… It was like an invasion of players everywhere: lots of them at the Montalbán Chil-dren’s Center, many more at the Teresa Carreño Theater, a fair number at the San Agustín Nucleus, another army at the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, and, finally, this immense orches-tra, in every sense the word, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. Having an orchestra of this magnitude is every conductor’s dream.”

Since its early days, Abreu has allowed other important Venezuelan batons to polish his diamond. In the 1980s, the SJVSB began to adapt itself to a variety of styles: from the rigor of Maestro Gonzalo Castellanos Yumar they went to the inspired baton of Inocente Carreño, and then they had to respond to the demands of the younger Venezuelan maestros, among them Aldemaro Romero, Juan Carlos Núñez, Carlos Riazuelo, Alfredo Rugeles, Felipe Izcaray, Eduar-do Marturet, Pablo Castellanos, Ulyses Ascanio, Leonardo Panigada, and Rodolfo Saglimbeni.

baton’s dreamThe greatMaestro Alfredo Rugeles with Monserrat Caballé

32

Page 33: Venezuela the miracle of music

Baptismal fire under our conductors

Inocente Carreño

“Without the efforts of such a special man as José Antonio Abreu, we Venezuelans would not have an orchestra of such a high level. The SJVSB has been classified as one of the American Continent’s most outstanding ensembles and, for that reason, it has earned the right to appear on the world’s most prestigious stages, always displaying its artistic quality and living up to the musical movement it comes from, which is none other than the revolution-ary System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela.”

Eduardo Marturet

“I made my début as a conductor in Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, so it’s the orchestra with which I’ve had the most intense and permanent relationship. Its members are my musical brothers and sisters and I hold them in great esteem and admire them deeply for having been the forgers of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. What has most impressed me about this orches-tra over the years is its unique ability to assume an exemplary professional attitude. And if we’re talking about its most strongly identifiable musi-cal qualities, I’d have to say they are its versatility of styles and the richness of its repertoire. Its temperament lives up to its name: it’s an emotive, passionate and unbeatable orchestra.”

Aldemaro Romero

“The SJVSB is fully entitled to compare itself with any other orchestra of its rank in the world. In fact, it frequently represents us abroad before very demanding audiences and is always ap-plauded for its excellence. It is also an ensemble that is distinguished by its versatility, its ability to perform the broadest and most varied musi-cal repertoires. The individual competence of its teachers, many of them soloists of excep-tional merit, vouches for the natural talent that young Venezuelan musicians from all parts of

the country have, all of which confirms the widespread opinion that our country is the indisputable center of the development and progress of music in our continent.”

Juan Carlos Núñez

“I think the main challenge I’ve faced since 1975, when I joined the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela as guest conductor, was to get the players to understand that western music has a series of demanding rules and that classical music is simply a matter of accepting the history of universal music and its inexorable aesthetic rules. I’ll always remember the immense love and respect I received from those excellent and memorable young founding members. On the professional level, I have to admit that I learned that, in art and creation, youth is so tremendously generous and, thanks to that, it has been possible for this great Venezuelan musical experience to come to fruition. The certainty that all this was and continues to be real is something that will be impossible to erase from our memories.”

Pablo Castellanos

The orchestra gradually began to gain impe-tus, considerable emotional strength, pro-fessionalism, and experience. Section “A”, the pioneers, the founding orchestra, has over-whelming energy, whereas Section “B”, totally in keeping with its youth, is fresh and vigorous. It has all the qualities one can find in any of the great European orchestras. I can say that each work I’ve performed with its musicians, from Bach and Vivaldi to Mahler and Stravinsky, or the Venezuelan and Latin American composers, has been a wonderful experience. With this orchestra, excellence knows no bounds… Even though a concert may sound extraordinary, the musicians themselves show you that it can always be done better. This constant challenging is priceless for a conductor.

Inocente Carreño, Alberto Grau, Antonio Estévez, Rodolfo Saglimbeni, Pablo Castellanos, Leonardo Panigada, and Eduardo Marturet

Page 34: Venezuela the miracle of music

Alfredo Rugeles

“Since 1991, I’ve been privileged to carry out projects of an exceptionally high artistic level with the SVJSB in my role as its artistic director and, naturally, to accompany it on successful international tours. There is no doubt that its evolution has been dramatic. The orchestra I heard in 1981 has made unquestionable and great progress. It has managed to consolidate its position not only at home but abroad as well. The recordings the orchestras made under the baton of Eduardo Mata are proof of that. The ensemble has achieved considerable maturity and the outlook for its future is the best. The orchestra’s style and artistic tempera-ment is tremendously vital and energetic; the SJVSB has blood in its veins, always seeks to obtain good results, and is full of drive. Its forte, musically speaking, is the Russian compos-ers, in particular Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky; it also sounds very good with works from the post-romantic repertoire –Mahler and Strauss-, not forgetting the great classics such as Mozart and Beethoven. However, we can’t leave out Latin American music and some of its emblematic works, such as Estévez’s Cantata Criolla. Its most solid row is the strings, and of those its first violins and cellos are the most outstanding.”

Rodolfo Saglimbeni

“I began with the SJVSB playing trumpet when the ensemble was still known as the Juan José Landaeta National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. My relationship with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra began after I completed my studies in orchestral conducting in England, and for years I have had the honor of conducting it at many concerts, something that has taught me a tremendous amount and given me lots of experience. Many Venezuelan directors owe our careers to the SJVSB and the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, which is the very best pool of talent any country could have for developing our profession. I’ve always been and always will be very proud to have been part of this group.”

With the international batons

Distinguished international conductors of varying tastes and demands have raised their ba-tons before the SVJSB, among them: Eduardo Mata, Carlos Chávez, Enrique Demiecke, and Eduardo Díazmuñoz (Mexico); Simon Rattle and Benjamin Zander (England); Claudio Abbado, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Silvio Barbato, and Andrea Morricone (Italy); Daniel Barenboim (Argentina–Israel); Lorin Maazel, Jaime Laredo, and Carl St. Clair (United States); Placido Domingo, Theo Alcántara, Edmon Colomer, and Manuel Galduf (Spain); Zubin Mehta (India); Krzysztof Penderecki, Jerzy Semkov, and Stanislaw Wislocki (Poland); Mstilav Rostropo-vich (Russia); Shunsaku Tsutsumi ( Japan); Peter Maag (Switzerland); Sung Kwak (Korea); Maximiano Valdés (Chile); Simón Blech (Ger-many); Esa Pekka-Salonen and Kalervo Kulmala (Finland); Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Georg Mark, and George Cleve (Austria); Federico García Vigil (Uruguay); Jorge Sarmientos (Guatemala); Helmuth Rilling and Jan Wagner (Germany); Sergiu Comissiona (Rumania); Mario Benzecry (Argentina); Keri-Lynn Wilson (Canada); and Isaac Karabtchevsky (Brazil).

The Mexican conductor and composer Eduardo Mata “fell in love with and was married to” the SJVSB, until his sudden death in 1995 and, let the truth be said, he spent several years devoting himself to guiding it along a path of clear artistic evolution. No musician of the SJVSB is unaware of his influence. “His arrival in Venezuela was decisive for our orchestra’s pursuit of excellence. When he heard us for the first time, he didn’t

Maestro Theo Alcántara

34

Page 35: Venezuela the miracle of music

seem all that convinced. However, after several rehearsals, he said to us: ‘Kids, I didn’t believe in you and I offer you my apologies’,” recall Edgar Saume and Frank Di Polo.

In honoring Mata’s contribution to the growth of our SJVSB, Abreu comments: “Mata was, in his day, a conductor of continental stature. He was a man of amazing intellectual leadership when it came to training the upcoming generation of musicians. He understood music as an instru-ment at the service of a Latin American ideal, as a path leading to an identity of our own, and he as-pired to develop a continental school of thought through music. That is why he chose the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra to head up a vast movement aimed at the reconstruction and rescue of the Latin American symphonic reper-toire and at gaining it international recognition. It is fair to say that Mata internationalized the Simón Bolívar, reaffirmed in it a personality of its own, and gave it a very important sense of mission in the Latin American and Caribbean context.”

However, with the dawning of the 21st century, Abreu knew that something was missing, that “magic baton,” preferably with a Latin American temperament, world charisma, and the same freshness and free spirit as the SJVSB; an artist who was in tune with and temperamentally on the same wave length as its young players; a per-sonality who would emerge from the System’s own ranks. And Gustavo Dudamel appeared.

Carlos Chávez

“I was astonished to see and hear an orchestra playing well and with absolute devotion, because when playing it is essential to give oneself up to it, to do it with devotion. The youngsters of the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela knew what they were doing.”

Eduardo Mata

“They exceeded all my expectations. Our Latin American composers have acquired recogni-tion thanks to the conviction with which the SJVSB has interpreted them. Beethoven sounds as though he belongs to us all… and our Latin composers sound as though they had left us their souls. May this experience encourage us to carry on, to always keep this continental ideal in mind.”

Zubin Mehta

“When I arrived in Caracas, and after my first re-hearsal with you, I stated that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra had given me the surprise of my life. Now, as I say goodbye to the or-chestra, I want to offer you my congratulations and warmest regards for the excellent level and highest professionalism that you have shown you have. I ratify my hopes that Europe and the United States will very soon be able to get to know firsthand this group that so magnificently represents the young people of Latin America, and of which the government and people of Venezuela can be proud.”

Above: Maestros Mario Benzecry and Mehli Mehta.

Midle: Krzysztof Penderecki and Mstilav Rostropovich.

Below: Maestro Primo Casale, the conductor Akira Endo, and the conductor and composer Marlos Nobre.

35

Page 36: Venezuela the miracle of music

A full agenda of concerts and having

come to grips with an extensive

symphonic repertoire (particularly

Latin American works) for more

than thirty years tempted the Simón

Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra

to try its luck in the record market.

Between 1980 and 1981, the SJVSB

recorded three LPs. The first contains

Suite Margariteña and Obertura No. 4 Galleguiana, both by Inocente

Carreño; Suite Taurepan by Rhazés

Hernández López, and Móviles by José

Luis Muñoz. It also includes works by

Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Milhaud

conducted by Inocente Carreño and

José Antonio Abreu. The second LP,

dedicated to the Venezuelan guitarist

Alirio Díaz, consists of works by

Antonio Lauro, Joaquín Rodríguez,

Telemann, Marcello, Bach and the

Venezuelan Simón Álvarez conducted

by Felipe Izcaray, Simón Álvarez, and

Abreu. The third features the mezzo-

soprano Morella Muñoz as soloist

interpreting works by Rossini and also

includes works by Carlos Chávez,

Rossini, and Tchaikovsky, under the

baton of José Antonio Abreu.

Between 1991 and 1997, Eduardo

Mata and the SJVSB worked on a

titanic project, which consisted of

compiling and interpreting works

from the Latin American repertoire

for a series of new CDs under the

US record label Dorian Recordings,

in which they were joined by the

conductors Maximiliano Valdés,

Enrique Diemeque and Keri-Lynn

Wilson. The works they recorded

were: Cantata criolla by Antonio

Estévez and Choros Nº 10 by Heitor

Villa-Lobos (CD 1991); Redes and

Sensamayá by Silvestre Revueltas,

The sound of a continent

The Mexican conductor Eduardo Mata

36

Page 37: Venezuela the miracle of music

Concerto Grosso by Julián Orbón,

Pampeana N°3 by Alberto Ginastera

(CD 1992); Tres versiones Sinfónicas

by Julián Orbón, Bachiana brasilera Nº 2 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Medio día en el llano by Antonio Estévez,

and Sinfonía india by Carlos Chávez

(CD 1993); La vida breve by Manuel

de Falla (CD 1993); Latin American ballets with works by Villa-Lobos,

Chávez, and Ginastera (CD 1994);

Amor brujo, Siete canciones populares españolas, Homenajes, Danzas from El sombrero de tres picos by Manuel de

Falla (CD 1994); Caramelos latinos

with pieces by Ginastera, Revueltas,

Moncayo, Carreño, and Plaza (CD

1995); Sinfonía Victoria Nº 4, Amazo-nas, Concerto Nº 2 for cello and orchestra

by Heitor Villa-Lobos (CD 1995);

and Danzón with works by Márquez,

Álvarez, Nober, Buxtehude-Chávez,

Revueltas, García Caturla,

and Fernández (CD 1997).

A third series of recordings

were made between 2005

and 2010. Under the baton

of Maestros Abbado and

Dudamel, four compact discs saw the

light of day thanks to the German re-

cord label Deutsche Grammophon:

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67,

and Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92, by

Beethoven, conducted by Gustavo

Dudamel (CD 2006), which was

nominated for a Grammy award

in 2007; Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp minor by Mahler, also conducted

by Dudamel (CD 2007); a third

CD, Fiesta, received with tremen-

dous applause, contains pieces by

several Latin American composers:

Revueltas, Carreño,

Estévez, Márquez,

Ginastera, Castellanos,

and Bernstein (CD

2008); and under the

baton of Abbado, they

recorded the CD that

contains only works by Beethoven,

among them the Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Cello in C, Op.56 and Piano Concerto (CD 2008).

Deutsche Grammophon also made a

documentary entitled “The Promise

of Music,” which presents the SJVSB

and with its conductor Gustavo

Dudamel interpreting

pieces by Ginastera,

Bernstein, Beethoven,

and Moncayo, together

with the System’s most

outstanding personalities

and youth and children’s

orchestras (Germany. DVD 2008).

In 2010, Deutsche Grammophon

set up shop in Caracas for two weeks

and made the recordings for another

CD during concerts conducted

by Abbado and Dudamel with the

SJVSB at their new venue, the Simón

Bolívar Concert Hall at the Center

for Social Action through Music.

The repertoire of this new CD con-

sists of works by Mahler, Stravinsky,

Revueltas, and other Latin American

composers.

This is how the critics

heard them

“The CD, which has

already captivated

music lovers in many

countries, not only airs the great

works of Estévez in a way that is

impeccable acoustically, but sets the

maestro alongside those of his peers

who have explored mass orchestras

and choirs: Carl Orff, Ginastera, and

Penderecki. The first person to have

been surprised by this interpretation

must have been Estévez himself.

While remaining absolutely true to

the composer, Mata manages to lend

a rhapsodic dimension, both archaic

and sophisticated, to the score’s every

detail. Those Venezuelan secrets of

the universe are embodied in the

resonant myth of Florentino and the

Devil with the splendor and thunder

of a revelation.” ( José Balza,

El Nacional, Caracas. 1993)

“On one level, this CD offers a

first-class production of the short,

passionate and “flamencoesque”

opera of love, betrayal and death

among the gypsies of Granada. On

another plane, it is a sampling of the

flourishing musical life of South

America. It was recorded in Caracas,

with Eduardo Mata conducting the

exquisite Simón Bolívar Symphony

Orchestra and a cast led by mezzo-

soprano Marta Senn.” (The Washing-ton Post, Washington DC. 1994)

“Beethoven’s music clearly means

the world to these players, and they

embrace it as a shining symbol of

their own optimism, and hope for

a better future than most kids of

their generation are likely to know.

(…) The orchestra sounds solid in all

departments, and there are character-

ful flute and oboe solos. The sound is

clean if somewhat recessed, adding

little glamour to performances

strong enough musically not to

require any studio sweetening.

A sensational debut disc.” (Chicago Tribune. 2006)

37

Page 38: Venezuela the miracle of music

fter each concert, when the stage is in darkness and the audience has made its way

out into the street, a thousand sensations are left floating in the air and in the hearts of those who have vibrated with our SJVSB. And the name of Venezuela is on everyone’s lips as the present and future fountain of world music, as Maestro José Antonio Abreu well points out when he says: “The Orchestra’s successes are the country’s successes; that is why it bears the name of Simón Bolívar, because it represents a continental deal.” Below are some testimonies from personalities who have been impressed by the talent and technique of our young musicians.

1986

René Koering(Artistic Director, Montpellier Festival, France)“The Simón Bolívar Symphony’s performance was a festival of fire, joy and love. What we’re seeing is amazing. The public won’t leave, in spite of the rain and the wind. The French don’t behave like this, not even the people of Mont-pellier. This concert will have repercussions in the future and I’m sure that this orchestra will be regularly invited to the most important musical festivals of Europe.”

Arturo Uslar Pietri(Venezuelan writer)“This evening’s concert in Paris was an extraor-dinary performance by the Simón Bolívar Or-chestra and it means a lot for these young people who are gradually making a way for themselves in the difficult European world of music. On the other hand, it confirms the quality and talent of

these Venezuelan musicians; and, last of all, it’s the clearest proof of the great work undertaken for many years now, and with much struggle, by Maestro José Antonio Abreu.”

Alegría Beracasa(Sponsor and president of the Beracasa Foundation)“This is extraordinary. Having heard them in the open air has confirmed that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra is an ensemble that dares to do anything and can produce top quality mu-sic under any conditions. After this first evening, the next concerts will be even bigger successes.”

Enrique Iglesias(President of the Inter-American Development Bank)“It was a moving and amazing performance by the National Children’s Orchestra and I think it’s been a demonstration of the vigor, creativ-ity, and strength of the Venezuelan people, expressed through their child musicians.”

1998

Federico Mayor(Director General of the UNESCO)“We don’t need interpreters or translators here. We’re all deeply moved and that’s why we’ve de-cided that these children must return to Europe to bring their message of comfort, strength, and joy, which is what this orchestra symbolizes. I must congratulate Venezuela, a country based on examples. One example is worth more than a thousand sermons.”

Leaving emotionsin their wake

38

Page 39: Venezuela the miracle of music

2002

Aldo Cecato(Italian musical director)“What I’ve heard and seen seems to me as unfor-gettable as it’s fantastic. The Youth Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra of young people we don’t have in Italy, a splendid example for us, a lesson not only in music but also of the highest level of education.”

Ula Reuter(Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate 2001)“I was overcome with emotion throughout the entire concert. All this has taken me totally by surprise. They’re fantastic. This is the best orchestra I’ve ever heard; the spiritual strength they transmit is fantastic. These young musicians have given a new meaning to music”.

2005

Marta Argerich(International pianist)“I’m totally moved. It’s been an unforgettable experience. The Simón Bolívar Symphony Or-chestra is on a par with the greatest orchestras, even the Berlin Philharmonic… I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s quite extraordinary how they play and it’s a joy to listen to them. The musi-cal result is something out of this world. Many thanks for this gift of passion and life.”

Michael Ladenburger(President of the Beethoven-Haus Society) “It was a marvelous concert, special, a unique mo-ment. Seeing two thousand people from Bonn who came to listen to the Venezuelans is some-thing that had never ever happened in Germany.”

2006

Bruno Aprea(Conductor and Orchestra Conducting Chair at Saint Cecilia Conservatory) “I feel truly moved when I hear this extraordinary, exceptional orchestra that goes directly to the heart of the music. These youngsters have not lost the state of virginity that the classical musician with traditional training no longer has and that produces an impact that is truly mysterious. They are splendid ambassadors of Venezuela.”

2007

Jürg Reinshagen(Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Lucerne Festival)“I was absolutely ecstatic at the performance of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. Seeing those very young musicians, from the first row to the last, playing for life was magnificent.”

Paul Müller(Director of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra)“It was marvelous, truly extraordinary. It’s the first time I’ve heard this orchestra play and I, like the rest of the audience, went crazy immediately after the performance.”

Marta Argerich

Abreu accompanied by his disciples when he receives the Prince of Asturias Award in Oviedo, Spain

39

Page 40: Venezuela the miracle of music

Nicholas Kenyon(Director of The Proms organized by the BBC)“On behalf of the BBC Proms, I would like to thank you for giving us one of the most memo-rable evenings in our entire history. It’s a privilege to have you here. Your execution was something wonderful. You have, quite simply, made a deep impression on the audience. This work has really inspired us.”

John Eliot Gardiner(British conductor)“The energy that comes from the conductor and the orchestra is fantastic. It gives one hope for living in this world. It’s fascinating and I loved it. I never imagined that music could produce something like that.”

Marshal Marcus(Musical Director of the Royal Festival Hall)“This is something unique. The energy of these musicians cannot be compared to that of other ensembles. This has possibly been one of the most exciting Proms I’ve seen in the past 25 years. It’s clear that Dudamel is part of the orchestra and that he hands over the conducting to each of its parts, with the result that everyone becomes a conductor. It’s unique, fantastic.”

Jonathan Mills(Director of the Edinburgh International Festival)“This is a great evening in a very special year for Edinburgh, because our festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary. And it’s a great honor for us to celebrate it with the presence of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orches-tra. They have literally raised the roof of the magnificent Usher Hall Theater. There is great excitement in the air.”

The crowning moment overflowing with nuances and

heavenly passages and a depth only

achieved by veteran players of the

world’s most prestigious orchestras.

Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, Rattle’s favorite musical

work, found a rich combination in

Caracas: on the one hand the skill

and considerable experience of a con-

ductor who works each movement,

each piece, each row of instruments

with delicate precision to achieve a

clear, precise musical discourse; and

on the other, an orchestra composed

of young musicians capable of reviv-

ing a dense work, narrating with a

brilliant performance the triumph of

the return to life with which Mahler

closes one of his greatest creations.

A burst of applause, a standing

ovation that lasted for more than

fifteen minutes, the like of which

has hardly ever been heard before in

our country, and being called back

for seven bows confirmed to Rattle

and our SJVSB that this was the

starting point of a new chapter for

the System. Then the conductor of

the Berlin Philharmonic knew that

he had not exaggerated when he told

the Venezuelan media that “what is

happening here in Venezuela is a true

resurrection of symphonic music.”

For Abreu, his boys and girls, and

his great undertaking, the System of

Youth and Children’s Orchestras of

Venezuela, that evening was the crown-

ing moment of thirty years of work.

We all know what happened after

that… success upon success in all parts

of the world and the satisfaction and

the pride of a country that, at last, had

found a cultural emblem to identify it.

When a musical milestone is

about to happen, time triggers the

emotions and a powerful rush of

adrenaline. That Friday evening, July

23, 2004, the Ríos Reyna Concert

Hall was filled to capacity and the

audience was strangely impatient.

Back in the dressing rooms, the ten-

sion grew as the time to go on stage

drew near. The perfumes of the two

soloists –Kate Royal (soprano) and

Isabel Palacios (mezzo-soprano)–

wafted like fragrant tendrils among

the 300 voices of the choir; in private,

a conductor accustomed to grand

occasions, caressed his magic wand

in preparation for his best trick with

English composure. It was time. The

bell rang at 8:00 p.m., and there out

in front of the audience, filling up the

stage were the 250 young musicians

of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan

Youth Symphony Orchestra,

impeccably attired in evening dress,

and, crammed together almost like

a backdrop of faces, the enormous

choir conducted by María Guinand.

A unique musical and artistic gift was

about to be revealed: Gustav Mahler’s

Resurrection. And at the precise mo-

ment when the door opened to let the

British conductor, Simon Rattle, on

stage, an endless stream of emotions

took possession of the youngsters of

the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth

Symphony Orchestra. Fluttering in

their memories were every indication,

each piece of advice, and all the

demands Rattle had made on them

during a week of rehearsals.

Inspired to the maximum, they

started the sound “banquet”

40

Page 41: Venezuela the miracle of music

2008

Esa-Pekka Salonen(Finnish composer and conductor)“This is a marvelous coincidence… And more so, for me to stand before the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra for the first time to conduct my own work. Listening to the orchestra and feeling that there is so much life in the composition is something I never imagined.”

Nikolaus Harnoncourt(Austrian conductor)“It was an unforgettable experience. It’s incredible how all the members of the orchestra manage to join together and achieve such a high level of con-centration. They play each of the notes without losing the smallest detail of the indications.”

Markus Hinterhäuser(Concert Director of the Salzburg Festival)“It’s something really important and we are proud and honored to have the Simón Bolívar Na-tional Youth Orchestra of Venezuela here. This undertaking includes an enormous project; I feel we have to learn from and be respectful towards them because they are a great example for us.”

Michael Haefliger(Artistic and Executive Director of the Lucerne Festival)“It was a great interpretation where they infected the audience with their joy. The Swiss and

European audiences already consider them part of the family. We hope to be able to count on the presence of these young musicians on many more occasions.”

Fan Tao(Principle Conductor of the National Broadcasting and Film Symphony Orchestra of China)“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this happen here. The audience paid attention throughout and, for the first time, they gave a standing ovation. That never happens with the Chinese.”

Chen Ping(President of China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts)“Impeccable. The extraordinarily high level with which they interpret works, that passion, that joy… an unbeatable delivery. They surpassed all expectations. This is a perfect reason for con-tinuing to think of future performances by the Venezuelan musicians at our cultural complex.”

The SJVSB at the headquarters of the OAS, Washington

41

Page 42: Venezuela the miracle of music

A spectacular trio

The extraordinary interest in the

trio of Venezuelan conductors and

the presence of our SJVSB could be

measured by the sale of the tickets

(1,840 seats), sold out two months be-

fore the event, which was considered

quite a feat by the Lucerne Festival’s

organizers. But the clearest proof of

this fervent interest was the burst of

applause that greeted Dudamel as

soon as the audience saw him enter to

take his place on the podium; a trib-

ute from the audience that Gustavo

thanked, as always, with his radiant

smile. Dudamel swiftly raised his ba-

ton to offer the second concert with

a gratifying and ambitious program:

the symphonic poem Francesca da

worked very closely with the System

since 2004, taking up residence in

Venezuela from time to time to put

the more advanced and higher status

orchestras through their paces. The

interpretations of the Scythian Suite,

Op. 20, by Sergei Prokofiev, the Suite

from the opera “Lulu” by Alberg

Berg (with the participation of the

English soprano Anna Prohaska),

and Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique were

enthusiastically received by the

nearly two thousand people filling

the concert hall. The critics described

the performance by Abbado and our

SJVSB as “a divine exercise in feeling

and beauty.”

The occasion, from March 18

through 21, 2010, turned out to be a

veritable banquette for the critics on

the one hand, and a two-edged sword

for the Venezuelan musicians and the

System of Youth and Children’s Or-

chestras of Venezuela, on the other.

It was a perfect opportunity for the

public and the organizers to experi-

ence firsthand the “artistic miracles”

produced by this orchestra network

and three Venezuelan conductors:

Dudamel, already a superstar, and his

no less talented fellow countrymen

Matheuz and Vásquez, also totally

trained by Abreu.

The engagement at the Lucerne

Festival started with the concert

conducted by Abbado, who has

Power in Lucerne

Lucerne, a city accustomed to grand

musical events, a venue considered

the acid test for new figures emerging

on the symphonic music scene,

as well as for consolidating the

reputations of those who are already

known, waited expectantly for the

four performances by the Simón

Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra,

which had been invited to the Spring

Festival as the resident orchestra

(which means taking on the greater

part of the repertoire and the pro-

gram’s star performances). And our

orchestra got itself ready to triumph

under four batons, no less: Claudio

Abbado, Gustavo Dudamel, Diego

Matheuz, and Christian Vásquez.

Sung Kawak(Music director)“This has been the most exciting concert I have ever seen in this theater. I’ve performed many concerts in this hall with different orches-tras, but today the audience’s reception was unprecedented. I feel Venezuelan and consider myself part of the family; I’ve given my heart to this project, from start finish. The work that Maestro Abreu has done is a miracle.”

Seikyo Kim(Music director)“This orchestra knew how to reach the hearts of the Japanese in a way not often seen in this country.”

Power in Lucerne

International Forum Hall, Tokyo

42

Page 43: Venezuela the miracle of music

Rimini, Opus 32 by Tchaikovsky and

Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony,

which captivated music lovers and the

general public alike.

And, as is already customary, the

fiesta of the encores would not have

been complete without the popular

music from our American Continent

(Revueltas, Bernstein, and others),

whose infectious rhythms made the

audience lose its composure and,

in the words of the reporters of the

Swiss press, “become totally and

absolutely delirious to the sound of

mambos and other tropical rhythms,

while the musicians and their conduc-

tor enjoyed themselves playing and

dancing with their instruments.”

Then it was the turn of the third con-

cert for the young baton, Christian

Vásquez, whose name is on everyone’s

lips in the international circuit as a

result of his successful performances

with Radio France’s Philharmonic

Orchestra in 2008 and the Israel

Symphony Orchestra in January

2010. Vásquez’s had it far from easy,

as the two previous concerts (with

Abbado and Dudamel) received the

unstinting praise of the critics.

But Vásquez measured up and more

than met the challenge: in Lucerne

he shone in his own right thanks

to his well balanced choreography,

his carefully administered doses of

energy, and his perfect communica-

tion with the SJVSB. The sparkling William Tell Overture by Rossini, the

Danzas from Ginastera’s ballet La Estancia, Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, by

the Venezuelan Evencio Castellanos,

and, to close, Danzón by Arturo

Márquez revealed a truly bright

promise in orchestral conducting.

To close, the Lucerne Festival ceded

the podium to the conductor Diego

Matheuz, who arrived surrounded

by an aura of positive comments as

a result of his performance in Italy,

alongside his “guide” in Europe,

Maestro Abbado. Received by the

audience with a long ovation, the

conductor, who, like Dudamel, is

also from Lara, vigorously conducted

Symphony No. 10 by Shostakovich

and demonstrated his maturity in

the Concerto for violin and orchestra

by Beethoven, interpreted by the

German soloist Kolja Blachner.

It was an intense week and a golden

opportunity during which our

SJVSB excelled itself and once again

held its triumphal flag on high, giving

performances that marked another

milestone in its artistic career.

2009

Neale Pearl(President of the Washington Performing Arts Society, WPAS)“It is a huge honor for us to be able to present this orchestra. We’ve been anxious to do this for a long time, and now it’s finally possible. We too are focusing on undertaking educational and social activities, and what better example that the Venezuelan System.”

Deborah Borda(President of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association)“I’ve heard them in Caracas, Europe, and Los Angeles. It’s a special emotion every time. What concerts like this do is to spread the message

of the Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, which are an inspiration to the world.”

Bemhard Kerres(Executive Director of the Konzerthaus, Vienna)“This is something I’d never experienced before. The reaction of the audience was unbelievable. What makes this orchestra different from the thousands I’ve listened to in my lifetime is not only the energy it transmits, but they way they give their all in each interpretation.”

Mario Vargas Llosa(Peruvian writer)“It’s simply a magnificent orchestra. I admire it.”

43

Page 44: Venezuela the miracle of music

A gust of vitality and freshness has blown through a fair number of the world’s prestigious music venues in the past 35 years. As the 21st century advances, the admiration awakened by the SJVSB and the National Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela grows in crescendo. Unlike many ensembles of its kind, it has a very busy agenda of international concert engagements and invitations.

Around the world with the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra

Mexico and ColombiaPalacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

III Festival Internacional de Tunja (Colombia)

�is was the SJVSB’s �rst international tour. �ey traveled in the company of the Aragua Philharmonic Choir and the Venezuelan pianist David Ascanio was the soloist. �e conductors were Maestro Juan Carlos Núñez (Mexico) and José Antonio Abreu (Colombia).

Colombia, Ecuador, and BrazilTeatro Colón, Bogotá (Colombia)

Ecuadorian Culture Center, Quito and Guayaquil (Ecuador)

Municipal �eater, Rio de Janeiro; Villa-Lobos Concert Hall, Brasilia; Sao Paulo; and Bello Horizonte (Brazil)

SpainTeatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla; Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid (Spain)

France and ItalyUNESCO Concert Hall, Paris (France)

Giuseppe Verdi Concert Hall, Milan Conservatory; Teatro di San Carlo, Naples; Teatro Verdi, Florence; the Cathedral in Anagni during the Fiuggi Festival; Santa Cecilia Conservatory, Rome; Clementine Chapel, the Vatican (Italy)

At the Vatican, they performed before Pope John Paul II.

Italy, Germany, and AustriaTeatro degli Arcimboldi, Milan; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome; Teatro Comunale in Fiuggi; Verdi Concert Hall, Florence; St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Mark’s Square, Venice (Italy)

Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall; Tonhalle, Düsseldorf; Berliner Philharmonie; Kreuzkirche (Church of the Cross), Dresden; Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Munich Philharmonic Concert Hall (Germany)

Konzerthaus, Vienna, and Salzburg Congress, Salzburg (Austria)

�e National Youth Orchestra was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Spain, Puerto Rico, Finland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, China, Korea, and JapanAuditorium, Miguel Delibes Cultural Center, Valladolid; Auditorium, Zaragoza, Aragón, and National Auditorium of Spain, Madrid (Spain)

Fine Arts Center and the �eater of the University of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

Finland Hall, Helsinki (Finland)

Felsenreitschule Concert Hall, Great Hall

of the Mozarteum �eater, and GroBes Festspielhaus, Salzburg (Austria)

Berliner Philharmonie, Berlin; Alte Oper, Frankfurt; Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Ludwigshafen, and Baden-Baden �eater, Baden-Baden (Germany)

Lucerne Cultural Center (Switzerland)

National Center for the Performing Arts

and the National �eater, Beijing (China)

Concert Hall at the Arts Center and Seongnam Arts Center, Seoul (Korea)

Metropolitan Art Space and the International Forum Hall, Tokyo; Kosei-Nekin Kaikan, Hiroshima (Japan)

In Puerto Rico and Spain, Gustavo Dudamel and Diego Matheuz took it in

turns to conduct the SJVSB.

In Austria, the Venezuelan symphony orchestra was invited as a resident orchestra for the Salzburg Festival.

Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and GermanyTeatro Argentino de La Plata; Luna Park Stadium; Teatro Colón and El Coliseo, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Municipal �eater, Viña del Mar; Mapocho Cultural Center; and Santiago Cathedral (Chile)

SODRE �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

Münster �eater, Bonn; Essen Philharmonic Concert Hall; Bremen Die Glocke, Hamburg; and Berliner Philharmonie (Germany)

�e Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra was led by Dudamel. �ey took part in the Martha Argerich Music Festival in Argentina and the Beethoven Music Festival in Germany.

ItalyTeatro Massimo, Palermo, and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome

�e SJVSB was conducted by Maestro Claudio Abbado and Gustavo Dudamel.

Spain, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Mexico, U.S.A, and CubaTeatro de la Maestranza, Seville, and the “Príncipe Felipe” Congress Hall-Auditorium, Oviedo (Spain)Kultur Und Kongress Zentrum, Lucerne Festival (Switzerland)�e Proms (48ª season), Royal Albert Hall, London (England)Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Scotland)Essen Philharmonic Concert Hall; Schleswig Holstein, Lübeck; Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Semperoper, Dresden; and Beethoven Festival (Germany)Elizondo �eater, Monterrey; Palacio Bellas Artes, D.F. (Mexico)Davies Hall, San Francisco; Walt Disney Hall, Los Angeles, and Carnegie Hall, New York (U.S.A)Amadeo Roldán �eater, Havana (Cuba)

ItalyTaormina �eater, Naples, and the �eater in Fiuggi.

In Fiuggi, the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela performed under the baton of Maestro Guiseppe Sinopoli and made a recording for the RAI. �e National Youth and National Children’s Orchestras took it in turns to perform.

Germany, Jamaica, and BrazilBerliner Philharmonie; Tonhalle, Düsseldorf; Wandel Concert Hall, Mergentheim; Harmonie Concert Hall, Heilbronn; Philharmonic Concert Hall, Munich; and in Hannover, Munster, and Magdebur (Germany)

Kingston �eater, Kingston (Jamaica)

Itamaraty Palace and Recife Convention Center, Pernambuco (Brazil)

�e National Youth and National Children’s Orchestras, both conducted by Dudamel, took it in turns to perform. In Pernambuco, they accompanied the President of the Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías.

Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Municipal �eater, Viña del Mar, and Mapocho Cultural Center, Santiago (Chile)

SODRE �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

France, Spain, and U.S.A. Gran Salón de la UNESCO, Paris (France)

Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid, and San Sebastián (Spain)

UNO Headquarters, New York, and Kennedy Center, Washington (United States)

�e National Youth and Children’s Orchestras took it in turns to perform the concerts.

Brasil and Chile Teatro Amazonas, Manaos (Brazil)

Gran Salón, Hotel Hyatt, Santiago, during the 6th Ibero-American Summit of Heads and State and Government (Chile)

Only the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela went on this tour.

Mexico and BrazilPalacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro; Villa-Lobos Concert Hall at the National �eater and Taguatinga Sports Center, Brasilia; and Catedral da Sé, São Paulo (Brazil)

�e National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and its National Children’s Orchestra went on both these tours.

Argentina, Uruguay, and FranceTeatro Colón, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Solís �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

UNESCO Concert Hall and Great Amphitheater of La Sorbonne (France)

Holland, England, and FranceConcertgebouw, Amsterdam (Holland)

Royal Festival Hall, London (England)

UNESCO Concert Hall, Paris (France)On this tour, the SJVSB was conducted by the Mexican conductor, Maestro Eduardo Mata (†).

Mexico and JapanNetzahualcoyolt �eater, Federal District, and Manuel Doblado �eater, Guanajuato (Mexico)

Bunkamura Orchard Hall, Tokyo; Kobe Municipal Cultural Hall, Kobe; Century Hall in the Nagoya Congress Center, Nagoya; and Symphony Hall, Osaka (Japan)

UK, Colombia, Ecuador and MexicoAberdeen Festival, His Majesty’s �eatre (Scotland)

Teatro Colón, Bogotá (Colombia)

Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, Quito (Ecuador)

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

In Aberdeen, the SVJSB took part in the Youth Orchestras Festival under the baton of Maestro J. A. Abreu. Maestro Carlos Chávez (†) was in charge of conducting in Mexico.

Colombia Teatro Colón, Bogotá, y Teatro de Popayán (Colombia).

Spain, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid; Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla; Palau de la Música, Barcelona; and Teatro de Las Palmas, Canarias (Spain)

National �eater, San José (Costa Rica)

Teatro de la Universidad de San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Canada, Austria, Italy, France, USA, England, Spain, and Portugal

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Austria, UK, and Turkey

Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Poland, Greece, and SpainFour Seasons Performing Arts Centre, Toronto (Canada)

Vienna Konzerthaus (Austria)

Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Italy)

Salle Pleyel, Paris (France)

Jones Hall, Houston; Kennedy Center, Washington, and Symphony Center, Chicago (United States)

South Bank Centre and Clore Ballroom, London (England)

National Auditorium of Music, Madrid; Palau de la Música, Valencia; Kursaal Auditorium, San Sebastián (Spain)

Coliseau dos Recreios, Lisbon (Portugal)

All the SJVSB’s concerts were conducted by Dudamel.

1976 1980 19821975 1985 1986 1989 1991

1992 1996 1997 1998 1999

2000 2001 2002 2005 2006 2007

2008 2009

2011

2010

VENEZUELA

SOUTHAMERICA

NORTH AMERICA EUROPE

AFRICA

ASIA

Concert Hall, Lucerne (Switzerland)

Concert Hall, Gothenburg; Konserthus, Stockholm (Sweden)

Oslo Konserthus, Oslo (Norway)

Mariinsky �eater, Saint Petersburg; Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow (Russia)

Tour South America and Europe on the occasion of the Bicentennial Celebration of the Independence of Venezuela

Grand �eater – National Opera, Warsaw (Poland)

Athens Concert Hall and Herod Atticus, Athens (Greece)

�e Royal House, La Alhambra – Palace of Charles V, Granada (Spain)

1995

44

Page 45: Venezuela the miracle of music

A gust of vitality and freshness has blown through a fair number of the world’s prestigious music venues in the past 35 years. As the 21st century advances, the admiration awakened by the SJVSB and the National Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela grows in crescendo. Unlike many ensembles of its kind, it has a very busy agenda of international concert engagements and invitations.

Around the world with the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra

Mexico and ColombiaPalacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

III Festival Internacional de Tunja (Colombia)

�is was the SJVSB’s �rst international tour. �ey traveled in the company of the Aragua Philharmonic Choir and the Venezuelan pianist David Ascanio was the soloist. �e conductors were Maestro Juan Carlos Núñez (Mexico) and José Antonio Abreu (Colombia).

Colombia, Ecuador, and BrazilTeatro Colón, Bogotá (Colombia)

Ecuadorian Culture Center, Quito and Guayaquil (Ecuador)

Municipal �eater, Rio de Janeiro; Villa-Lobos Concert Hall, Brasilia; Sao Paulo; and Bello Horizonte (Brazil)

SpainTeatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla; Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid (Spain)

France and ItalyUNESCO Concert Hall, Paris (France)

Giuseppe Verdi Concert Hall, Milan Conservatory; Teatro di San Carlo, Naples; Teatro Verdi, Florence; the Cathedral in Anagni during the Fiuggi Festival; Santa Cecilia Conservatory, Rome; Clementine Chapel, the Vatican (Italy)

At the Vatican, they performed before Pope John Paul II.

Italy, Germany, and AustriaTeatro degli Arcimboldi, Milan; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome; Teatro Comunale in Fiuggi; Verdi Concert Hall, Florence; St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Mark’s Square, Venice (Italy)

Cologne Philharmonic Concert Hall; Tonhalle, Düsseldorf; Berliner Philharmonie; Kreuzkirche (Church of the Cross), Dresden; Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Munich Philharmonic Concert Hall (Germany)

Konzerthaus, Vienna, and Salzburg Congress, Salzburg (Austria)

�e National Youth Orchestra was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Spain, Puerto Rico, Finland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, China, Korea, and JapanAuditorium, Miguel Delibes Cultural Center, Valladolid; Auditorium, Zaragoza, Aragón, and National Auditorium of Spain, Madrid (Spain)

Fine Arts Center and the �eater of the University of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

Finland Hall, Helsinki (Finland)

Felsenreitschule Concert Hall, Great Hall

of the Mozarteum �eater, and GroBes Festspielhaus, Salzburg (Austria)

Berliner Philharmonie, Berlin; Alte Oper, Frankfurt; Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Ludwigshafen, and Baden-Baden �eater, Baden-Baden (Germany)

Lucerne Cultural Center (Switzerland)

National Center for the Performing Arts

and the National �eater, Beijing (China)

Concert Hall at the Arts Center and Seongnam Arts Center, Seoul (Korea)

Metropolitan Art Space and the International Forum Hall, Tokyo; Kosei-Nekin Kaikan, Hiroshima (Japan)

In Puerto Rico and Spain, Gustavo Dudamel and Diego Matheuz took it in

turns to conduct the SJVSB.

In Austria, the Venezuelan symphony orchestra was invited as a resident orchestra for the Salzburg Festival.

Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and GermanyTeatro Argentino de La Plata; Luna Park Stadium; Teatro Colón and El Coliseo, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Municipal �eater, Viña del Mar; Mapocho Cultural Center; and Santiago Cathedral (Chile)

SODRE �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

Münster �eater, Bonn; Essen Philharmonic Concert Hall; Bremen Die Glocke, Hamburg; and Berliner Philharmonie (Germany)

�e Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra was led by Dudamel. �ey took part in the Martha Argerich Music Festival in Argentina and the Beethoven Music Festival in Germany.

ItalyTeatro Massimo, Palermo, and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome

�e SJVSB was conducted by Maestro Claudio Abbado and Gustavo Dudamel.

Spain, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Mexico, U.S.A, and CubaTeatro de la Maestranza, Seville, and the “Príncipe Felipe” Congress Hall-Auditorium, Oviedo (Spain)Kultur Und Kongress Zentrum, Lucerne Festival (Switzerland)�e Proms (48ª season), Royal Albert Hall, London (England)Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Scotland)Essen Philharmonic Concert Hall; Schleswig Holstein, Lübeck; Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Semperoper, Dresden; and Beethoven Festival (Germany)Elizondo �eater, Monterrey; Palacio Bellas Artes, D.F. (Mexico)Davies Hall, San Francisco; Walt Disney Hall, Los Angeles, and Carnegie Hall, New York (U.S.A)Amadeo Roldán �eater, Havana (Cuba)

ItalyTaormina �eater, Naples, and the �eater in Fiuggi.

In Fiuggi, the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela performed under the baton of Maestro Guiseppe Sinopoli and made a recording for the RAI. �e National Youth and National Children’s Orchestras took it in turns to perform.

Germany, Jamaica, and BrazilBerliner Philharmonie; Tonhalle, Düsseldorf; Wandel Concert Hall, Mergentheim; Harmonie Concert Hall, Heilbronn; Philharmonic Concert Hall, Munich; and in Hannover, Munster, and Magdebur (Germany)

Kingston �eater, Kingston (Jamaica)

Itamaraty Palace and Recife Convention Center, Pernambuco (Brazil)

�e National Youth and National Children’s Orchestras, both conducted by Dudamel, took it in turns to perform. In Pernambuco, they accompanied the President of the Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías.

Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Municipal �eater, Viña del Mar, and Mapocho Cultural Center, Santiago (Chile)

SODRE �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

France, Spain, and U.S.A. Gran Salón de la UNESCO, Paris (France)

Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid, and San Sebastián (Spain)

UNO Headquarters, New York, and Kennedy Center, Washington (United States)

�e National Youth and Children’s Orchestras took it in turns to perform the concerts.

Brasil and Chile Teatro Amazonas, Manaos (Brazil)

Gran Salón, Hotel Hyatt, Santiago, during the 6th Ibero-American Summit of Heads and State and Government (Chile)

Only the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela went on this tour.

Mexico and BrazilPalacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro; Villa-Lobos Concert Hall at the National �eater and Taguatinga Sports Center, Brasilia; and Catedral da Sé, São Paulo (Brazil)

�e National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and its National Children’s Orchestra went on both these tours.

Argentina, Uruguay, and FranceTeatro Colón, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Solís �eater, Montevideo (Uruguay)

UNESCO Concert Hall and Great Amphitheater of La Sorbonne (France)

Holland, England, and FranceConcertgebouw, Amsterdam (Holland)

Royal Festival Hall, London (England)

UNESCO Concert Hall, Paris (France)On this tour, the SJVSB was conducted by the Mexican conductor, Maestro Eduardo Mata (†).

Mexico and JapanNetzahualcoyolt �eater, Federal District, and Manuel Doblado �eater, Guanajuato (Mexico)

Bunkamura Orchard Hall, Tokyo; Kobe Municipal Cultural Hall, Kobe; Century Hall in the Nagoya Congress Center, Nagoya; and Symphony Hall, Osaka (Japan)

UK, Colombia, Ecuador and MexicoAberdeen Festival, His Majesty’s �eatre (Scotland)

Teatro Colón, Bogotá (Colombia)

Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, Quito (Ecuador)

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (Mexico)

In Aberdeen, the SVJSB took part in the Youth Orchestras Festival under the baton of Maestro J. A. Abreu. Maestro Carlos Chávez (†) was in charge of conducting in Mexico.

Colombia Teatro Colón, Bogotá, y Teatro de Popayán (Colombia).

Spain, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico Teatro Real de la Opera, Madrid; Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla; Palau de la Música, Barcelona; and Teatro de Las Palmas, Canarias (Spain)

National �eater, San José (Costa Rica)

Teatro de la Universidad de San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Canada, Austria, Italy, France, USA, England, Spain, and Portugal

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Austria, UK, and Turkey

Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Poland, Greece, and SpainFour Seasons Performing Arts Centre, Toronto (Canada)

Vienna Konzerthaus (Austria)

Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Italy)

Salle Pleyel, Paris (France)

Jones Hall, Houston; Kennedy Center, Washington, and Symphony Center, Chicago (United States)

South Bank Centre and Clore Ballroom, London (England)

National Auditorium of Music, Madrid; Palau de la Música, Valencia; Kursaal Auditorium, San Sebastián (Spain)

Coliseau dos Recreios, Lisbon (Portugal)

All the SJVSB’s concerts were conducted by Dudamel.

1976 1980 19821975 1985 1986 1989 1991

1992 1996 1997 1998 1999

2000 2001 2002 2005 2006 2007

2008 2009

2011

2010

VENEZUELA

SOUTHAMERICA

NORTH AMERICA EUROPE

AFRICA

ASIA

Concert Hall, Lucerne (Switzerland)

Concert Hall, Gothenburg; Konserthus, Stockholm (Sweden)

Oslo Konserthus, Oslo (Norway)

Mariinsky �eater, Saint Petersburg; Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow (Russia)

Tour South America and Europe on the occasion of the Bicentennial Celebration of the Independence of Venezuela

Grand �eater – National Opera, Warsaw (Poland)

Athens Concert Hall and Herod Atticus, Athens (Greece)

�e Royal House, La Alhambra – Palace of Charles V, Granada (Spain)

1995

45

Page 46: Venezuela the miracle of music

The forgerof dreams and realities

I will never be able to say “mission accomplished.”Mine is a lifelong commitment, so for methere can be no mission accomplished.My mission is a process that has no end...until God wills otherwise.

José Antonio Abreu

II

Cha

pter

Page 47: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 48: Venezuela the miracle of music

t would be possible to write an extensive biog-raphy of this Venezuelan, already a legend

among the exemplary men in our contempo-rary history; and it would also be possible to add many more dates and numerous titles, awards, and positions held. But above and beyond any listing of achievements, there is one piece of evidence that is overwhelming: the life of José Antonio Abreu, a stellar journey to earth of a privileged human being with a perfectly laid out itinerary, strictly adhered to, and constantly attaining new heights.

Thanks to his visionary mission, an ancestral wisdom, and an internal passion that fuels his will to work and his commitment, this man, small of stature, fair-skinned, and of an ami-able and decided disposition, has managed to crystallize one of the most transcendental and important cultural, artistic, and social programs that Venezuela and Latin America have seen in the 21st century. He has undertaken an unending futuristic crusade to save thousands of Venezuelan children from spiritual and material poverty and, with his model of coexistence,

incontrovertibly reflected in his orchestras, he offers the world a key for peace: tolerate, in-clude, and acknowledge others in order to build a world of progress and excellence.

There are no better data than those just mentioned for compiling the résumé of J.A.A., a child born on May 7, 1939, –marked by tenacious Taurus- in the town of Valera, Trujillo state (Venezuela), and who, being the firstborn of Ailie Anselmi and Melpómene Abreu, absorbed from his parents and grandparents the humanistic school of thought and a taste for the arts. It was not by chance that he started his musical studies at the age of nine with his dear teacher, the pianist Doralisa de Medina, in Barquisimeto, Lara state, at that time considered the music capital of Venezuela (a situation that his Youth and Children’s Orchestras have changed, because, today, all the country’s towns are centers of music).

He started to live in Caracas in 1957. He joined the José Ángel Lamas Higher School of Music, where he became a disciple of great

A stellar life

48

Page 49: Venezuela the miracle of music

Venezuelan maestros such as Vicente Emilio Sojo, with whom he studied composition; Moisés Moleiro, his piano teacher; and Evencio Castellanos, who gave him organ and harpsi-chord lessons. In 1964, he received the titles of Acting Professor and Master Composer. Later he studied orchestral conducting under Maestro Gonzalo Castellanos Yumar and began to be invited to conduct Venezuela’s main orchestras.

Despite these first opportunities as a musician, his far from conformist but certainly highly entrepreneurial spirit prompted him to con-ceive of a challenge: in 1975 he founded the Juan José Landaeta National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, later to become known as the Simón Bolívar Symphony Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, from whence the today successful and world renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, under the young baton of Gustavo Dudamel, emerged. That year, Abreu took on the task that was to become his life’s most brilliant challenge: the Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion, of which he is the soul and guiding light.

The rest of his résumé is recent history. Since 1975, José Antonio Abreu has dedicated to

the country and to thousands of Venezuelan children and youngsters not only his manage-rial baton, but also his efforts as a strategist and his untiring drive in the search for funding and the support of institutions that have permitted the development of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation over three and a half decades. Thanks to his desire to become an all-round leader, as he progressed along his musical path, at the same time he was building an impor-tant career in planning and economics (he is a graduate of Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and has a Ph.D. in Petroleum Economics from the University of Pennsylvania) as Planning Director of CORDIPLAN and Advisor to the National Economic Council. Between 1988 and 1994, having more than earned it and with solid knowledge of the country’s cultural and artistic milieu, he assumed the posts of Minister of State for Culture and President of the Na-tional Cultural Council (CONAC), where his innovation and dedication won him the respect and admiration of all Venezuelan intellectuals and creators.

Maestro Abreu on a walk through Florence with members of the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela in 1988

49

Page 50: Venezuela the miracle of music

hirty-five years have elapsed since the name of José Antonio Abreu, happily, began to

invade the lives of some Venezuelans. They were those few but enthusiastic makers of art, convicted philanthropists, and also young musicians who became passionate believers in his truly revolutionary proposal, which, if successful, would throw out the window everything imposed, thus far, in the country’s conservatories and orchestras, at its concerts, and on its stages. So the last two decades of the 20th century ran their course and that name became the indispensible driving force behind Venezuelan culture and its guiding light, and today, upon completion of the first ten years of the 21st century, this figure and his personality have become a gift and a blessing for millions of fellow countrymen and hope for children and young people the world over.

As a Venezuelan, I am delighted to have had the privilege of sharing and also of being a witness during my three decades as a journalist to how this Venezuelan has worked –at times extremely hard and taking considerable risks, at others swimming against the tide, but always with courage and tenacity and satisfactory results-; someone who insisted on keeping a low profile with the media, always giving more credit to

his “boys and girls,” his teachers, and his fellow workers, subordinates and managers, pushing them into the limelight, and promoting collec-tive achievements and the achievements of his orchestras rather than his own.

That is the José Antonio Abreu who comes across in this long interview, which became a mosaic of subjects that have been developed at different times and in different places. One I remember in particular, for example, was a meeting we had in the gardens of a hotel in Montpelier, France, during a tour organized by the Beracasa Foundation, accompanied by Alegría Beracasa, a close friend and sponsor; another, at the end of a memorable concert with our Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and the marvelous flautist Jean Pierre Rampal at UNESCO’s salon in Paris, or strolling along the streets of Tokyo as we waited while his youngsters submitted their instruments to the inspection of expert Japanese luthiers, or an ex-tremely interesting and relaxed chat while wait-ing for a plane that would take us on the first leg of a tour of Spain; and another, on the occasion of the presentation of the GLOBArt Awards, in Austria, when I was invited to be present at a meeting he had with the managers and directors of the Vienna Philharmonic, during which I was

at the high point of his career José Antonio Abreu,

50

Page 51: Venezuela the miracle of music

able to observe Abreu’s tremendous negotiating skills where there was no place for the phrase, “that can’t be done.”

My memory takes me back to the time of tensions, when, on more than one occasion, I interviewed him on the spur of the moment, in the corridors of the Chamber of Deputies’ Finance Committee, while he was waiting to be received in order to get more subsidies for the cultural sector, fulfilling his mission as Minister of Culture; or in his beloved Sala José Félix Ribas, while he lent a keen ear to a rehearsal under the respected baton of Maestro Eduardo Mata and, on other occasions, of the then adolescent Gustavo Dudamel; finally, and most often, throughout my career covering the news, we held them in his austere office in Parque Central, usually after six in the evening, when there were a few minutes free on his daily agenda.

In this updated collection of conversations, his simplicity and amiability, his great respect for our profession and the value he placed on what we, as journalists, could transmit that would be beneficial for his orchestras and musicians, remained unchanged. And I have to say this, always, even in the most difficult moments, I found a man full of national pride and of unqualified love for Venezuela. I had before me a José Antonio Abreu who was happy to have had the health to see his miracle come true: the miracle of helping children and young people, fathers, mothers and entire families and raising them up to the pinnacle of their salvation.

A gift from his forebears

I was interested in finding out more about José Antonio Abreu than we know from having watch him work unwaveringly for more than thirty-five years, in really getting to know not only the man who has managed this great achievement -the National System of Youth

Maestro Abreu’s maternal grandparents: Duilia Garbatti and Antonio Anselmi Berti “Don Tonino,” immigrants from the island of Elba, Italy

and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela - but also the Venezuelan who constantly struggles to challenge his own successes and those of his disciples; in learning what his childhood dreams were, for example.

What was your childhood like and who influ-enced you to take the path of music?A few years ago I was in Monte Carmelo, in Trujillo, where my mother was born, the ances-tral home of my family, the Anselmi Garbatti, and where I have many childhood memories.

They were Italian immigrants?Yes, they came from the island of Elba in Italy. My grandfather, Mama’s father, whom I never knew because he died a year before I was born, was Antonio Anselmi Berti -everybody called him Don Tonino- and his wife was Duilia Gar-batti. They were married there on Elba, off the Port of Livorno, an important city with an opera house where my grandmother went regularly. She had a musical soul and was an accomplished musician. On the boat they came over on, they brought instruments for a band to play the music that accompanied religious processions, fiestas, and popular ceremonies.

So, what’s inherited isn’t stolen, as they say. One of their sons or grandsons was bound to be a musician, and it happened to be you. What instrument did your grandfather play?I’m not sure if he actually played an instrument, but I know he knew an awful lot about bands.

51

Page 52: Venezuela the miracle of music

I know the orchestrations of pieces from the universal symphony repertoire he admirably composed for the band by heart. I still have his arrangements of Verdi and Mascagni to this day. Mama gave them to me as a gift.

So, your grandfather founded a band in Trujillo.Yes, those same instruments were shared out and a band was formed with forty-six kids from the town, which he directed and which, today, is the Monte Carmelo Philharmonic Band. It was a youth orchestra, but without bowed instru-ments. For years my grandfather took the band on tour to all the Andean villages.

What sort of impression did that world of Monte Carmelo make on you when you arrived at your grandparents’ house?I remember it all as though it were yesterday. I was six and lived with my parents and brothers and sisters in Barquisimeto. One of my brothers got whooping cough and my mother took me to stay at her parents’ house while he was in quarantine. The first thing that impressed me was a stage in the back yard that my grandfa-ther Tonino had put together out of planks to perform the works of Shakespeare and the Castilian classics. There I found trunks with

costumes, curtains, and scenery. He’d made it all; and he’d decorated the house with plaster busts of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. I was very impressed when I saw that hallway with banners of Garibaldi that he’d inherited from his father and when I discovered the very fine table linen my grandmother had and the collection of mar-velous books, many of them with dedications by the authors, that they had kept.

So this was really your first contact with art, with music. What was going on, culturally speaking, in that far-flung village in Trujillo?It was a farming village, but highly cultured. The church of Our Lady of Carmen had illustrious parish priests who came from the Mérida Semi-nary, one of whom was Monsignor Quintero. Gregorian chant was taught at the Mérida Seminary, and the organist of the little church of Monte Carmelo had studied there. And there, in that village and with that chapel maestro, began my love of music and liturgical chant.

That time in Monte Carmelo, when you were six years old and living with your grandmother, more than likely whetted your appetite for many things, and in many differ-ent ways. In every possible way. My grandmother had all of Ricordi’s original librettos, for example. She knew Verdi’s and Puccini’s operas by heart and she used to sit down with me and translate the original Italian of those works into Span-ish. We spent many hours together, she singing and me memorizing. That’s where I got my love of studying too, from my Aunt Alide, my mother’s elder sister, who was the headmistress of the village school. She was my first teacher and, thanks to her, I learned to love Venezuela, because in those country schools they really encouraged us to learn about the history of our country. In those days, throughout primary school, weekly cultural soirées were organized where our vocation for poetry and poetry read-ing, singing, music and theater were awakened. In other words, an effort was made to awaken children’s artistic side and there was a balance between teaching arithmetic or rational knowl-edge and stimulating creative sensitivity.

Trujillo state’s first band founded by Antonio Anselmi Berti

52

Page 53: Venezuela the miracle of music

This, then, was truly a fortunate journey and one that was fundamental and decisive for you. By the time I left that village, at the age of seven, to return to Barquisimeto, the musical life, the habit of reading, and a passion for opera and plays were already in my blood. So I returned to Barquisimeto determined to study music, and both my father, Melpómene Abreu Mén-dez, and my mother, Ailie Anselmi Garbatti, continued to encourage that vocation. Papa played the guitar very well and also the requinto, another sort of guitar with four steel strings, and my mother sang beautifully. I lived in a musical environment. That was my good fortune.

Barquisimeto: music, music everywhere

When did you decide to start learning to play a musical instrument?When I was nine. We had an excellent piano teacher in Barquisimeto called Doralisa de Medina. I asked Papa to enroll me in her school. So, musically speaking, I was off to a flying start. She was intuitive, a great pianist, a disciple of ex-traordinary French teachers; and she conceived of music as happening in a cheerful atmosphere conducive to play where the instrument was part of a world that was incorporated into choirs and other artistic disciplines. Apart from that, she was the sort of teacher who never imposed academic obstacles. That way the child advanced at his or her own pace; and that’s why she had a lot of pupils.

José Antonio Abreu (the one with glasses) with his brothers and sisters, Jesús, Enrique, Dora, and Beatriz. Below: his parents, Melpómene Abreu and Ailie Anselmi de Abreu

At that stage of your life, who most influenced your character, your father or your mother?Both of them, each in their own way. Papa taught me to cultivate a man’s basic values and the basic values of life, work, and good behavior as well as the virtues of honesty and punctuality. He was a strict man, but he was also affectionate and loving with his children and showed a dedi-cation towards us worthy of emulation. Mama was very sensitive and her greatest pleasure was playing the piano. In Barquisimeto she built up a community at our house, because where we lived, ours was the only house with a piano.

Abreu (far left) when he was a member of the Lara Philharmonic Orchestra

His first passion, the piano

53

Page 54: Venezuela the miracle of music

Those were the five years between 1945 and 1950. What was happening musically and culturally at that time in Barquisimeto?At that time the Lara State Music Academy was in Barquisimeto. It was directed by Raúl Napoleón Sánchez Duque, who had played first flute in the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra. And also at about that time a group of very talented foreign musicians arrived, among them the violinist Olaf Ilzins, with whom I began to study violin. I was twelve then and was a member of the music academy’s orchestra. Around the same time, I began to cultivate the music of the Venezuelan composers, under the guidance of Maestro Antonio Carrillo, a friend of the family and an accomplished mandolinist who had his own excellent quintet. I also had the opportunity to play with the Lara Philhar-monic Orchestra, which was widely respected at that time, directed by Maestro Plácido Casas. I was in an environment totally surrounded by music: I played and studied our national music with Maestro Carrillo; I practiced the classics with Doralisa de Medina; and at the Music Academy we played the music of the universal composers… Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven. There was also a great dance school belonging to Taormina Guevara, a Venezuelan who had just arrived from Russia. At that time, the Juárez Theater was about to be reopened to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of Barquisime-to, and to mark the occasion they put on a grand gala performance with the Taormina Guevara Ballet and the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

In other words, you’d already acquired a taste for orchestral playing and for being intensely involved in music?That’s right. I remember I used to play alongside Pastora Guanipa, a wonderful violinist, far su-perior to me, and I found playing with her to be a great help in learning to read from the music stand. And that was when I first became aware of what becoming a musician was all about and how important orchestral playing was.

Were you able to cope with your school work and your music activities as well?Perfectly, and with great enthusiasm. I was always looking for more things to do - I loved the life I was leading. I did my primary educa-tion at Colegio La Salle and then went on to the Grupo Escolar Costa Rica, where there were

With one of his disciples, Gregory Carreño

During his first trips abroad at the end of 1960

54

Page 55: Venezuela the miracle of music

excellent math teachers and where that intimate relationship between mathematics and the art of music, despite their apparent incompatibility and duality, actually came together in perfect harmony, which I enjoyed.

1957: the leap to Caracas

When did you decide to move to Caracas and why?Towards the end of 1957 I decided to come to Caracas because I wanted to continue my music studies with Maestro Vicente Emilio Sojo. Maestro Ángel Sauce took me to the José Angle Lamas School and there I began my music studies on a more advanced level.

How did you support yourself? Because you couldn’t live off music in those days, could you?Excuse me, but the musicians who played in the country’s bands and orchestras lived off their music; not such a lucrative profession as being a doctor, of course, but you got by. I understood that I had to carve out an economic position for myself, and that’s why I decided to embark on a university career while at the same time con-tinuing with my music studies. I didn’t live alone, because I had plenty of family in Caracas, both on my mother’s and my father’s side and that was a help at the beginning. I enrolled at Colegio San Ignacio and finished high school there. At the Advanced Music School I continued with my studies in piano, clavichord, organ, and compo-sition; and later on I took orchestration classes and orchestra conducting. I finished my studies

Abreu conducting one of the first concerts with the Youth Orchestra, the precursor of all the System’s orchestras

55

Page 56: Venezuela the miracle of music

and received a diploma in teaching piano, key-board and organ, and later my diploma in com-position. By then, I was already at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, and I’d also got my first job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Eco-nomic Policy Division. While I was still in my second year at university, I managed to get a job as a teaching assistant. After graduating, I started to work at the Central Bank of Venezuela in the National Accounts Department. I completed my music studies and in 1961 graduated in economics and began to exercise my profession, mainly in the area of company organization. At the same time I was guest conductor of the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra and regularly gave clavichord and piano recitals.

You moved between two worlds. Yes. Music was the food for my spiritual world and the profession of economist provided me with the means to support myself and my family.

There’s an aspect of your life that few of us know about: your foray into the country’s political scene. How did you come to get involved in politics and why?My interest began while I was at univer-sity, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Politics attracted me for two reasons. The first, my life experience, my convictions with regard to social action, and the work I’d done in the poor

neighborhoods of Catia with Father José María Vélaz, who was just then founding “Fe y Alegría” (“Faith and Happiness”); that was an experience that brought me close to the social situation in my country, which was something I couldn’t ignore. The other reason was the ideological formation my own career had given me, since economic thought is inextricably linked to political thought, and because the conflicting economic concepts of the day had a lot to do with political models, which meant it was impossible to remove oneself from the country’s social situation in those days. So, then and there, I began to become politically aware, but not militant.

When did you become politically active?I didn’t feel represented by the political parties of the day until Arturo Uslar Pietri arrived on the scene. I identified with the movement started by this writer, who went on to launch his presidential candidacy in 1961, and I ended up being elected as alternate deputy and even spent five years as chairman of the Economic Subcommittee of the Chamber of Deputies’ Finance Committee. I was active in parliament for five years until about 1965, and that gave me a very good idea of the workings of State and all its structures.

During the awarding of the Music Prizes (1979), accompanied by, among others, Maestros Antonio Lauro, Manuel Felipe Ramón y Rivera, and Antonio Estévez

56

Page 57: Venezuela the miracle of music

Did you ever see yourself active in politics? As a politician no, much less in the way a career in politics is understood in Venezuela ... never! I’ve never wanted to split my personality into, say, the economist, the politician, and the musician. A human being is an indissoluble unit. I did what I wanted to do: carve out a career in the service of my country, because it was obvious that my fu-ture lay with dedicating myself totally to a calling to serve through education. I knew that my path was university teaching and for nineteen years I held seven university chairs, all of which brought me into contact with young people.

Maestro Abreu, we recognize your consider-able knowledge and skill in navigating the different paths of economic management with the State, at all levels, as well as with multina-tional institutions and companies. Did those negotiating skills of yours come from all that experience as an economist, your knowledge of the State, or were you born with them?The former, naturally. I was an economic advisor. Later I joined CORDIPLAN as a planner and went on to become Director of General Planning and Advisor to the National Economic Council, which was equivalent to a vice ministry. There we began work on the structure of the National Plan. That was a very important experience because it brought me into contact with a number of very high-level economic advisors in Latin America. From the age of sixteen to thirty-five I worked for the State, twenty years. That allowed me to get to know a new continental dimension of economic development through contact with international organizations, the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA), for example. I contributed to creating the mechanism whereby Venezuela became a partner of ALAC (Latin-American Commerce Association); I was present at the creation of the Andean Pact and the economic integration of the continent. All this was training that, eventually, was put totally at the service of the orchestras and the entire organizational structure of what became Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation.

The true path

We’ve come to the 1970s. Tell me about that time. In 1973 I had health problems. I had to undergo major abdominal surgery. After the surgery, came a long period of convalescence, a whole year. During all that time I attended postgraduate courses in the United States. I took advantage of my time there to make contact with the artistic experiences of that country, which in turn allowed me to understand the evolution of music in other nations, the work dynamic of orchestras and choirs, and, above all, I found out about the state of music education in the United States. This served as an extremely important comple-ment to my professional criteria regarding music.

What happened when you returned to Venezuela in 1974?I was about to turn thirty-five. It was then that I decided to focus all that vocation to serve,

Not even during his convalescence did Abreu abandon his rehearsal routine

57

Page 58: Venezuela the miracle of music

which I had assumed in full awareness, on a project where I could combine all my orga-nizational, managerial, musical, and teaching experience. I already had all the necessary tools to build a great institution, a grand enterprise.

In 1974 and 1975, the country only had two orchestras: the Venezuela Symphony Orches-tra Society and the Zulia Symphony Orches-tra. These were the years when many cultural institutions were born in Venezuela, the Contemporary Art Museum and Fundarte, for example; INCIBA became CONAC as part of the State’s cultural policy; and impor-tant artists who had specialized abroad such as the choreographer Vicente Nebrada and

the ballet dancer Zhandra Rodríguez, were coming back to the country, among other things. A lot was going on culturally. Did this have any influence on the launching of your project? Yes, the cultural climate was favorable for undertaking a project that was essentially structural in nature. It had to be structural, you see; it couldn’t be, say, for only an opera season or, for example, the creation of a new piano professorship, no. It was a project for a new style of music education in Venezuela, which consisted, specifically, of a new proposal. Also, there were a large number of young people who were already trained as instrumentalists but had no hope of developing professionally and

At the System’s 35th Anniversary (2010), Maestro Abreu was decorated with the orchestras’ insignia by the musicians of the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphonic Orchestra

58

Page 59: Venezuela the miracle of music

work-wise with the very few existing musical ensembles and orchestras. There was a shortage of jobs. The Venezuela Symphony had created the Experimental Orchestra to give more young people training in playing in an orchestra. Maestro Ángel Sauce had become the director of the Juan José Landaeta Conservatory and he wanted to encourage orchestral conducting. It was the moment to give every one of our Venezuelan cities the possibility of having their own symphony and youth orchestras.

There must have been resistance in musical and cultural circles to this new model of mu-sic education that you wanted to implement. Any structural change provokes some kind of reaction, and that’s good, that’s positive, because it’s precisely against that resistance that a project measures its effectiveness. A project can’t prove itself without opposition. So that resistance gave us an historical opportunity to prove our exis-tence, to validate it. We welcomed the resistance because we needed it to confront ourselves.

When the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela was born on February 12, 1975, the motto was “Play and Fight.” Those two verbs suggest a fighting spirit. Why?Right from the start, when we came up against the first signs of resistance, we understood that we couldn’t just play, that we couldn’t turn away from the fight that this implied. Why? To prove to all those who didn’t agree with our project that we were right. There were obstacles to overcome. We had to put up a tremendous fight during those first years to make all aspects of that music education reform that culminated in the System known. Then, we had to make its bounties known –and not only the artistic benefits, but the social and community ones as well-, and, of course, make people aware of the need for State agencies and state-owned and private companies to provide permanent and stable support in order to build a project that would be sustainable over time.

To some extent, that motto incorporates the personality and temperament of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. It also reflects the most difficult stages in the continued existence of the struc-ture you dreamed up. Exactly. First of all, it was a challenge to train the teachers, professors and conductors we needed to extend the System throughout the country. That has taken us thirty-five years. That has been our basic challenge.

The ideal Venezuela

There is one word that is common to all the testimonies by the founders of the National Youth Orchestra: faith. They say, “José Anto-nio possessed a faith that was like an enormous monument ... We used to think that the dream was only in his head…” Did you sense that skepticism? And how did that make you feel?I felt fine. I knew it was simply a matter of time; time to prove that we were on the right track. I didn’t care if there were momentary doubts ... I welcomed them. Because if you have doubts at the beginning and then you believe, your belief is twice as strong. I never worried about that. I was always absolutely sure that we were on firm ground.

At the System’s 35th Anniversary (2010), Maestro Abreu was decorated with the orchestras’ insignia by the musicians of the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphonic Orchestra

59

Page 60: Venezuela the miracle of music

Your project was nationalistic right from the start. It was the materialization of a country that was possible, another potential Venezuela. The ideals of democracy, justice, social inclu-sion, rescuing children and young people through art, fostering people’s sensitivity, work and education as a path to collective and per-sonal self-fulfillment are just some of the values of that musical country you have so successfully created. Do you feel that this country of orches-tras is filtering through to that other country where we spend our daily lives?The System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras is the ideal Venezuela. From the beginning I saw the orchestras as the most beautiful expression of a united country. I saw a vibrant Venezuela, full of the will and energy to achieve what it wanted. I saw a Venezuela proud of its musicians who triumph and shine on a par with the highest world standards. There can be no doubt that the spreading of the Orchestras in the communi-ties, in every state and in the families is already happening, is something palpable and real, and it is gradually transforming Venezuelan society. In every town, in every municipality where we have set up orchestras, the community has got

organized and has taken on the responsibility for its ensembles and for every child who walks the streets with his or her instrument. And what’s important here is that, if the other art forms were to adopt the same scheme, then, undoubtedly, art would become a fundamental, strategic, unique and revolutionary means of transforming the entire country.

What has been the Achilles’ heel of this great social and cultural undertaking?The Achilles’ heel of any long-term project is the short term. This project, by its very nature, had to be conceived over the long term. Its Achilles’ heel is what happens right now; that ineradi-cable ghost on the long-term horizon is uncer-tainty, never predictable and always dangerous.

The people who work alongside you always feel that, even before you’ve finished one thing, you’re already working on another pro-gram, another concert, another project.That’s right, so I am.

José Antonio Abreu proud of his pupil, Gustavo Dudamel, during the tour of Korea, 2008

60

Page 61: Venezuela the miracle of music

61

Page 62: Venezuela the miracle of music

How do you manage to convey your enthu-siasm to your collaborators without over-whelming them? That inexhaustible energy isn’t mine; it’s the undying light that shines throughout the life of the project. This is a project intended to last for centuries. It’s historical; it emits its own energy that becomes incarnate in the main players, who are the children and the young people. They’re the ones who tirelessly receive that energy, who exude it, who transmit it and prolong it over time. Two days after Simon Rattle arrived in Caracas, the Simón Bolívar Orchestra was sated with its wonderful interpretation of Estévez’s La cantata criolla; the Carabobo Orchestra had its sights set on holding a reunion to celebrate its tenth anniversary; the Amazonas Orchestra was waiting for its percussion instruments to arrive; and the Anzoátegui Symphony was concentrating on its national and international tours. Every orchestra and every one of the ensembles, choirs, and chamber ensembles had their challenges, their moments, their dreams.

Imagine, after bidding farewell to Simon Rattle and on the way back from the airport to Caracas, I felt as if I was back to zero, as though I was starting on something else and behind with my homework.

What you’ve said prompts another question: Have you ever felt overwhelmed by this enor-mous, multiplying platform you’ve created that has more than 300,000 children and young people actively taking part and more than 250 orchestras dotted around the country?I might feel overwhelmed today, after working so intensely all day. But Pascal said: the greatest thing God created was the next day. And I agree with that. Besides, at the same time, an army of music managers specializing in each area of the Program has been formed, many of whom are musicians and teachers and many of whom still play in the first orchestras that were founded in the System. We have formed a contingent of teachers who are constantly taking seminars with top-notch international masters.

Paying tribute to those who fell in Hiroshima, 2008

Page 63: Venezuela the miracle of music

Wouldn’t you prefer to go back to conducting orchestras or to creating music, say?I don’t have time for that. I conducted during the first five years of the System because there weren’t many conductors to do it. But now my responsi-bility is to ensure that the program is made known.

The visit of the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle, practically coincided with the 30th Anniversary of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. And now the world success of our Simón Bolívar Orchestra and of young Maestro Gustavo Dudamel has coincided with its 35th anniversary. Where does the System go from here?Towards giving an ever larger number of children and young people the same opportu-nity as those who, today, are active members of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela; towards overcoming the material and spiritual poverty of the world’s children using music as the tool; towards all the country’s children having free access to art. Imagine every neighborhood in Caracas and in any town in our country with sport facilities, a choir, and an orchestra - it would be mag-nificent! Imagine all the children and young people in this country, in Latin America and the

Caribbean, in the world having in learning art and music a means for supporting themselves! Imagine this program being adopted as a great historical flag for the third world and for the first world too! Towards the end of the 18th century, Europe took a leap with the industrial revolu-tion that created and catapulted forward the great powers of the modern world. Now it’s our turn to ignite a great humanistic and creative revolution through art in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the entire world. We can make that great change. Here are our experience and our will to achieve peace through music.

What’s needed for this formula you came up with to take root in the rest of the world and for it to continue to grow steadily in Venezuela?What’s needed is for states to adopt it as an intrinsic part of their education systems. The day our primary schools include teaching the arts to every single student, from two-year-olds to university students, as part of their basic curriculum, that day our country will become a different country. For that to happen we have to train more teachers, teachers who are commit-ted to this ideal. That would be the next big step: incorporating the Orchestra System into formal education; making the teaching of art and music in schools compulsory.

During the award of the Q Prize in 2008, accompanied by Quincy Jones and Dudamel

63

Page 64: Venezuela the miracle of music

How do you see tomorrow’s Venezuela?Venezuela has to become one great teaching enterprise. The country will find its path if it has a wise, advanced, and profound education system that is aware of its principles, its content, and its purposes.

Learn and study everything

Let’s talk about your musical preferences. What carries more weight for you in music: calculation, intellect or feeling?Music comes to me as a whole and awakens in me feelings, dreams, nostalgias, illusions, and energies that drive me to action and commit-ment. It’s a dynamo, a basic energy I need today and have needed ever since I was a boy to live life to the full. Without music, life would be a desert; it would be unbearable.

Whenever you’ve felt bad, when you’ve been going through hard times in your life, what has music meant to you?Music transforms adversity into hope. It trans-forms challenges into action. It lets me take that leap from dreams to their realization, to making them come true.

What about your favorite composers? Who do you feel most affinity with?All of them. Over the years I’ve learned from them all. It also depends rather on the moment

I’m living and which part of the day it is, even the specific hour of my daily schedule. If I’m very tense, for example, at the end of the day, tired and burdened down with so much work, naturally, there’s a certain kind of music that appeals to me more than another. It’s the same when I wake up. The symphonic language of Anton Bruckner, say, is ideal when I have plenty of time; when I’m not pressed for time. When I’m ready for bed, I love Wagner and the music of Ravel and Debussy as well. First thing in the morning, I like baroque: Bach to wake up, to get started. Vivaldi’s music is a life force. I can listen to Mozart at any time of the day. When I’m just starting on a new book or getting up-to-date with my literary reading, for example, I like contemporary music, more daring music, something more cutting-edge.

How do you feel about rock and pop music?It’s not exactly a style of music I would meditate on, naturally. I don’t listen to rock music. I simply hear it in the environment where it’s being played, at young people’s parties. Mind you, I don’t need to listen to rock music to connect to youngsters, since I do that constantly during their learning processes, their schooling, and symphonic choir practice. To tell the truth, my contact with that kind of music is minimal. But it’s exactly the op-posite with Venezuelan folk music, which I love and thoroughly enjoy, not only Venezuelan, but Latin American popular music and the music of

Voices raised in admiration

Maestro Abreu is a unique being, as his idea is being implemented

in many parts of the world. Venezuelans should be extremely proud

of him, of his orchestras, and of fruits of the System such as Gustavo

Dudamel, one of the world’s great conductors. I’ll never tire of praising

the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, and that is

why I take this admiration everywhere.

Placido Domingo

(Tenor and Conductor)

Abreu has given life to a music

System where youngsters can be safe

from the perils of the streets, crime,

and drugs. It offers them the oppor-

tunity to engage in cultural activities

free of charge, and that means, in the

ultimate analysis, that they will have

the opportunity to build a better life

for themselves.

Claudio Abbado

(Conductor)

With Placido Domingo

With Claudio Abbado

64

Page 65: Venezuela the miracle of music

all peoples too. I love the UNESCO collection of the world’s great folk music. I consider it a treasure and listen to it often. And when I travel, I like to rummage around old record shops that still have those recordings of famous popular artists of the 20th century.

What about contemporary music?I love it. Music is always a delight to me. It’s a challenge. A new language is a challenge. I take time to study it. I investigate the scales of nota-tion used to write the work. That’s something I thoroughly enjoy. And I like to read the treatises that often appear in magazines specializing in contemporary scales, the new effects that are obtained, the progressive enrichment of the world of sound through electronics. I find that a fascinating world, as I do the world of contem-porary physics.

What are your culinary tastes and what kind of literature do you prefer?As for food, what I enjoy most are traditional Venezuelan dishes, and as for international cui-sine, my favorite is Italian. And I read everything. I have to because of the amount of information I have to deal with in order to carry out my duties and do my job… I don’t only read about music and art. In the evenings, I study to keep abreast of trends in economics, planning, trade, and international relations, as I have to attend congresses and seminars and give papers both in

Maestro Abreu has dedicated his life to changing the lives of generations of

young people through music and the System. Thanks to his influence, more and

more young people all over the world are achieving a change. Working with

these young musicians is a privilege and a great pleasure and makes one put ones

feet on the ground.

Simon Rattle

(Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic)

Maestro Abreu has tremendous dig-

nity and style. He is a great visionary.

I only hope that others will be able

to repeat that experience and imitate

what he has created with the System

of Orchestras. Being in Venezuela

and sharing the joy of this work of

Maestro Abreu’s was one of the

greatest honors in my entire life.

Wynton Marsalis

(Trumpet player and jazz

musician)

Venezuela and abroad… Besides, there are highly educated people among our young musicians, people with degrees and specialization courses, and I have to communicate with them on the same intellectual level and also broaden my knowledge with them.

Behind the impeccable interpretations, there’s a demanding and lovely maestro

With Simon Rattle

From left to right, with Henrik Szeryng, Rafael Puyana, Margot Fonteyn, and Jean-Pierre Rampal

65

Page 66: Venezuela the miracle of music

With faith in his blood

You’re a religious man, a practicing Catholic, a Christian.I see myself as a humble messenger of Christ’s doctrine. For me, the doctrine of Christ, the ideal that Christ represents, is reason enough for living, for seeking one’s destiny, for being and acting. The purpose of any philosophy should be precisely to provide man with an orientation, to give him a reason for living. So for me philoso-phy is a fascinating world because, through philosophy, I find Christ’s message time and again, reinterpreted and infinitely revitalized by contemporary thought.

What’s taboo for you, Maestro? Has anything ever been taboo for you in your life?I don’t know. I would never dare to force, penetrate or judge what fate has in store.

When times are hard, really hard in your life, to whom or to what do you cling?To God. There is nobody else. He’s my only true refuge and strength.

Have you ever been tempted, when things get difficult, to undergo psychoanalysis?Never, absolutely not.

Why not?Because I have faith in prayer, in any form of prayer, not just spoken prayer. Work is a prayer. Dedicating oneself to a task with faith and all one’s might and ability is the same as praying. One’s relationship with God must be unending and uninterrupted if it is to be a genuine service; anything else would mean fragmenting that service to God, regulating it. Submitting one’s service to God to the anarchical irregularity of an aimless existence makes no sense at all. One’s dedication has to be total and proper, and that means embracing one’s service to God, totally integrating oneself with God, with life in all its aspects. But that doesn’t mean becoming self-absorbed, a solipsist, someone who is isolated from the community; quite the contrary.

Why did you never get married and have a family of your own?I’ve always seen myself as a teacher. I felt respon-sible for my students, and that responsibility has involved a total and absolute dedication that has filled me and taken all my energy and my life. That is precisely the raison d’être of the priesthood. Therefore, life should be like being in the priesthood, whatever your social status or walk in life; and Jesus Christ is a part of our essence, of all of us. Wearing a cassock or any other outward sign of lifelong dedication to me is secondary. The essential factor is the spirit of total devotion that is parallel to life as a priest ... and I am honored to simply be a priest, a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

Do you feel like an apostle of God?I don’t aspire to that, but rather to be an ideal, noble and peerless servant of God. And the greatest pleasure in life is to live it as a musician, because the world of music is so close to the essence of God. So, serving God by practicing an art form that reflects Him in such a funda-mental, beautiful and indescribable way is my life’s joy.

During an encounter with Pope John Paul II in 1996

66

Page 67: Venezuela the miracle of music

Have you ever felt you’ve failed at any time in your life?Obviously, our innate human weaknesses, imperfections and errors are ever-present; the times one fails are too many to count.

What do you do when something doesn’t work out for you or when you make a mistake?First I admit to myself that I’ve made a mistake and then I renew my commitment to constantly improve, improve, improve.

What do you most dislike or find you can’t tolerate in others?Insincerity and lack of authenticity. When a person, through his words and his work, reflects falseness or hides behind a mask, I think he’s hiding his true self, that he’s unwilling to assume his responsibilities. That I find pathetic.

Do you feel you’ve already accomplished your mission in life?I’ll never be able to say, “mission accomplished”. I’m sure of that. I have a lifelong commitment, so for me there can be no mission accom-plished. My mission is a process that has no end ... until God wills otherwise.

How do you envisage your future?My future is in God’s hands. I honestly don’t fret about it.

Not even death?Absolutely not.

With Yo-Yo Ma, in Caracas, 2009

At the ceremony for bestowing the Prince of Asturias Award in 2008

With Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

67

Page 68: Venezuela the miracle of music

Erasmus Prize 2010 (Holland)Awarded by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation for his dedication to the pedagogical, occupational, and ethical rescue of children and young people. Amsterdam.

Awards and Accolades

2010

Commander of the Lion Order of FinlandAward given by the President of the Republic of Finland.Austrian Cross of Arts and Sciences, Firt ClassAward given by Austrian Government.Lifetime Achievement AwardAward given by the Art and Sciences Foundation in Istanbul, Turkey.

2011

Honorary Latin Grammy (USA)Awarded by the Board of Directors of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Las Vegas.Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (France). Awarded by the Government of the Republic of France, Salle Pleyel. Paris.Polar Music Prize, “the Nobel Prize of Music” (Sweden)Awarded by the record company Polar Records for giving the world an unprecedented vision of classical music as a way to save children and young people. Stockholm.Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Simón Bolívar (Venezuela)Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Central de Venezuela Frederick Stock Award (USA)�e Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Institute for Learning, Access, and Training created this award solely to honor J.A.A. Chicago.

2009

2007Don Juan de Borbón Music Award (Spain)For his contribution to excellence in music and peace in the world, awarded by the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbón. Alcazár de Segovia, Asturias. 

Recognition of an exemplary life

Peace Prize for Arts and Culture (USA)Awarded by World Culture Open at the World Cultures Encounter. New York.

Doctorate in Education (Honoris Causa), Universi-dad Católica Andrés Bello (Venezuela)

2004

Commander of the National Order of Merit (Colombia)

National Award for Music (Venezuela)National Institute of Culture and Fine Arts (INCIBA), Caracas.

1966

Yehudi Menuhin Prize (Spain)Awarded by Queen So�a of Spain at El Prado Museum. Madrid.

2008

Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society (United Kingdom)

�e �rst Latin American to receive this distinction and only the 123rd recipient since the election of

Carl Maria von Weber in 1823.

Prince of Asturias Award (Spain)Bestowed by the Prince and Princess of Asturias “for combining, in a single project, maximum artistic quality and a profound ethical conviction for improving the social situation of thousands of children and young people,” Teatro Campoamor, Oviedo. Asturias.

Glenn Gould Prize (Canada)“For his contribu-tion to creating a cultural renaissance in Venezuela and making a marked impact on an entire generation of youth through music." Toronto.

Honorary Member of �e Beethoven-haus Society (Germany)Doctorate in Medicine (Honoris Causa), Universidad de Carabobo (Venezuela)Puccini International Prize (Italy)Order of �e Rising Sun, Grand Cordon ( Japan)Awarded by Emperor Akihito “for being an example of vision, commitment, and work for hundreds of young people.” Abreu is the �rst Venezuelan to receive this honor. Tokyo.

Globart Award (Austria)Bestowed by the GLOBArt Academy, Connecting Worlds of Arts and Sciences. Vienna.

2006

Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, Grand O�cial (Italy)Granted by presidential decree. Caracas

Cross of the Order Of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, First Class Awarded by German diplomatic authorities in Caracas.

2005

Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Experminental Francisco de Miranda (Venezuela)

2003

Music and Life Prize (Italy) Bestowed by the Music Coordina-tion O�ce. Rimini.

Social Entrepreneur (Switzerland)Award from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Geneva.

Doctor of Music (Honoris Causa) (USA)Awarded by the New England Conservatory of Music. Boston.

2002

�e Right Livelihood Award (Sweden)Alternative Nobel Prize awarded by the Right Livelihood Foundation. Stockholm.

2001

Simón Bolívar Gold Medalde of UNESCO (France)

Gold Insignia of �e City of Caracas (Venezuela)An award for excellence bestowed by the Mayor’s O�ce of the City of Caracas.

1999Honorary Citizenship (Italy)Granted by the Regional Government of the City of Montevago. Agrigento.

Artist for Peace (France)Designated by UNESCO. Paris.

Italia N’el Mondo Award (Italy)Bestowed by the Presidency of the Republic of Italy.

1998

Inter-american Gabriela Mistral Prize for Culture, in the Field of Music Arts and Sciences (USA)Awarded by the Organization of American States (OAS). Washington.

1996

1985

Member of �e Inter-american Music Council, Cidem (USA) Honored by the Organization of American States (OAS). Washington.

Grand O�cer of the Gabriela Mistral Order (Chile)

Grand O�cer of the National Order of

Merit (France)

1991

National Award for Music (Venezuela)National Council of Culture (CONAC).

1979

Unicef–dalla Parte Dei Bambini Prize (Italy)Awarded by the president of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Bruno Cagli. Rome.

Frankfurt Music Prize (Germany)Awarded by the Frankfurt City Council at the Frankfurt Music Fair. TED Prize (USA)Awarded by the Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference. California.

68

Page 69: Venezuela the miracle of music

Erasmus Prize 2010 (Holland)Awarded by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation for his dedication to the pedagogical, occupational, and ethical rescue of children and young people. Amsterdam.

Awards and Accolades

2010

Commander of the Lion Order of FinlandAward given by the President of the Republic of Finland.Austrian Cross of Arts and Sciences, Firt ClassAward given by Austrian Government.Lifetime Achievement AwardAward given by the Art and Sciences Foundation in Istanbul, Turkey.

2011

Honorary Latin Grammy (USA)Awarded by the Board of Directors of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Las Vegas.Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (France). Awarded by the Government of the Republic of France, Salle Pleyel. Paris.Polar Music Prize, “the Nobel Prize of Music” (Sweden)Awarded by the record company Polar Records for giving the world an unprecedented vision of classical music as a way to save children and young people. Stockholm.Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Simón Bolívar (Venezuela)Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Central de Venezuela Frederick Stock Award (USA)�e Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Institute for Learning, Access, and Training created this award solely to honor J.A.A. Chicago.

2009

2007Don Juan de Borbón Music Award (Spain)For his contribution to excellence in music and peace in the world, awarded by the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbón. Alcazár de Segovia, Asturias. 

Recognition of an exemplary life

Peace Prize for Arts and Culture (USA)Awarded by World Culture Open at the World Cultures Encounter. New York.

Doctorate in Education (Honoris Causa), Universi-dad Católica Andrés Bello (Venezuela)

2004

Commander of the National Order of Merit (Colombia)

National Award for Music (Venezuela)National Institute of Culture and Fine Arts (INCIBA), Caracas.

1966

Yehudi Menuhin Prize (Spain)Awarded by Queen So�a of Spain at El Prado Museum. Madrid.

2008

Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society (United Kingdom)

�e �rst Latin American to receive this distinction and only the 123rd recipient since the election of

Carl Maria von Weber in 1823.

Prince of Asturias Award (Spain)Bestowed by the Prince and Princess of Asturias “for combining, in a single project, maximum artistic quality and a profound ethical conviction for improving the social situation of thousands of children and young people,” Teatro Campoamor, Oviedo. Asturias.

Glenn Gould Prize (Canada)“For his contribu-tion to creating a cultural renaissance in Venezuela and making a marked impact on an entire generation of youth through music." Toronto.

Honorary Member of �e Beethoven-haus Society (Germany)Doctorate in Medicine (Honoris Causa), Universidad de Carabobo (Venezuela)Puccini International Prize (Italy)Order of �e Rising Sun, Grand Cordon ( Japan)Awarded by Emperor Akihito “for being an example of vision, commitment, and work for hundreds of young people.” Abreu is the �rst Venezuelan to receive this honor. Tokyo.

Globart Award (Austria)Bestowed by the GLOBArt Academy, Connecting Worlds of Arts and Sciences. Vienna.

2006

Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, Grand O�cial (Italy)Granted by presidential decree. Caracas

Cross of the Order Of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, First Class Awarded by German diplomatic authorities in Caracas.

2005

Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Universidad Experminental Francisco de Miranda (Venezuela)

2003

Music and Life Prize (Italy) Bestowed by the Music Coordina-tion O�ce. Rimini.

Social Entrepreneur (Switzerland)Award from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Geneva.

Doctor of Music (Honoris Causa) (USA)Awarded by the New England Conservatory of Music. Boston.

2002

�e Right Livelihood Award (Sweden)Alternative Nobel Prize awarded by the Right Livelihood Foundation. Stockholm.

2001

Simón Bolívar Gold Medalde of UNESCO (France)

Gold Insignia of �e City of Caracas (Venezuela)An award for excellence bestowed by the Mayor’s O�ce of the City of Caracas.

1999Honorary Citizenship (Italy)Granted by the Regional Government of the City of Montevago. Agrigento.

Artist for Peace (France)Designated by UNESCO. Paris.

Italia N’el Mondo Award (Italy)Bestowed by the Presidency of the Republic of Italy.

1998

Inter-american Gabriela Mistral Prize for Culture, in the Field of Music Arts and Sciences (USA)Awarded by the Organization of American States (OAS). Washington.

1996

1985

Member of �e Inter-american Music Council, Cidem (USA) Honored by the Organization of American States (OAS). Washington.

Grand O�cer of the Gabriela Mistral Order (Chile)

Grand O�cer of the National Order of

Merit (France)

1991

National Award for Music (Venezuela)National Council of Culture (CONAC).

1979

Unicef–dalla Parte Dei Bambini Prize (Italy)Awarded by the president of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Bruno Cagli. Rome.

Frankfurt Music Prize (Germany)Awarded by the Frankfurt City Council at the Frankfurt Music Fair. TED Prize (USA)Awarded by the Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference. California.

69

Page 70: Venezuela the miracle of music

The pioneersof this miracle

Because there is not room enough in a single mind or in a single heart for such an inventory of passions and satisfactions.

Chefi Borzacchini

III

Cha

pter

Since 1975, the mosaic of youthful faces has conveyed but one rallying cry: “play and fight”

Page 71: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 72: Venezuela the miracle of music

etting everyone together was no easy task. Not because they have drifted away, but

because today most of them are busy men and women with many occupations and have families besides. However, thanks to the fact that a large number of them are still involved in the music world as teachers, conductors, and managers of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, we managed to write down this story, which began 35 years ago, in their own words, because there is not room enough in a single mind or in a single heart for such an inventory of passions and satisfactions.

On an August night in 2004, at the home of the “father” of this great cultural undertaking, these youngsters of yore shared memories and opened boxes full of photos to recall what they looked like way back then. They made fun of

themselves as they relived memories brought back by pictures and videos taken long ago, and, as though piecing together a huge quilt, one by one they told of their personal adventure in the original orchestra. All through the night and until daybreak, each member of this founding group contributed a piece of the jigsaw to reveal the dream that began on Youth Day, February 12, 1975. This chronicle, narrated in the first person and simultaneously with more than one voice, tells of the emotions of a moment in time, of a celebration, and also of the ups and downs encountered by these Venezuelans along the way as pioneers of this miracle.

We are proud to offer this chapter in honor of those who, at that time, joined their illusions to Master Abreu’s dream. Some of them, among them the much loved violinist and founder of

years on35A choral chronicle:The Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela at its international debut in Mexico City, 1975

72

Page 73: Venezuela the miracle of music

the System, Carlos Villamizar, are no longer with us. But the heavens resound with the ovations they received on their first international tours, back in the 1980s, and the applause won today by our young members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

The pilgrimage

We went from pillar to post. First they lent us a garage at Liliana Moreno’s house in Prados del Este. Then we had another rehearsal, the second, at the Juan José Landaeta Conservatory, located in Campo Alegre, thanks to the fact that Maestro Ángel Sauce liked Abreu’s idea. But the orchestra began to grow, week after week; we were no longer just the eight or ten of us who turned up at the first meetings because several musicians had arrived from other parts of the country. So, carting our instruments on our backs, we had to go to the Sindú factory warehouse in Boleíta Sur. That warehouse proved to be magical for us. We all pitched to clean it up and then, amidst bits of old iron and machinery, we managed to hold our rehearsals. Meanwhile José Antonio was looking for new premises. After that, we went to a penthouse in Parque Central, belonging to Fundarte, and we even had to rehearse in Don Bosco Church, in Altamira. Finally, we ended up in the José Félix Ribas Hall at Teatro Teresa Carreño. Even though it had been assigned to us as the orchestra’s headquarters, one day they tried to get us out of there, but they weren’t able to… We even inaugurated it with a grand concert. That evening, Abreu pinned on our badges and said, “You are the founding members of the Venezuelan System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras. You are the pioneers of a great undertaking.” (Carlos Villamizar †, Florentino Mendoza, and Gregory Carreño)

The rehearsals

The weekly rehearsals started when we’d all got-ten out of university. They would begin at around 8 o’clock and finish at midnight. On Saturdays, once the rehearsal started, there was no fixed time for it to end. The most amazing thing was that nobody left or asked what time things were going to finish. But one thing was for sure, rehearsals with José Antonio were grueling. He used to do what’s called “music stand by music stand,” getting everyone to play their parts one by one. In other words, each rehearsal could hold a surprise and a terrible challenge. And woe betide you if you weren’t prepared because he’d make you play the most difficult passages, one by one, at any time, when you least expected it. (David Ascanio and Beatriz Abreu)

The pleasure of the get-togethers

After the rehearsals came the good part: the bombardment of knowledge and information about art, music, literature, philosophy, and life. That was quite simply wonderful. It was like getting into one of those conversations you don’t want ever to end. We always wanted to

First rehearsals at Fundarte’s headquarters, Parque Central, Caracas

73

Page 74: Venezuela the miracle of music

hear more. That time was so pleasurable that the rehearsals would end and the conversations, always fed by José Antonio’s wisdom, went on for another hour and a half or two hours. So, the training the orchestra received was not merely musical and technical, it was also a free-ranging education where we talked about a wide range of subjects that enriched the general culture of many of us. (David Ascanio)

The first concert

It was in honor of the workers, and for that reason we gave it on April 30. José Antonio had worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had his contacts there. But apart from that, he set to, as only he knows how, to get as many people as possible to support the concert. We had high expectations about what was going to happen that night. It was very hot in that part of the Foreign Ministry and the lights shone right in our eyes. We were dressed in our ordinary clothes. We were just kids and perhaps we didn’t realize the importance of it all. I remember I was personally very, very scared, because I was one of the soloists in Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso for violins, cello, and strings. The other pieces we played were Mozart’s Serenata Notturna, Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for two violins, strings, and basso continuo, Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, and Händel’s Solemn Fanfare for brass and timpani, and we closed with Venezuela’s National Anthem by Landaeta. There were a lot of people because the invitation had been well received. José Antonio conducted and he was deeply moved. At the end of the concert, everyone congratulated us, our families, the public, and government representatives who were present, among them the foreign minister. We were literally shouting with happiness, partly because we had made our debut in grand style and also because they hadn’t been deceiving us. It was then we knew that this was for real, that all the business about the scholarships, the chances of work, our careers as musicians; all that was possible, it was all true. That evening we found the handhold we needed and we had searched for so hard. (Domingo Sánchez Bor)

The first concert of the newly-formed orchestra at the Casa Amarilla, the headquarters of Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, April 30, 1975

74

Page 75: Venezuela the miracle of music

In his eagerness to quickly put an orchestra

together –tell the System’s pioneers–, José

Antonio Abreu had managed to get a

donation of 50 music stands, which about a

hundred kids were eventually to share. But

at that first rehearsal, on February 12, 1975,

only 11 young souls turned up with their

instruments. Counting the Maestro, who

conducted the orchestra and whose idea it was, these

were the 12 apostles of the new musical era that began

to resonate in Venezuela.

What did Abreu think and say at that moment, when

he saw so many music stands empty? Rather ask, What

did he think faced with that lack of faith and capacity to

take risks of so many Venezuelan musicians out there

with talent but limited horizons? Well, nothing. They

tell how this made him promise himself that he would

multiply those music stands by the thousand and that,

one day, millions of children and young people would

turn up at the rehearsals and would become members

of the best orchestras in the world.

Unstoppable and undaunted, that day José Antonio

Abreu simply focused his attention on one of the 11

apostles, the youngest, who, paying no attention to the

others, took his instrument out of its case and sat in his

seat ready to start playing. Then, Abreu raised the baton

of his grand undertaking and has not lowered it since.

50 music stands for 11 apostles

75

Page 76: Venezuela the miracle of music

The debutants

I’ve kept the program of our first concert as if it were a treasure. The soloists that first night were Frank Di Polo, Carlos Riazuelo, Pablo Herrera and myself (all violins) and Domingo Sánchez Bor (cello). In the row of violins, apart from those I just named, were Alejandro Ramírez, Osane Ibañez, Nil Nicolau, Ricardo Urea, Edgar Aponte, Allyson Montoya, Lucero Cáceres, Cecily Hernández, Francisco Marchán, Claudio González, Jorge Carrillo, Carlos Pic-cinini, Bernald Pérez Acuña, Ulyses Ascanio, Luis Miguel González, Santiago Aguirre, José Lugo, Eliana Moreno, Jesús Hernández, Ge-rardo Ramírez, Andrés Duque, Isaura Delgado, José Flores, and Alfonso Rodríguez. The violas were: Joén Vásquez, Eleazar Vera, Julio Gestal, Oswaldo Guevara, Fernando Da Silva, Walde-mar De Lima, and Vicente Castellet. Trumpets were: José Villarid, Narciso González, Enzo Serpentino, and Felipe Morey. With the flutes: Néstor Pérez, Luis Ochoa, Antonio Montilla, Edgar Moreno, and José Vásquez. On percus-sion: Edgar Saume, Francisco Rivero, Simón Ál-varez and Alejandro Blanco Uribe, and playing the cymbals, José Weissman. The oboes were Lope Valles and Isabel Hernández. Playing bas-soon we had Filiberto Núñez, Miguel Zamora and Ramón Barrios. The cellos were played by Hector Vásquez, Domingo Sánchez Bor, Juan

Ríos, Sofia Mühlbauer, Kathryn Schutmaat, Andrés Herrera, Florentino Mendoza, Amalia Cáceres, Jesús Vásquez, Luisa Bustamente and Omaira Naranjo. The double-bass line was: René Álvarez and Ricardo Blanco Uribe. On the horns we had: Rey Cantor, José Liévano, Moisés Puche, Jack Van de Valle and Alessandro Zara. On the trombones: José Oro, Jaime Páez, Marlig Bosque and Félix Rodríguez, with Vi-cente Rodríguez on the tuba. In the clarinet row we had: Pedro Naranjo, Eduardo Salazar and Leonel Méndez. On the organ, Beatriz Abreu. We were accompanied by the following choirs: the Venezuela Choir, La Electricidad de Caracas Choir, Aragua Philharmonic Choir, Carabobo Philharmonic Choir, and the Landaeta Conser-vatory Children’s Choir. (Carlos Villamizar †)

Friendship and fun

Something that always characterized us was the friendship and the fun. If ever there was an example of comradeship, I would say this is it. I remember that when newcomers arrived from the provinces or from Caracas, the Maestro would welcome them, introduce them to all of us by name and we would give them a round of applause. That made them feel immediately welcome and included, like important members of the orchestra. The Maestro knew us well, and just as he devoted himself to the musical

The Youth Orchestra’s first music program

José Antonio Abreu directing his first pupils

76

Page 77: Venezuela the miracle of music

preparation of each and every one of us, so he taught us something vitally important in life: to cheerfully apply ourselves to a rehearsal and to start off a concert with enthusiasm and openness of mind and spirit. (David Ascanio and Edgar Saume)

The first seminar

After José Antonio announced the trip to Mexico, we didn’t have a moment’s rest. We went to Trujillo, where we had the first Music Training Seminar. We were shut away for a month before leaving for Mexico because the place was on the top of a mountain; we were isolated up there rehearsing for the trip to Mexico. Maestro Carlos Núñez was there too, preparing the orchestra. We rehearsed every day, starting at nine in the morning and I remember it would be midnight and we’d still be playing. It was crazy! (Gregory Carreño)

The logistics of the first tours

For our first trip to Mexico we all boarded a Hercules aircraft. The big problem was getting enough money together for the fuel, ten thousand bolivars. Abreu struggled to get donations for the traveling expenses and fuel costs, and bit by bit we collected enough to cover everything. That first trip was a wonderful experience, even though the flight wasn’t that comfortable, and there was a great feeling of ca-maraderie. I took care of the first authorizations from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Our first passport, Number 1586, was a collective one for 107 people issued by the Foreign Ministry’s Cultural Relations and Foreign Information Office. On subsequent trips, if we went with the choirs, the number rose to 200 people and we had to ask for two Hercules. In those early days it was quite difficult to organize the tours. Now the kids have more facilities, which is the way it should be because the musical profession is worthy of respect. ( Juan Pedro Uzcátegui)

The first foreign tour

We went to Mexico in August 1975, shortly after the orchestra was born. It was the first concert we

gave representing Venezuela. We met Maestro Carlos Chávez, who conducted the orchestra a year later. After that we went to Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. Then we went to Aberdeen and after that to Venice. (Gregory Carreño)

Safety and security

Being a musician is a serious business; no swear words or arbitrary orders allowed. The kids couldn’t go wandering around airports; they had to go in double file. Even though they made jokes at my expense, calling me Agent 86 and all sorts of nicknames, they understood that the discipline we demanded of them was for their own safety. The musicians didn’t see me as their boss; they always treated me with respect and understood that my job was to carry out Maestro Abreu’s instructions. ( Juan Pedro Uzcátegui)

A souvenir of the first trip in a Hercules belonging to the Venezuelan Air Force

77

Page 78: Venezuela the miracle of music

Looking like rockers

When we used to go on tour the kids looked like a rock group … very fresh, very young, and very unaffected. They were real characters with their long hair and looking like rock musicians. Travelling with them was a lot of fun. They were youngsters with a lot of talent, tremendous team spirit, and loads of optimism. They defi-nitely saw the orchestra as a way to becoming better musicians; they were convinced of that. (Antonio Huizi)

José Antonio’s baton

We had many conductors and when we went on tour we had seminars in Nice, Vienna or Italy with different conductors. But truly the most innovative of all, the one who really made the orchestra sound different was and still is José Antonio. The way José Antonio conducted, his timing and his phrasing were a constant challenge and very difficult to better, musically speaking. (Frank Di Polo)

The repertoire

José Antonio always chose our repertoire. It was usually complex and quite difficult … pieces of cake for the kids nowadays – they laugh

about it; but we found it hard going! Apart from that, following the baton of someone like José Antonio required maturity and all of us youngsters had to work hard on that; it wasn’t something simple like when you say “let’s organize a barbecue!” That musical fabric of the repertoire was always well planned in José Antonio’s mind, and he knew he could count on the human resources he had available. He knew that we’d all learned to say: “We shall overcome,” whether it was Tchaikovsky, Bach or Mozart … (Carlos Villamizar † and Frank Di Polo)

Teamwork

At the beginning we did everything, even Professor Abreu lugged the bags around. We all pitched in to set up the music stands and, if necessary, to take care of the administrative details. I was studying fourth year of Theory and Sight-reading at the time; when they called me, I had no idea they were going to put me in charge of coordinating the tours. We used to organize a tour in just one week and all the musicians had to learn and take on new respon-sibilities: set up music stands, take care of their instruments, coordinate flights, carry bags … I was the orchestra’s tour coordinator for more than 20 years. ( Juan Pedro Uzcátegui)

Taking photos for the record

What seemed to me so special about this orchestra was that there were none of the formalities of a symphony orchestra; everything was very natural, and that was thanks to the kids themselves; they had a sense of belonging. Their naturalness was what made me feel a part of them. I wasn’t a musician but they accepted me as one of them; they involved me and I got involved. José Antonio saw the need to have a record and a testimony of what was going on, through my photographic work. I took a photographic record of those first five years, and they were undoubtedly the most strenu-ous and the toughest. Today, I’m proud to have those photographs, to keep them, because they represent the beginning of a dream come true. (Antonio Huizi)

Pictures of the System’s pioneers rehearsing

78

Page 79: Venezuela the miracle of music

Any place was good enough to rehearse. The Aula Magna at the UCV was one of the scenarios to hear the debut of what was to become a great Venezuelan orchestra: the Simón Bolívar Symphonic Orchestra

79

Page 80: Venezuela the miracle of music

Beatriz Abreu (Piano, organ)

After 1968, Ana Cecilia – my

younger sister – and I moved from

Barquisimeto to Trujillo. José

Antonio was in Caracas already

and he called me from time to time

to take part in some marvelous

concerts they were organizing in the

old home of the Caracas Atheneum.

In 1972 we created an eight-member

chamber orchestra in Trujillo, quite

sui generis, and sometimes we invited

José Antonio to come and conduct.

Starting in 1974, those seven musi-

cians, eight with me, came to Caracas

every two weeks to form part of

that group that José Antonio had

set his heart on: a National Youth

Orchestra. By the end of 1974, the

visits were weekly; the State Govern-

ment helped us with our traveling ex-

penses and we stayed Friday through

Sunday rehearsing with other kids

who came in from Aragua, Zulia,

Mérida and Carabobo states. The

first big rehearsal was on February

12, 1975, at the Juan José Landaeta

Conservatory; after that there were

many more until the concert at the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April

30, which we considered our official

debut. The orchestra was made up

almost entirely of people from the

provinces, so the whole movement

took on a national character from

the outset.

The beginnings of this now great

program were hard, very hard,

partly because no one believed in

it; you could count the people who

supported us on the fingers of one

hand. Many thought that José An-

tonio was out of his mind and they

When our imagination is on fire with a positive idea, that attracts other

ideas and a bunch of ideas, an ideal is formed. The coming together

of existences, beings, of different characters adds up to something

different and more elevated: the collective. This principle of nature

was the same one that Maestro José Antonio Abreu followed: the first

tree, the initiator that gave birth to the forest. The voices that now offer

testimony of those days, the voices that were there at that historic time

fill with pride when they see the greenness and flowering of their efforts.

All those voices, in unison, were marked by the beauty and energy

of the music.

Dreaming a forest

80

Page 81: Venezuela the miracle of music

said so publicly. The few of us who

did believe had to pitch in and help.

There was nothing at the beginning,

not even human resources with the

know-how for organizing tours and

concerts and making arrangements

abroad, all that sort of thing. We

dropped everything else for this

project and we won it all. When I

look back today and think about the

past and then about how things are

now, it really seems like a miracle; we

were God’s instruments for getting

this project under way. I could not

possibly be in a more wonderful

institution or one where I would

feel more useful than the System of

Youth and Children’s Orchestras of

Venezuela.

Ulyses Ascanio (Violin)

My brother David met José Antonio

Abreu at the 1974 Mozart Festival. I

was seventeen at the time and playing

electric guitar with a rock group.

I was a rocker and had formed a

group with some neighbors; it was

called Artificial Life. I’d abandoned

the violin because mine had broken

and I seized on this to quit. I used to

study at the Luis Manuel Olivares

School with Mario García and José

Francisco del Castillo, but I left

when I was fourteen. I was in the first

concert but not in the first group of

eleven kids, I arrived for the fourth

or fifth rehearsal. Then David told

me, “There’s this amazing man, José

Antonio, who’s going to found the

Youth Orchestra.” I didn’t really

believe in all that but, so what, I had

my violin fixed and turned up at Don

Bosco Church, that’s where we were

rehearsing, and I didn’t know any-

body at all because I was completely

out of touch with academic music.

David came and introduced me to

José Antonio, this skinny guy, and

he sees me arriving like that with the

violin, right then his energy grabbed

me, and he asked me: “Do you play

the violin?” and I said: “Yes,” and then

he said: “You’re now one of the first

violins, sit down over there!” and I

was terrified because I hadn’t played

for years. But right then he caught me

up in his energy and started talking

about traveling and about this and

that ... I’d been studying engineering

for a year, because I graduated from

high school when I was sixteen, and I

got into this dilemma about whether

I should stay on at university or

not. José Antonio was as incredibly

euphoric as ever. That was thirty years

ago. I’m a founder; I’ve been with the

Simón Bolívar Orchestra from the

word go and I’ve been giving classes

for twenty-five years. Now I direct

the Caracas Children’s Orchestra,

which began for me the same way as

when I started with the Youth. José

Antonio said to me one day: “We’re

going to put you in the Children’s,

just for a week,” because I had a load

of commitments; a lot of students

in the Simón Bolívar Symphony

Orchestra, the Caracas Chamber

Ensemble... Well anyway, that week

has now stretched to a year and three

months. The force of the children just

took hold of me; they are continuity,

the future, and tangible proof of how

all this has evolved.

David Ascanio (Pianist, soloist)

I was the first soloist of the Youth

Orchestra, together with Maestro

Frank Di Polo and Carlos Riazuelo,

although I later served as teacher,

since my area within this movement

has been teaching at the Simón

Bolívar Conservatory and at the

University Institute for Music

Studies (IUDEM) too. I’ve spent

half my life with the System. I met

José Antonio Abreu at Fernando

Guerrero’s house before the Youth

Orchestra was created. José Antonio

was at the piano, improvising fugues

à la Bach. I was fifteen and was

dumbstruck by this extraordinary

character. We struck up a pupil-

teacher relationship and he taught

me to recognize and study the basics

of music, the search for excellence,

to see the big and small pictures,

and the relationship music has with

other arts. I would listen to extraordi-

nary conversations in which, for

instance, a painting by Leonardo

da Vinci was analyzed, with José

Antonio comparing it to a Mozart

symphony. Then he called me to join

the Youth Orchestra and asked me

to accompany him. My relationship

as a founding member continued;

I was a soloist and was often called

on to give guest performances.

Between 1975 and 1976 I was at all

the rehearsals. It was fantastic. Each

rehearsal was an exact seed of what

the System of Children’s and Youth

Orchestras was to become. Now,

thirty-five years later, those seeds

have been sown all over the country.

Today, apart from feeling that I’m

part of something that is set on a

course, I think of all the wonderful

things the movement has given us. I

know now that what I was doing was

something unique in the world.

Alejandro Blanco Uribe

(Percussion)

I joined the System as a percussionist,

but then I immediately started

to work as José Antonio Abreu’s

assistant. I got involved in coor-

dinating the production of events

and concerts. I knew how to get

along with the members of the

orchestra and, of course, I knew their

needs well because I was a musician.

I learned so much; not only about

music, but also about life in general,

thanks to Maestro Abreu. I think I

can say that I raised my level as an

executive and I also got used to not

being afraid of challenges, no matter

how big. I also became an expert in

logistics and organization. So those

first years of the System were an

extraordinary experience for me. It’s

true that the cultural environment at

that time favored the creation of the

project. Carlos Andrés Pérez, who

was then President of Venezuela,

believed in the movement. That

was important. I remember that the

Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Founda-

tion scholarships were an important

means of support for the orchestra’s

musicians. One thing that really ben-

efited the National Youth Orchestra

at the beginning was that it traveled

abroad on tours. Initially, we traveled

on a shoestring, but there’s no doubt

at all that those trips strengthened

us a group and provided us with a

wealth of experience.

81

Page 82: Venezuela the miracle of music

Richard Blanco Uribe

(Double Bass)

I joined System when I was twenty-

three and my experience was in

popular music. I took part in the

inaugural concert of the Simón

Bolívar National Youth Orchestra.

It was held in the Casa Amarilla one

April 20th. I remember as if it were

yesterday that we wore new shoes

and uniforms. It was really wonderful

because this was happening for the

first time in Venezuela. The people

who went to the performance that

day immediately realized what José

Antonio was planting. Through the

orchestra I not only learned about

music but human values such as

sharing, discipline, order, friend-

ship, community, and respect for

the rules. To experience all that at

such a tender age is fundamental

for a young boy. So that is what the

National Youth did for me: it gave

me tools to live happily in society.

To have belonged to that orchestra

during those first years has been

the finest and most constructive

experience of my whole life. The

System has put thousands of young

Venezuelans on the right track and

given them a future. Apart from that,

the movement achieved something

unique in the cultural history of the

world: it proved that a country like

Venezuela, with its rather special

socio-economic conditions, was

capable of attaining any goal it set

itself. I believe it also awoke in us the

awareness that things can be done.

I left the Youth many years ago, but

there are still men and women who

are carrying on this worthy fight. I

am a man fulfilled, thanks to music.

Marlyn Bosque (Trombone)

When I joined the orchestra, I think

I was one of the very few women

who were studying brass, maybe the

only one at the time. I was attending

two schools: José Angel Lamas

School and the Landaeta Conser-

vatory. They called me because I

belonged to the orchestra of the Na-

tional Institute for Culture and Fine

Arts (INCIBA) and the Caracas

Martial Band, and they told me that I

was going to start with the Youth Or-

chestra. The orchestra is my whole

life because not only did it allow me

to form myself as a musician and as a

professional, but I also married one

of its members. After that I drifted

away somewhat from the Orchestra

System because I went to work for

the National Council for Culture

(CONAC) for twenty years. When

I came back I found the technical

level of the young people and chil-

dren was so high that I was amazed.

Now I work for FundaMusical

Simón Bolívar, in Nuclei Manage-

ment with Eduardo Méndez, doing

administrative work and music

coordination. I am proud of the fact

that I was a founding member of the

orchestra and of having been able to

help Maestro Abreu.

Jesús Hernández (Concertino)

I was invited to join the National

Youth Orchestra project by José

Antonio Abreu. At that time I was

studying violin in Maracay, Aragua

state. I recall that the first years were

ones of tremendous sacrifices. We

also rehearsed in different places,

which resulted in musicians traipsing

all over Caracas. In 1978 I took the

position of Concertino and managed

to complement my career with

History of Music and Orchestral

Conducting, convinced that these

would be important for allowing

me to develop my responsibility as

an orchestra soloist the best I could.

I remember that during rehearsals

the Maestro would say to us, when

he saw we were tired, that we had

to make our bodies suffer; and that

gave us the strength to continue

despite our exhaustion. We all knew

what time we had to start those first

rehearsals, but never what time we

would leave. By way of an anecdote,

I’ll never forget that once, in the

middle of a performance during

a Latin American tour, there was

a power cut in the theater and, to

everyone’s surprise, the orchestra

concluded its performance from

memory and completely in the dark.

To my way of thinking, the System

of Youth and Children’s Orches-

tras gave the country a chance to

appreciate music as a profession

and, to tell the truth, I feel deeply

honored at the way the System has

developed. I believe that the inter-

national extension of this project is

boundless.

Florentino Mendoza (Cello)

In 1975 I had been back from

Europe for almost a year and had ab-

solutely no prospects as a musician,

since the only symphony orchestra

in Venezuela was practically barred

to Venezuelan musicians. This

frustrated me no end because I could

never have imagined that musical

circles in my own country could be

so limited and mediocre. Then I met

Hector Vásquez, an old friend and

excellent cellist, and began to study

with him. One day he mentioned

that there was a Venezuelan musician

called José Antonio Abreu who

wanted to start a project for a youth

orchestra. I thought it was just

another orchestra, you know, début

and farewell at the same time. Then

I realized what the project was all

about, that it was even more than just

music, it was a social and national

plan. I have worked on many levels:

playing, teaching, and managing. I

believe that, if I were born again, I

would choose to do the same: to be a

musician and a founding member of

this great undertaking, enjoy music,

live it, and understand the message

82

Page 83: Venezuela the miracle of music

of coexistence and the teachings it

contains. Today, as manager of the

Chacao Youth and Children’s Or-

chestra, I have the pleasure of seeing

the children grow, watch them as

they become adolescents and then

adults, guided always by music … just

like José Antonio raised us. That’s

why the System will never end; it’s

an eternal program and Venezuela is

just a step away from becoming the

world’s Mecca for music education

and activities involving music.

José Quevedo (Bassoon)

First I performed and then I taught

clarinet, and for me it’s enormously

satisfying to know that we’re useful

and have done something for the

country over these last thirty-five

years. When we began, we were all

friends and classmates from the

different music schools. We got to

know one another; we would get

together. I went to several rehearsals

and began as a clarinetist. Later, the

orchestra grew, but we had no one

to play the bassoon. Then Pro-

fessor Filiberto Núñez offered me

the chance to learn it and in three

months I got ready and took up the

bassoon … and I’m playing it to this

day! Now we have to make room for

the young people because the Sys-

tem has many talented youngsters.

At the moment I’m giving classes at

different nuclei all over the country,

teaching bassoon and clarinet. I’m

always ready to give my all to this

movement, because it’s really been

like a home, a family to us.

Eduardo Salazar (Clarinet)

When I arrived I was a member of

the June 24th Band in Carabobo, the

best music group in that state. I was

the band’s lead clarinet. I remember

that I was attending an event at the

Cathedral and I received a message

through choirmaster Federico

Núñez, who said: “Maestro Abreu

is over at my house and wants to talk

to you.” I went over with a colleague

who later died, who was also around

at the beginning, Luis Alberto

Ochoa, a flautist. Maestro Abreu

invited me to join the ensemble. I

was lead clarinetist at the Simón

Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra

(SJVSB) until 1989, but since then

I have had other responsibilities.

When I left the orchestra, three

clarinetists whom I’d been coaching

carried on: Edgar Pronio, Orlando

Pimentel, and Oscar González.

Now I head up the Carabobo Youth

Symphony Orchestra, today made

up of groups from Puerto Cabello

and Valencia. I also conduct the

Lisandro Ramírez School Children’s

Orchestra. What the Orchestra

System represents in my life, I think,

is learning about discipline, responsi-

bility and commitment. There’s one

story I remember: we had a concert

in Vienna and the train with the

instruments hadn’t arrived in time.

Maestro Abreu was down with the

’flu and had a very high temperature.

Finally, we managed to play with

borrowed instruments we collected

at different villages along the way,

but we played! Now I have the expe-

rience of my son, the new generation

-same name as me-, who’s in the row

of first violins of the SJVSB “B.” He’s

twenty-one and he says that he’s

spent his adolescence and youth at

rehearsals, workshops, concerts, sem-

inars, a long list of happenings, some

more important than others. And

that’s exactly what happened to me

over these past thirty-five years. Now

he’s going through the same thing

– so, thanks to this method, adoles-

cence is no longer an awkward age.

There’s no denying the magical way

Maestro Abreu establishes a system

of learning, his artistry in implement-

ing this method of teaching, because

he builds such extraordinary things.

I believe that my own generation,

which now teaches on a regular basis,

has learnt to teach everything, from

the easiest to the most difficult.

Edgar Saume (Percussion)

I was already a professional in the

field of popular music when all

this was born. Joining the National

Youth meant an opportunity to get

involved in symphonic music. It was

also like opening a new and impor-

tant door for developing my music

career. I am the orchestra’s founding

timpanist and that’s where I’ve been

for the past thirty-five years. Of

course, I’ve been able to do an infi-

nite number of other things, like giv-

ing classes, studying conducting and

composing, and traveling around

the world. I remember that the first

rehearsals were a bit disorganized.

We percussionists didn’t have our

own instruments, so we used some

of Alejandro Blanco Uribe’s huge

copper saucepans as kettledrums.

The start of the orchestral move-

ment was very exciting. Right from

the word go, the orchestra began to

do international tours, travel around

Venezuela, and encourage the work

that was being done in teaching.

What, in the beginning, was a group

of kids getting together –under José

Antonio Abreu’s guidance– grew

exponentially. The movement

started as a wave that grew -and con-

tinues to grow and grow- until one

day it suddenly came to represent a

major factor in enriching our lives

as individuals and as a society. The

orchestra taught us that he who gives

receives. One of my greatest satisfac-

tions is my students, who today are

many, in all parts of Latin America.

I feel as though I’m a member of

83

Page 84: Venezuela the miracle of music

something truly great, a movement

that has changed Venezuela forever.

Andrés Sucre (Trumpet)

Back then when the System was

born, there were no opportunities

in Venezuela, orchestra-wise. All we

had was the Venezuela Symphony

Orchestra, the Maracaibo Sym-

phony Orchestra and Universidad de

Los Andes’ String Orchestra. One

night I was studying at the Juan José

Landaeta Conservatory, at my The-

ory and Sight-reading class, when

Maestro Abreu told me there was

someone from the Foreign Ministry

who wanted to put together an

orchestra and that we would have a

chance to play in it. I was eighteen.

That Saturday everyone took along

their instruments. I was playing

clarinet then, but wanted to play

oboe. José Antonio Abreu asked me

if I played any other instruments. I

said I played the guitar, the bugle,

and trumpet. He confessed that he

needed a trumpet, and that was how

I came to study that instrument.

The best anecdote I can remember

is something that happened at a

seminar held in Los Caracas (a beach

resort about an hour’s ride from

Caracas) in 1977 and that was at-

tended by guests from abroad as well

as a large number of Venezuelans.

Organizing the meals, for which I

was responsible together with other

colleagues, was a nightmare. The

kitchen at Los Caracas collapsed

the first night. It was 10:30 p.m. and

nobody had eaten. Bit by bit we

managed to deal with the problem

and, within the space of one hour

forty-five minutes, we got about two

thousand people served. We ended

by playing Beethoven’s Fifth Sym-

phony. I think the System has raised

the musical level of Venezuelans, day

by day, and has taught us that, above

all else, music is giving love.

Lope Valles (Oboist)

I arrived for the orchestra’s second

rehearsal because only eight

youngsters who played stringed

instruments turned up for the first

one. When I heard about this new

orchestra, I didn’t think it was for

real because they’d always made

us so many promises, so I was a

bit skeptical. But I went because

Maestro Abreu had invited me

along with my teacher. We began to

believe when we found ourselves in

the UK, on that trip when we went

to the Aberdeen Festival in Scotland.

After that I spent eight years with

the Simón Bolívar Symphony

Orchestra, and since I was a com-

munications major, Abreu asked me

to help out with disseminating and

promoting the System’s activities,

which is what I did until 1983. Then

I took on managerial duties, because

a new generation of musicians was

coming up behind us. The System

was growing rapidly and there was a

need to build a lot of platforms, in all

senses of the word, both managerial

and administrative. Abreu said to

me: “Lope, I need you here because

you know what an orchestra is on

the inside and all that’s needed when

setting up an orchestra structure.”

So first I spent some years as the

System’s internal comptroller and

then they sent me out to set up the

regional nuclei. I lived in Cumaná for

four years while setting up the Sucre

nucleus together with all the region’s

orchestras. When I’d finished my job

there, they sent me to the other end

of the country, to Táchira, to do the

same, and I returned to Caracas four

years later. Now I provide support

in the National Teaching Depart-

ment and I am more surprised as

time goes by, as if each day were my

first day at work, at the dynamics of

this other Venezuela represented by

the System of Youth and Children’s

Orchestras. No sooner does one

concert -as musically huge and

organizationally complex as the

Simon Rattle concert- ends, than we

start all over again the very next day,

because there are three generations

pressuring, asking, demanding, and

wanting to get ahead as quickly as

possible: there are the kids who want

to join the symphony orchestras,

others who want to get into their lo-

cal youth orchestras, and thousands

of children who dream of belonging

to the children’s orchestras. I feel it

every day when I’m outside Caracas;

it never stops. One of my greatest

satisfactions in life, one that keeps

me hard at it, is seeing how these

children create their own futures,

always moving forward… Yesterday,

I saw them when they joined the

orchestras, tiny kids; tomorrow I’ll

see them triumphant in Berlin, like

Edicson Ruiz, for example.

Carlos Villamizar (Violin)

One day I heard that a music group

was being formed at the Juan José

Landaeta Conservatory, with José

Antonio Abreu in charge. Some

friends and I went over there because

there was going to be a meeting, but

none of us really knew what it was

all about. That’s how the orchestra

started. There were about eight of

us. I remember how Maestro Abreu

told us of his plan that day: he said

we were to play and to practice as an

orchestra. The main thing, then, was

to play, to be there and share it all. A

future national movement was never

mentioned. Everything happened

in the simplest manner, but with

everyone putting all their heart into

it. Over the next three months, more

and more young musicians joined

up. The word was out. I sat in the

row of second violins. There was no

competition then for places, I mean,

you just turned up and took the

one the Maestro suggested. Later I

moved to the first violins but, just

like the river always takes you back

to your roots, I returned to the row

of second violins. I somehow felt

I was more useful there: it had to

do with the love of music. The first

tours came, then our contact with

the Mexican Maestro Carlos Chávez

and a whole series of marvelous ex-

periences that were to mark my life.

I feel really proud to be part of the

most important artistic and cultural

achievement in Venezuela and Latin

America to have happened in the

second half of the 20th century.

84

Page 85: Venezuela the miracle of music

On an August evening in 2004, founding musicians and collaborators celebrated the System’s 30th anniversary at the home of Maestro José Antonio Abreu

85

Page 86: Venezuela the miracle of music

ext to José Antonio Abreu, Frank Di Polo is one of the oldest founders of the Simón

Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra and the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. Besides being the first president of Sociedad Civil Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Venezuela “Juan José Landaeta” ( Juan José Youth Orchestra Association, a non-profit organization), he created the Traveling Viola School, through which he has sown passion for this instrument among children and young people throughout the country. As though that were not enough, he has been responsible, along with other pioneers of the System, for setting up and founding youth orchestras throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Di Polo –the son of the renowned signer Fedora Alemán– has also had passion to spare to keep an inventory –using his camera and video equipment– of the history of this grand undertaking.

How did you meet José Antonio Abreu?I heard José Antonio Abreu’s name when I was 15, when I gave my first concert. We met later. It was at the Universidad Central de Venezuela’s Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Pedro Antonio Ríos Reyna, where I was playing the orchestra’s only viola. One day José Antonio came to conduct the orchestra; we became friends and started to play together there and

to plan a series of concerts, looking for people everywhere. Shortly after getting to know José Antonio, I won a Fulbright scholarship and went to the United States until I was 21, when Ríos Reyna called me to play first viola in the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

When did you decide to leave the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra and why?I was with the VSO for six years, when there were only ten Venezuelans and 86 foreigners. I remember the case of a friend, a bassoonist. He was about to graduate from Santa Capilla School and he asked one of his teachers, a Czechoslovakian musician, if he could get him a place in the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, and the teacher told him: “For you to be able to join the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, one of the musicians would have to die or commit suicide.” The young man finished his studies and on the day he graduated, in front of Vicente Emilio Sojo, José Antonio, and his friends, myself included, he took his instrument, doused it with kerosene, and set light to it. That’s why, when José Antonio met these eight youngsters for the first time, pioneers of what was to be-come the Juan José Landaeta Youth Orchestra, he said to me: “Frank, help me with these youngsters. We’re going to form a small group.” So I dropped everything, even my position with

We gave our allFrank Di Polo:

86

Page 87: Venezuela the miracle of music

the Cleveland Orchestra, which I’d won in an audition. We started to rehearse in 1974. I was always the oldest. I was 30 at the time, and they appointed me president of the Sociedad Civil Orquesta Juvenil “Juan José Landaeta”.

Do you remember who those eight founding members were?Yes, of course: Ulyses Ascanio, Sofía Mühlbauer, Carlos Villamizar, Jesús Alfonso, Edgar Aponte, Florentino Mendoza, Carlos Lovera, and Lucero Cáceres.

During the process of expanding and mul-tiplying the orchestras, what was happening inside the organization structurally, on a day-to-day basis?José Antonio moved on two fronts: the political front, constantly making contacts and seeking contributions, both funding and infrastructure, for the orchestras; and, at the same time, he was laying the foundations of the music platform. All of us who started out with the orchestra learned to be managers right from the start. We became models for the next generations: we played, gave concerts, traveled to the provinces to give classes, we held seminars… That’s why the common de-nominator of all the National Youth Orchestras has been, right from the start and is still today, the capacity for giving, for giving everyone an opportunity to have a musical career.

Now, thirty-five years later, did you ever imag-ine that this music and orchestral education model would be copied by so many countries?The acceptance and publicity that the System has achieved abroad comes as no surprise to us because our “music formula” has permeated many countries for more than 20 years. We have founded orchestras from Mexico to Patagonia. We have the Andean Development Corporation’s project, under which we have conducted the highest orchestra in the world, at an altitude of 4,200 feet above sea level, in the mountains of Bolivia. We have sown orchestras throughout Latin America -in Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay- and in several islands in the Caribbean. Whenever we go on tours abroad,

the governments of the coun-tries we visit show interest in our project and their presidents ask us what is needed in order to have a youth orchestra like ours. So, we draw up a complete plan for them to set up the structure for their own orchestras. That the System is being exported is indisputable.

Has there been a change in the spirit of commitment and dedi-cation, in challenges and ambi-tions, with which the System was born… That spirit that Abreu summed up in the motto “Play and Fight”?Thirty-five years have gone by and the spirit with which we started this project has not changed. We have given our all, we have given what we are, we have given the most beautiful thing anyone can give, our willingness to work to sow and our joy at making music to the highest level of excellence and professionalism. Just recently, I was talking to Professor Ulyses Ascanio about the training of the youngsters and children who are in our orchestras today, and I said to him that the level of these youngsters is higher than ours. The reason is that now they can receive a first-class education, very quickly, from the age of four, with the best teachers, and with seminars and special schools. They have everything. We’ve given them everything to enable them to succeed.

Have you had time to stop and take stock, to think about what was done right and what was not?There’s something that has happened to all of us who boarded this ship: we started to row, and we’re still rowing; we’ve never had time to stop. Maybe, at a big concert, you look, sigh, are moved, and that’s it. A minute later, once the applause has died down, you know what it is you have to do to improve the performance next time. That’s a wheel that has been turning since José Antonio gave it its first push, even before 1975, and it will never stop turning.

Frank Di Polo with his wife Beatriz Abreu de Di Polo

Frank Di Polo’s other great passion: photography and preserving the System’s memory in pictures

87

Page 88: Venezuela the miracle of music

The System:a model of peace and progress for mankind

Music is not something decorative, it is something that speaks of the deepest-rooted human condition; it tells us who we are. The System is not only a question of art but, deep down, a social initiative.

It has saved many lives, and will continue to save them.

Sir Simon Rattle

IV

Cha

pter

Children and adolescents swiftly acquire the skills to become great interpreters.Children’s Orchestra, Barquisimeto Nucleus, Lara state

Page 89: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 90: Venezuela the miracle of music

ight now, just as the first decade of the 21st century has drawn to a close, no one is

unaware that a new musical energy is making itself felt around the world. The System of Youth and Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela’s best calling card is, undoubtedly, its original en-semble: the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orches-tra. But, when one sees such young musicians offer the best interpretations of the symphonic and popular repertoires of all époques, moving to tears and winning ovations, taking moments of happiness to many corners of the world, and finding their way into the hearts of the most var-ied and discerning audiences, a number of ques-tions come to mind: What is the secret of this new and bold way of making music to the high-est level of excellence? What is the formula that allows them to go forth and take the world by storm with such self-assurance and composure

at such an early age? And what is the strategy or machinery for turning so many ordinary kids, a fair number of them of humble origins, into talented musicians, leading examples being Gustavo Dudamel, Edicson Ruiz, Diego Matheuz, and Francisco Flores?

There are no secrets or formulas or strategies. It is simply the virtuoso National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela that, like a bountiful river, offers a wealth of pointers for forming happy, well rounded individuals free from any complexes of spiritual or intellectual poverty.

It would be true to say that the System is a body of philosophy consisting of seven premises conceived of by the wise, down-to-earth mind of Maestro José Antonio Abreu. It is from these

a seven-star philosophyThe orchestra-school:

90

Page 91: Venezuela the miracle of music

premises that the numerous bounties of the program stem, applied to three spheres: the per-sonal and the individual, the family, and the social and the community. And whenever a country, a society, a community, an organization or an insti-tution decides to implement the System, a change is set in motion, over the short, medium, and long terms, that is so palpable and substantial as the change that has been wrought in the 300,000 children, adolescents, and young people who have benefitted from the System in Venezuela.

The implementation of the System and its premises –more of which in the following chapters- has been achieved in Venezuela over a period of 35 uninterrupted years thanks to the backing of a novel, flexible management struc-ture that has been adapted to the characteristics of each community and region.

1. Enjoyment and learning as everyone’s right

Art has ceased to be a monopoly of the elites and has been consolidated as a social right of our peoples. As a consequence, the artistic education of children, adolescents, and young people has become a symbol of a social revolu-tion without exclusions or stigmas of any kind.

Democratization of the art of music and making it available to the masses –the fact that this is essentially a priority social program for training the up-and-coming generations– have been established as an instrument for social development.

91

Page 92: Venezuela the miracle of music

2. Training, rehabilitation, and social inclusion

Because it is both technical and artistic, orches-tra and choral work necessarily implies training, education, and the imparting of knowledge and tools that increase their abilities and skills for the job.

As part of this premise, the System also contem-plates a special nationwide program for children, adolescents, and young people with special needs –the deaf and dumb, the blind, those with Down’s syndrome, and youngsters with other difficulties- as a form of treatment and rehabili-tation –including music therapy-, so that they gradually heal and become a part of society just like anyone else.

The System also takes in children who have been abandoned, are at risk or who have scant economic and social opportunities, as well as youngsters who have not been given the tools to learn a trade, and offers them job training in building and repairing musical instruments, for example, the idea being to consolidate a national network of micro businesses that manufacture instruments for the domestic and Latin American markets.

3. Integrating and caring for the individual, the family, and the community

In the personal sphere, what is important is the spiritual, moral, intellectual, and emotional development of the children, adolescents, and youngsters involved in the music program. Thanks to his participation in an orchestra or choir, the child acquires a noble identity and becomes a model for his family and for his community; he does better at his regular studies because he is required to be disciplined, constant, and punctual, and that helps him enor-mously with his schoolwork. In other words, he develops self-esteem and self-confidence, which makes him a well rounded person.

In the family sphere, the child becomes a model for his mother and father. When he discovers that he is important to his family, he starts to seek new ways to get ahead and also has aspirations that his family will improve socially and economically. Belonging to an orchestra results in a child being able to play and practice the instrument at home while his father works and, in many cases, his mother does housework. There is no doubt that the entire family gets involved in the atmosphere of work and study generated by the child; and then they all joyfully and proudly take part in the orchestras’ concerts and activities.

In the community sphere, the orchestras emerge as new spaces for creating culture. Squares, theaters, schools, churches, and parks have been literally taken over by the creative boom of Venezuela’s youth and children’s orchestras. Today, every region of the country, every town, every community feels that their orchestras are a living musical heritage that belongs to everyone.

92

Page 93: Venezuela the miracle of music

4. Material poverty vanquished by spiritual wealth

Many of the children, adolescents, and young people who are members of the System come from excluded and vulnerable social strata of the Venezuelan population. Being involved in the orchestra movement gives them a chance to achieve new goals, projects, and dreams.

The spiritual wealth that music and playing a musical instrument affords them saves these children of the orchestras from moral poverty and social complexes and provides them with the psychological and intellectual tools with which to overcome material poverty.

5. Music as a part of the daily life of towns and villages

The System promotes a type of training that is guided by ethical principles, in which the student plays an active role by listening, doing, playing, and cooperating. So, music and what it implies in the development of the indi-

vidual, the family, and the community become entrenched in the daily life of towns and villages quite naturally and spontaneously.

Music is not excluded from the individual’s essence and his daily round, but nourishes and is nourished by that everydayness, awakening his aesthetic sense and inducing the cultivation, without artificial posturings, of harmony and beauty in different spaces: nature, the city, and the individual himself. So, people learn to find art not only in museums and concerts but also in their different environments, in other people, and in their daily round.

6. Overcoming false musical paradigms

The orchestras belonging to the System include both academic and popular music in their repertoires. The universal language of music is integrated into the culture of our people through its concerts naturally, spontaneously, and without prejudice.

93

Page 94: Venezuela the miracle of music

Music becomes part of the daily lives of thousands of Venezuelan youngsters, steering them clear of the risks of drugs, violence, and wrongdoing.

94

Page 95: Venezuela the miracle of music

The intrinsic values of different musical aes thetics are combined in an orchestra repertoire designed to cater to the academic development of the direct beneficiaries and the enjoyment of the indirect beneficiaries. The orchestras’ resources are used to produce a musical discourse that does not limit itself to the schemes of Western academic music. When it comes to music, all genres –classical, academic, popular, folk, elitist, avant-garde, traditional, experimental, and erudite- are perceived and put across by the System.

7. Paths for meritocracy and the country’s progress

The System promotes meritocracy, understood as a means of personal advancement based on effort, constancy, and discipline. It also contributes to social development and has achievements that have made Venezuela as a synonym of success, excellence, and future.

The System contributes to promoting a successful image of Venezuelan musicians by giving participants the opportunity to develop a professional career that is socially acceptable and enjoys a certain status; and, at the same time, it has yielded an ever increasing number of emblems of triumph and world recognition, such as Maestro José Antonio Abreu, Gustavo Dudamel, and many other musicians who have come from within the System.

At Los Chorros Center, every afternoon, children from low-income families find a place to overcome adversity and become youngsters with an all-round education.

95

Page 96: Venezuela the miracle of music

A scenario for socialization �e orchestra is a group, a society with leaders (the conductor) and citizens (the musicians). �ere they share the music stand, perform as a team, and achieve harmonious sounds. �e collective takes precedence over the individual.

�e orchestra and the choir are more than artistic structures; they are schools for the social and personal development of children and adolescents; they are fertile ground for cultivating aptitudes, attitudes, and ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual values.

�e bounties of the SystemHappy men and womenBeing cared for, having the support of their family, being able to count on friends in the orchestra, becoming the talented musician in their community, owning an instrument, studying, traveling, and being an artist… that’s happiness.

Competitiveness�ey develop a positive spirit of competitiveness: getting into the �rst row of violins, being the concertino, belonging to the SJVSB. Without that spirit, neither Gustavo Dudamel nor Edicson Ruíz would have won international contests.

Self-esteem and emotional securityMaking music helps to build an inner world; being taken into account, feeling appreciated and needed in the orchestra group, facing up to challenges, and winning applause strengthens one’s sense of self-value.

Challenge-proof discipline�ey learn to obey the rules: no talking when the conductor is explaining something; being on time; keeping to the schedule; and turning up at rehearsals and concerts. �ey have to know how to behave when on tour and during appearances.

Developing an aesthetic sense�e beautiful sounds of the symphonic works, the delicateness of the instruments, the architectu-ral elegance of the theaters, and the sober and immaculate wardrobe worn for the concerts teach an appreciation of beauty.

Learning and concentration�ey have to pay attention when the conductor raises his baton, spend hours at orchestra rehearsals and practicing individually, read the music scores accurately, and memorize the repertoire. It all comes down to paying attention.

32

Coexistence, solidarity, and toleranceIn classes and at rehearsals, they share moments of tension and happiness, tell one another about what’s happening in their personal lives, and learn not to be nosy. In the orchestra, they learn to correct their own and others’ mistakes with tolerance.

Setting goals and developing a sense of purpose“I want to be a conductor,” “I want to be a soloist,” “I dream about getting to the Berlin Philharmo-nic.” And every year, they have to meet fresh demands the System places on them in terms of musical performance in order to keep their place in the orchestra.

98

4 5 6 7

Perseverance and tenacity“Play and Fight” is the System’s motto, because they have to persist with their orchestra rehearsals and practice over and over until the piece sounds perfect. �ey know that constant daily work brings success.

NationalismWhen they wear their tricolor jackets and the ovations echo around the world, they are �lled with nationalist pride. All the System’s musicians know that Venezuela is in the forefront of the international music scene.

Excellence and leadershipAs professionals, they are aware that excellence is their load star. �e phrase “I want to be the best” makes them leaders in everything they do. In the System, merit and rigor are rewarded.

A vision of the future and the job market�ey acquire the tools to perform, knowledge, and skills. From the time they are very young, they are preparing themselves to exercise a well-paid profession as a musician, soloist, composer, arranger, luthier or a manager at FundaMusical Simón Bolívar, to mention just a few possibilities.

10 11 12 13

1

Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel RamírezMusical Directorof the Simón BolívarSymphony Orchestra.

96

Page 97: Venezuela the miracle of music

A scenario for socialization �e orchestra is a group, a society with leaders (the conductor) and citizens (the musicians). �ere they share the music stand, perform as a team, and achieve harmonious sounds. �e collective takes precedence over the individual.

�e orchestra and the choir are more than artistic structures; they are schools for the social and personal development of children and adolescents; they are fertile ground for cultivating aptitudes, attitudes, and ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual values.

�e bounties of the SystemHappy men and womenBeing cared for, having the support of their family, being able to count on friends in the orchestra, becoming the talented musician in their community, owning an instrument, studying, traveling, and being an artist… that’s happiness.

Competitiveness�ey develop a positive spirit of competitiveness: getting into the �rst row of violins, being the concertino, belonging to the SJVSB. Without that spirit, neither Gustavo Dudamel nor Edicson Ruíz would have won international contests.

Self-esteem and emotional securityMaking music helps to build an inner world; being taken into account, feeling appreciated and needed in the orchestra group, facing up to challenges, and winning applause strengthens one’s sense of self-value.

Challenge-proof discipline�ey learn to obey the rules: no talking when the conductor is explaining something; being on time; keeping to the schedule; and turning up at rehearsals and concerts. �ey have to know how to behave when on tour and during appearances.

Developing an aesthetic sense�e beautiful sounds of the symphonic works, the delicateness of the instruments, the architectu-ral elegance of the theaters, and the sober and immaculate wardrobe worn for the concerts teach an appreciation of beauty.

Learning and concentration�ey have to pay attention when the conductor raises his baton, spend hours at orchestra rehearsals and practicing individually, read the music scores accurately, and memorize the repertoire. It all comes down to paying attention.

32

Coexistence, solidarity, and toleranceIn classes and at rehearsals, they share moments of tension and happiness, tell one another about what’s happening in their personal lives, and learn not to be nosy. In the orchestra, they learn to correct their own and others’ mistakes with tolerance.

Setting goals and developing a sense of purpose“I want to be a conductor,” “I want to be a soloist,” “I dream about getting to the Berlin Philharmo-nic.” And every year, they have to meet fresh demands the System places on them in terms of musical performance in order to keep their place in the orchestra.

98

4 5 6 7

Perseverance and tenacity“Play and Fight” is the System’s motto, because they have to persist with their orchestra rehearsals and practice over and over until the piece sounds perfect. �ey know that constant daily work brings success.

NationalismWhen they wear their tricolor jackets and the ovations echo around the world, they are �lled with nationalist pride. All the System’s musicians know that Venezuela is in the forefront of the international music scene.

Excellence and leadershipAs professionals, they are aware that excellence is their load star. �e phrase “I want to be the best” makes them leaders in everything they do. In the System, merit and rigor are rewarded.

A vision of the future and the job market�ey acquire the tools to perform, knowledge, and skills. From the time they are very young, they are preparing themselves to exercise a well-paid profession as a musician, soloist, composer, arranger, luthier or a manager at FundaMusical Simón Bolívar, to mention just a few possibilities.

10 11 12 13

1

Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel RamírezMusical Directorof the Simón BolívarSymphony Orchestra.

97

Page 98: Venezuela the miracle of music

aestro Igor Lanz could well be described as one of Venezuela’s most effective cultural

managers ever. A pioneer of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, with his excellent managerial skills and his profound conviction that this music movement would generate great artistic and humanistic benefits, he has been a key factor in getting this machinery dreamed up by José Antonio Abreu to function and operate successfully.

I met Igor Lanz at the start of my career as a journalist at the daily newspaper El Nacional and, in the three decades since then, I have not encountered a cultural doer and manager who is more zealous or devoted than he; always atten-tive to everything, from the slightest detail to the big picture, and ready to deal day by day with any obstacle that could impair or impede the work of the orchestras and, most particularly, of the musicians. From 1998 and until 2008, Lanz had FESNOJIV (State Foundation for the National System of Youth, Children’s and Infants’ Orches-tras of Venezuela, today Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation) under his “managerial baton” as its Executive Director. However, he has accompanied José Antonio Abreu in designing this program and setting up the first concerts since the 1970s.

A native of Caracas and a graduate in Orches-tral and Choral Composition with a master’s in Orchestral Conducting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Lanz explains the System’s philosophy, its pedagogi-cal essence, and the benefits it has brought the country and world culture in general.

How did the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela come about and how would you describe this program?A group of music students, led by José Antonio Abreu, had recognized the importance of live music practice for the development of any per-former. So, what the National Youth Orchestra proposed, from the beginning, was to include orchestral practice in conservatory music educa-tion as a fundamental and routine element in a musician’s training. That was the philosophy with which what everyone knows today as the System was born, the soul and cornerstone of the entire music structure we’ve thought up, because it represents the program itself, it contains the steps and the mechanics for training musicians and forming orchestras and music movements of a very high standard.

we form well rounded individuals for societyIgor Lanz:

98

Page 99: Venezuela the miracle of music

So this meant reforming traditional music education.Exactly. That tradition of studying an instrument at a conservatory for an hour-and-a-half a week, then practicing at home all alone is isolating and frustrating. Taking part in activities with an or-chestra, on the other hand, provides opportuni-ties for sharing interests, experiences, values, and techniques and generates healthy competition. All of this allows the musician to develop more broadly. I remember that more than seventy percent of the youngsters who started at the music school dropped out in the first year pre-cisely because the only thing they learned during that time was music theory. Children ask their mothers to take them to music school because they want to have contact with the world of music, with the instrument they like and with the tones, with the happiness and peace music offers them. The essence of the National System of

Youth and Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela is to put the instruments into the children’s hands; they make them sound and then they learn more quickly how to write music, what a staff is, how to read music and how they have to play it.

When was the System first talked about?The creation of the National Youth Orchestra was like a fertilized embryo that first divided into two and then into four and then immediately multiplied. That was how the System was born, right from the time that the daily orchestra prac-tice I mentioned was established. I should men-tion that, from the very beginning, José Antonio Abreu founded orchestra centers in other key states in Venezuela, in Aragua, Lara, Zulia and Mérida, for example; in other words, in regions where there was already a fair amount of musi-cal activity. Let’s not forget that, traditionally, there are bands in almost all the country’s cities,

It takes many hours of study and dedication, from when they are tiny tots, to get ahead in the world of symphony music.

99

Page 100: Venezuela the miracle of music

Sir Simon Rattle

(Conductor, Berlin Philharmonic

Orchestra)

“With the System, Maestro Abreu

has devoted his life to changing the

lives of many generations of young

people. Thanks to this program,

more and more young people all

over the world can and will be able

to benefit from the power of music

to achieve a change in their lives.

Deep down, this is a social program,

and I know that it has saved many

lives and will continue to save many

more. Another aspect is that it offers

people another way of communicat-

ing with one another, another way

of understanding the world, another

form of happiness, and another way

of coexisting. The rest of the world

will come to study this program and

many countries will want to copy it.”

Krzysztof Penderecki (Polish composer)

“Never have I found a country where

music is an instrument and a tool

for educating and of such power-

ful spiritual richness as Venezuela.

What has happened in this South

American country is unique and

un precedented in the international

world of music. (…) If there were a

System like this, a program of such

scope, in all the countries of the

world, we wouldn’t have wars or

talk of extreme poverty, because

above and beyond the music, this is

a profound and revolutionary social

movement.”

Richard Holloway(Chairman of the Scottish

Arts Council)

“This is a radical social program

in which children get the oppor-

tunity to break out of the vicious

circle of poverty helped by learning

music. The System has started to be

imitated internationally, because one

can’t help but be pleasantly touched

by the spiritual way in which these

youngsters play their instruments

and make music. That’s why we

decided to undertake and achieve a

change in our environment through

a similar project in Scotland.”

Gustav Djupsjöbacka (Rector, Sibelius Academy, Finland)

“It is very important for us to learn

from the tremendous energy and

heart the Venezuelan musicians

belonging to the System of Youth

and Children’s Orchestras put into

and that helped when it came to setting up the centers. Besides, all the bands had renowned teachers who supported us, José Rafael Puche, for example, who started with the Maracaibo Band and who was my trumpet professor at the Higher School of Music. I mention him because we took advantage of the best music teachers and personalities who lived in the provinces, especially leading musicians, to explain and pro-mote the System’s philosophy and its essence.

Thirty-five years on, and above and beyond what the original idea was, what, in your opinion, has been this program’s major social contribution and what are the virtues that make a number of countries want to copy it?The contributions are many, but as a Venezuelan, I have to say that, among the most significant, is, undoubtedly the inclusion, participation and fulfillment through music of any Venezuelan, particularly those who have neither social nor economic opportunities. We have shown that art has an extremely important social function: it offers them a chance to transform their lives and the lives of their families, regardless of their social stratum; and, by the same token, it man-ages to effectively rescue many abandoned and physically disabled and drug-addicted youngsters Words of praise

from converts

100

Page 101: Venezuela the miracle of music

music when they play. Through this

relationship we hope to nurture our

music and orchestra teaching so as to

provide our Finnish musicians with

that energy, taking what we need

from this phenomenal program,

and at the same time share with

Venezuelan players those of our aca-

demic tools they might find useful.”

Ed Vulliamy (Critic, The Observer Magazine,

England)

“This is more than the story of a

prodigious conductor, José Antonio

Abreu; he and his orchestras are

merely the tip of a unique project;

they are the summit of a program

that is deeply rooted in Venezuela.

The System evolved based on a

simple premise: that in the world’s

poorest shanties, where the threats

of drugs, crime, and despair abound,

the situation can be changed and life

can be elevated if children can be

drawn to an orchestra and to music.”

Werner Pelinka (Deputy Director of the Conservatory

of the City of Vienna)

“This entire project is fascinating.

The enthusiasm in the faces of the

children who are part of the System

and its orchestras is just incredible. It

is very important that the Viennese

public and musicians see what can

be done through this program. It is

also a great lesson for our European

orchestras on how other types of

contributions, apart from music, can

be made to society. The educational,

social, and musical work of the Sys-

tem is a combination that would also

produce excellent results in Vienna.”

Sung Kwak (Conductor and Maestro)

“The success of the delightful System

of Youth and Children’s Orchestras

goes beyond professional success

and surpasses human understanding.

It is, quite simply, something celes-

tial; it is a true miracle, unique in the

world… It is amazing how the System

generates change and it is incredible

to see the human quality of each mu-

sician that comes out of this musical

miracle: the generosity, humility,

comradeship, and vocation of each

youngster. This entire great work is

due to the efforts of a man touched

by God, of an amazing human being:

Maestro Abreu… Working with him

is a privilege.”

by getting them to play in an orchestra. And thirdly, the System has made it possible to rescue many abandoned and physically disabled and drug-addicted youngsters through orchestral practice. And the rest of the world knows that and wants to copy it because our results, in terms of both quantity and quality, are conclusive: more than 300,000 children, adolescents, and young people fighting and performing stellar roles of musical excellence, and their names are on everyone’s lips: Gustavo Dudamel, Edicson Ruíz, Francisco Flores, and Diego Matheuz, to name just four.

The System has also made much yearned-for cultural decentralization in Venezuela possible and supported integration in Latin America. Yes, from every viewpoint. Our having planted orchestras all over the country has allowed us to democratize access to culture and music in all parts of Venezuela. Now, every town, every mu-nicipality wants to have its orchestra. Moreover, right from the start we were determined to share our experience with the countries of Latin America. In Mexico, for example, the youth orchestra movement is called Proyecto Venezuela and nowadays has more than thirty orchestra groups, and the same is happening throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

How competitive are the System’s musicians?There is a marvelous and highly positive com-petitive spirit, because the orchestra is a clear example of democracy as exercised in a society, in other words, meritocracy is respected first and foremost. That means that everyone respects the first violinist, the concertino, but also respects his own individual work within the orchestra, without losing sight of the fact that you have to study, learn, and play with more heart and dedication if you want to sit in the front row. Our enterprise has set itself the task of forming individuals who play an instrument exceptionally well, but within a collective context.

What percentage of adolescents and children drop out of the orchestras?You can’t talk about dropping out; whoever drops out of a project does so because he feels frustrated. What’s important about the System is that whoever joins has many professional, musical, artistic, and managerial paths he can follow. Anyone who is unable to join or remain in the orchestras will, nevertheless, always have knowledge that will allow him to be a more com-plete, integrated, and happy individual.

101

Page 102: Venezuela the miracle of music

he eyes and ears of the entire world are definitely on Venezuela. The ovations after each

concert and international tour of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra leave a flood of requests, missives, appointments, and invitations in their wake. Maestro Abreu’s agenda is overflowing and the managers and executives of the Simón Bolívar Musical Foun-dation find it hard put to cope with so many requests and proposals: new concerts in the world’s most important theaters and at major international festivals; businessmen interested in taking the orchestra to all corners of the earth, where tickets are sold out in the first few days; important conductors and composers dreaming of having their works played at their debuts by these young musicians; and ministers of culture, education, and social development, directors of conservatories, and rectors of universities with

proposals of agreements and exchanges that will allow them to repeat the successes of today’s musical Venezuela in their own countries.

The reason is that this Venezuelan experience has had an extremely powerful cultural and social impact –not to mention an impact in the media-, particularly in countries seeking to reduce the levels of poverty, illiteracy, impoverishment, and exclusion of their child and juvenile populations, and also in countries that have historically cultivated the musical arts. The international bodies and organizations that recognize the System as a unique pioneering program worthy of being implemented in all countries around the globe are many and varied.

By 2010, orchestra nuclei or centers and music teaching programs based on the Venezuelan

heard way down in PatagoniaA musical echo

At the Santa Marta favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Maestro Abreu and Dudamel congratulate the young men and women of the Brazilian System

102

Page 103: Venezuela the miracle of music

System had been set up in 25 countries: Argentina (Buenos Aires), Bolivia (La Paz and Santa Cruz), Brazil (Bahía, Sao Paulo and Río de Janeiro), Canada (Calgary, Moncton, Ottawa), Colombia (Medellin, Cartagena and Bogotá), Chile (Santiago), Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England (Lambeth, Liverpool, Norwich, Islington), Guatemala, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Trinidad & Tobago, United States of America (Avon, Baltimore, Birging, Birmingham, Charleston, Chicago, Durham, Fort Wayne, Hampton, Hilton Head Island, Jackson, Los Angeles, New York, North Oakland, Pasadena, San Antonio, San Diego) and Uruguay (Montevideo).

Music missionaries

The initiative of gradually “planting” the System throughout the world is not a recent one. Back in 1982, the presidents of some nations in Latin America and the Caribbean requested FESNOJIV (today the Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation) for its support and best instructors to emulate the Venezuelan musical phenomenon.

Ulyses Ascanio has been one of those “planters” of the System throughout America. With 30 years’ teaching experience and, today, the principle conductor of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, he tells how he headed the delegations that founded youth and children’s orchestras in Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago.

“The recognition our System has won throughout America has been impressive. I have particularly fond memories of our experience in Guatemala. It was a wonderful trip. We arrived at the city’s Conservatory and the Director called us in immediately. We had a meeting with all the teachers; it was like an interrogation. They couldn’t believe that we were capable of getting the kids to play Beethoven’s Fifth Sym-phony... they said it was a very difficult piece for children. We had a very heated argument but we

won it with our dedication and our conviction in what we were doing, and on the day the Youth and Children’s Orchestra of Guatemala made its début it sounded better than the country’s professional orchestra.”

But not everything was rose-colored in carrying out the mission of found-ing orchestras throughout Latin America. According to Ascanio, the most difficult experience of all was in Paraguay. “When we arrived in Paraguay, there were fourteen of us teachers from the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, and to our surprise, we found only three students. But that wasn’t the end of it: a concert had been planned by the Presidency of the Republic at which the orchestra we were going to form was supposed to make its debut. So, in the very best tradition of Maestro Abreu, we got moving to round up the children. Frank Di Polo tapped into the police band in search of new musicians; we made calls to provinces, to the Venezuelan Ambassador, and even to the First Lady of Paraguay. As we rehearsed with the kids, considerable expectation began to grow; opinions in Paraguay’s cultural circles were di-vided about whether we could pull it off: some that we would, others that we wouldn’t; and there was considerable resistance from the Con-servatory. But finally, 150 youngsters divided into a youth orchestra and a children’s orchestra gave a concert in the Cathedral of La Asunción that is remembered to this day. Today in the provinces of Paraguay, where there are many limitations, they have their orchestras; they’ve fought for them because they need them to save their young people from so much poverty.”

The Caribbean, a sea of talent

Another founding member of this movement and currently the conductor of the Chacao Youth and Children’s Symphony Orchestras, Florentino Mendoza, has been one of the people commissioned to teach the Venezuelan

Ulyses Ascanio

103

Page 104: Venezuela the miracle of music

music model since 1982. Initially he traveled to several Latin American countries, among them Colombia and Ecuador, but his main job was to pave the way in some of the Caribbean islands.

“Our mission in the Caribbean started in Trinidad & Tobago. At first it wasn’t easy to set up the orchestra structure on the island, because, like on the rest of the islands, they have a long music tra-dition of pop groups and steel bands. In the end, however, the orchestras we founded in Trinidad & Tobago thrived and are still there, as are the ones that were set up in Saint Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, and Guadeloupe.”

That experience has allowed Florentino Mendoza to have a clear idea of how this music teaching model has been received in the Caribbean: “It has to be said that the Caribbean is beautiful but difficult. Although the people are extraordinarily talented, there are factors, ranging from the economic to the envi-ronmental, that make our task more difficult. For example, there would have to be a campaign for buying and distributing musical instruments for these islands, where the marine environment prevents their preservation. On the other hand, in their favor, I could see that, thanks to the British tradition in many of these islands, the inhabitants are highly disciplined when it comes to studying. The Caribbean is a mine of musical talent,” comments Mendoza.

He has also had to be a teacher and workshop facilitator in cities such as Medellin, Colombia, where a large number of youth and children’s orchestras have sprung up. “In Medellin, the phenomenon is truly amazing; it’s fabulous to see how every neighborhood has its ensemble, all very well organized; there are more than fifteen orchestras. I couldn’t say that any country has im-plemented the System better than the others; it’s simply that the essence of the System created in Venezuela has been imitated, including its ability to bring about social change, but with the varia-tions and adapted to the characteristics of each nation. In Bolivia, for instance, there’s a wonder-ful orchestra of indigenous children, supported by a Jesuit mission; in Peru the orchestras are sup-

ported by the National Conservatory in Lima, and the System there is very well organized, as it is in Chile, Argentina and Brazil.”

As Florentino Mendoza sees it, there are no false labels when it comes to a country putting into practice the Venezuelan music education model, and he refers Germany as a case in point, a country that has been captivated not only by the merits and musicality of our youth and children’s orchestras, but also by the social values that the System implies. “There are great social needs in Europe too and our model has been regarded there as a tool to help correct them. In other words, the System cannot be seen as a solution only for third world countries,” he says.

An integrating clarion call

In 1982, the continental scope of the System was understood and accepted as were its strengths as a platform for integration. So, the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution to promote the Multi-national Project for Extending the Simón Bolívar Foundation Music Education Model throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) awarded it the International Music Prize in 1993 and approved the creation of the World Movement of Youth and Children Orchestras and Choirs for promoting world peace in 1995.

Thanks to these decisions and expressions of support from the OAS and UNESCO, music integration in our continent began to happen. In 1997, the Latin American Youth Symphony Orchestra made its debut with the participation of children, adolescents, and young people from the 24 countries represented at the Seventh Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State. In the year 2000, another major vote of confidence was forthcoming, this time from the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) when it recognized the System and created the Andean Countries’ Youth Symphony Orchestra made up of 170 young musicians from Bolivia, Co-lombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, who held

104

Page 105: Venezuela the miracle of music

their debut at the Teresa Carreño Theater’s Ríos Reyna Concert Hall in Caracas and then went on tour to perform in the countries of the An-dean Community. The success of this experience gave rise to the creation of the Itinerant Andean Conservatory, the Itinerant Lutherie Work-shop, the Andean Youth Choir, and the choral group Voces Andinas a Coro, the latter led by the Venezuelan teacher María Guinand.

Also in the year 2000, sponsored by the OAS, the System inspired the creation of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, which debuted in New York under the batons of the tenor Placido Domingo, Gustavo Dudamel, and Christopher Wilkinson.

Venezuela and the United States playing from the same page

The United States has also absorbed the System as a means for the underprivileged to better themselves. One recent initiative is that of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, naturally under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, who is the principal conductor of this prestigious orchestra. The plan, as announced by Deborah Borda, the presi-dent of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Associa-tion, has been called YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles), under which it is expected to create at least five youth orchestras.

Another initiative is the USA System, a network set up in 2009 by FESNOJIV, the New Eng-land Conservatory of Music, the TED Prize, and the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium to support the expansion of the System outside Venezuela, and one of its main objectives is to serve as the liaison for all organizations inspired by the Venezuelan music education model. Its first undertaking is the Directory Project 2010, where any organization interested in having any of the musicians participating in the Abreu Fellows Program as an intern or collaborator can register. The purpose of this postgraduate course is to provide outstanding musicians with the necessary academic grounding to allow them to develop a social-music program based on the System’s ideals outside Venezuela.

Florentino Mendoza working alongside Lope Valles

105

Page 106: Venezuela the miracle of music

Tulio Hernández (Sociologist)

“Right from its beginnings, the System had some things that were extremely special and gained a position of leadership in our cultural circles: first, because it was conceived of as a program for social development, in other words, as an activity whose purpose, above and beyond artistic creation, was to promote social cohe-sion, individual growth, and a sense of respon-sibility in the participants; second, because it was a project that genuinely democratized culture, making an artistic discipline –music–, until then thought of as a possibility for families with economic means, accessible to children, adolescents, and young people from any social stratum completely free of charge; third, it was a decentralizing project, not only because, from the start, it proposed reaching places outside the capital, Caracas, and setting up nuclei or centers in all the states of Venezuela, but also because it involved the support of central government, lo-cal governments, and the private sector; fourth, managerially speaking, right from the start, the System adopted a networked rather than a verti-cal organizational model, which is the model that the most dynamic social organizations have been adopting; fifth, the System gears its

policies to children and young people –the first time this has happened in our country-, sectors of the population that have always been, and still are today, the least favored; and sixth, the System has demonstrated over these 35 years that long-term projects are fundamental, despite the criticisms that were leveled at the System for this reason initially.

Two final points: one, this is a project for social development motivated by a deep concern for the people, without being populist or geared to the masses. That is why considerable attention has been given and care taken with the artistic aspects of the project, the quality of its teaching and music, which goes to show that it is possible to democratize and even make available to the masses what is being democratized or being made available to a mass public without lowering qualities or standards; and that what is being democratized –if it is to be of high quality- does not come free or easily, that it demands dedication and sacrifice of the person who obtains the benefit. And two, there is probably no other program on an international scale that proves what culture and the arts can do for social development. It is no exaggera-tion to say that José Antonio Abreu is one of the world’s great cultural managers who has

and education revolutionVenezuela’s biggest social

106

Page 107: Venezuela the miracle of music

demonstrated how public policy and a cultural strategy backed by the State, but not controlled by government, can guarantee success.”

Esteban Araujo (Lawyer, cultural manager)

“José Antonio Abreu freed Venezuelan culture from the complex of underdevelopment. He managed to get the System of Orchestras to extend an invitation to a broad public, including the humblest sectors of the population, and created a teaching method that coordinates theory and the playing of an instrument in a sin-gle teaching process that aims not only to form good musicians but also to provide orchestra training, which implies teamwork, discipline, and aiming for goals within a collective. He also set up a multiplier mechanism whereby trainee musicians are instructors for pupils who are less advanced: young students who, at the same time, are teachers of children and other youngsters in an endless training chain that renews itself by drawing on its own resources. That is the only sure way to achieve excellence. Finally, he permitted the System to be assumed as a state policy that has survived changes in ad-ministration to continue over time. In that way he demonstrated that only perseverance and continuity produce fruits because, in society, the magic of the immediate does not exist.”

Alberto Grau (Choir conductor and composer)

“One of the most outstanding virtues of the System is that, more than two decades ago, Venezuela was importing musicians and, today, that situation has changed drastically. Nowa-days, the world’s best orchestras and music en-sembles have excellent and talented Venezuelan musicians and choristers who have been formed in the System’s 300 plus orchestras and choirs. This has brought with it the widest possible recognition and the most surprising admiration -at times bordering on skepticism- of countries that are at the forefront of international music. That’s why I’ll never get tired of repeating that the System is a unique phenomenon found

nowhere else in the world, that it has marked a milestone in the history of Venezuela’s musical and social progress, and that it is on the way to contributing its best experiences to the rest of the world.”

Carlos Paolillo ( Journalist, teacher, and dance critic)

“The System became an unprecedented refer-ence for cultural management combined with social action. Its institutional mission and vision, as well as its values, objectives, and goals, have served as inspiration for conceiving of a re-newed artistic undertaking that promotes both creative excellence and individual and collec-tive development in children, adolescents, and young people. The project’s broad scope and the remarkable impact it has had throughout the country have meant that cultural activity in general and its capacity for transforming the most complex social situations are highly valued. And now that it is being extensively ad-opted internationally, it is showing how it is pos-sible to get a society to evolve using education based on sensitivity, creativity, and excellence.

In Venezuela, the System has even managed to influence the management of other types of artistic endeavor. Theater and dance, for example, have taken the System as a model for extending their sphere of action, adapting it, of course, to their specific needs. The network of National Youth Theaters and the projects Child Actors of Venezuela and Youth Ballets that have sprung up around much of the country since 1980 and 1990 are specific attempts a applying the System’s values to other areas of Venezuelan artistic endeavor.”

Patricia Van Dalen (Artist)

“The System of Orchestras is one of the best examples of successful Venezuelan projects. There is no doubt that it is already known throughout the world as the biggest educational-cultural revolution in our entire democratic history. And it is the best model for multiplying, copying,

107

Page 108: Venezuela the miracle of music

emulating, and repeating in other spheres and with other artistic disciplines. Its intelligent and human structure, its bounties and benefits in many areas and walks of life make this possible.”

Since the end of the 1930s, the name of Venezuela has been associated with oil and coffee, then cacao, and after that its beauty queens, models, and beautiful women. Fortu-nately, it has also been associated with great artists who became part of 20th century universal art, among them Armando Reverón, Jesús Soto, Alejandro Otero, Gego, and Carlos Cruz-Diez; and when the System opened up to the world as it has, an extraordinary experience was revealed, a project for achieving true social and cultural change from the grassroots. This program definitely proves that culture changes people for the better, and provides the certainty that peace and prosperity are achieved by paying attention to those who have the least.”

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (Patron of the arts)

“I am convinced that we Venezuelans have music in our genes, and that is precisely what Maestro José Antonio Abreu has known how to capitalize on through the System from the start. But beyond that, I’ve always thought that, in general terms, we Venezuelans are short on discipline, precision, and team work. However, the System and its orchestras and its other programs have managed to get our boys and girls to learn the discipline of study; and the musicians in our youth and children’s orchestras have proved that, by working with perseverance, they can achieve the goals they dream of and international recognition. That’s why I always say that the System has made it possible to get the best out of our young people to turn them into well rounded men and women.”

The System’s children learn discipline from a very early age

Socializing and happiness are two attitudes the System encourages

108

Page 109: Venezuela the miracle of music

Concentration and paying attention are fundamental for achieving objectives when learning the musical instrument of their choice

109

Page 110: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 111: Venezuela the miracle of music

Musicsaved my life

The most wretched thing about poverty, the most tragic, is not the lack of bread and a roof

over your head, it’s feeling you’re no one, the lack of identity, the lack of public esteem;

it’s being ignored

Mother Theresa of Calcuta

V

Cha

pter

Three children from Los Chorros Center take a break from practicing their music to pose for our book

Page 112: Venezuela the miracle of music

Breaking the viciouscircle of poverty

uite apart from all the artistic and cultural benefits that the National

System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela has brought, what strikes one are its social benefits. Thanks to the one hundred per-cent humanistic and educational essence with which its creator, José Antonio Abreu imbued it right from the start, this revolutionary program is, in a nutshell, a nation-building model for any country in the world seeking a future of progress. Abreu was clear from the start that art’s mission had to transcend aesthetic values: art had to be the engine driving the training, rescue, inclusion, and development of a coun-try’s citizens regardless of their social position, economic situation or level of education.

With his experience and thanks to his close connections with initiatives that have benefited low-income populations (such as Fe y Alegría11), Abreu tipped the balance in favor of the most underprivileged, making the System a “social front” with the idea of starting to break the vicious circle of poverty from the base of the family pyramid: the children. And he has explained it very well on many occasions and before a large number of audiences.

1 Fe y Alegría is an international movement that promotes all-round

education and social advancement. It is aimed mainly at impoverished

and excluded sectors in order to reinforce their personal development

and participation in society.

112

Page 113: Venezuela the miracle of music

“The immense spiritual wealth that music itself engenders ends up vanquishing material poverty. From the very moment the child takes up the musical instrument and has it in his hands before a teacher, he is no longer a poor child, he is a child on his way up, moving to a level of action that will turn him into a full human being and with an alternative mirror in which he can see himself. So, we start to perform a preven-tive function against prostitution, domestic and social violence, against bad company and against everything that sets back or degrades the lives of the children. This is a System dedicated, not exclusively, but yes largely, to children and youngsters of moderate and scant means. Why? Because we think that one of the most painful aspects of poverty is not having access to art.”

On this front, the System’s proposal has two fundamental pillars and objectives: 1) Democratizing and making available to the masses, in the fullest sense of these terms, opportunities for study, work, earning a living, recreation, achieving success as part of a group, individual happiness, regeneration of the indi-vidual, forming an identity, and the participation and inclusion of all, regardless of a child’s or adolescent’s socioeconomic status or whether or not he has some physical impediment.

2) Multiplying its impacts on and benefits in society, because, while it is true that the child or youngster who joins the System is the protago-nist, through his studies and artistic activities, he also automatically involves the stem cells of any society: he involves his family, his school, his teachers and his classmates, the community, neighborhood or barrio where he lives, the state or region where he was born, and the entire country, which, at some time or another, he represents, both at home and abroad.

When the child arrives at the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, a powerful and, at times, im-perceptible machinery that generates values, impacts, and relationships goes swiftly into mo-tion within the individual with such force and power that, in 35 years, it is capable of changing a country forever.

Right from the moment a child joins the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela accompanied by his parents, what has been called “the Venezuelan music miracle” starts to work. As soon as he is given the enrollment form, admission tests are scheduled and he is assigned to a Nucleus or Center, given his timetable of classes and

The children get together with friends in the neighborhoods where they live to indulge in the pleasure of making music

113

Page 114: Venezuela the miracle of music

rehearsals, told who is teachers will be, and a musical instrument is placed in his hand; and, right then and there, the lives of that child, his family, the people in his milieu, fortunately, start to change.

Having an impact on millions

According to a social stratification study con-ducted in 2007 on a group of the families of the children and adolescents who are beneficiaries of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, approximately 11% come from the middle class, 36% from poor sec-tors, and 53% from critically poor sectors. The study was conducted using the Graffar-Méndez Castellano sampling method on a total of 180 family groups from 15 different nuclei located in the Capital District and in Bolívar, Lara, Mérida, Miranda, Táchira, Sucre, and Zulia states.

Having acknowledged and acclaimed the virtues of the System, central government, local governments, government and private organiza-tions, foundations and NGOs, and entrepre-neurs face a challenge: actually implementing that powerful tool for breaking the vicious circle of poverty. In Venezuela, the cradle of this program, more than 300,000 children have benefited over a period of 35 years; however, un-der the decree establishing the Music Mission, announced by the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías on November 23, 2007, it is expected to achieve an impact on a population of more than one million children and adolescents in the short and medium terms.

“Acknowledging the effectiveness of the System in fighting poverty,” the Music Mission will give a major boost to the setting up of orchestras and music studies, mainly in schools, public

At the Guatire Center, the young teacher Andrés Ruíz does admirable work giving training to children from low-income families who dream of becoming musicians

114

Page 115: Venezuela the miracle of music

and private education centers, universities, and rural communities. Thanks to the scope of this program in quantitative terms, it is safe to say that studying music and exercising the music profession in our country have ceased to be a monopoly of the élites and become a social right of the entire Venezuelan people and of all citizens.

The challenge is everywhere

Material poverty and social and racial exclusion are not problems that are specific to a given country or group of countries. But, fortu-nately, the System has ceased to be an exclusively Venezuelan phenomenon, as we have noted else-where in this book, and today, as is quite logical, “the Venezuelan music miracle” is being imple-mented abroad and gaining momentum daily in cities where there are gross inequalities. And it will come as no surprise if, as the 21st century unfolds, this program becomes the model for cushioning the effects of violence in warzones ... orchestras in Iraq, Pakistan, India or Nigeria, say- so that symphony music prevails over the sound of bombarding, explosions or conflicts.

Bright and early that Sunday morning

in August 2009, the barrio got ready to

celebrate. It wasn’t a national holiday

or a saint’s day, nor were they ex-

pecting a visit from some government

dignitary or other. But it was not only

the womenfolk and senior citizens

who sallied forth to buy breakfast, that

day even the children and youngsters

woke up earlier than usual.

And it was only to be expected. They

all knew about it. Word had spread

from house to house, from shanty

to shanty. The news had spread like

wildfire weeks before. Because, apart

from anything else, some of the kids

from the barrio are musicians and all

the neighbors know about and are

proud of their successes. So, the day

that the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan

Youth Symphony Orchestra was to

give its concert was finally here, and it

was going to be quite an event.

What’s happening today in La Vega?

Belkis Pinto, an inhabitant of the

parish’s Los Mangos sector, asks

herself when she saw an enormous

dais on Calle Independencia, the

street all cleaned up, and a large

police presence. “There weren’t any

problems in the barrio today. They

collected the garbage and painted

the streets, and there are a lot of po-

licemen and helicopters taking care

of La Vega. Let’s hope they stay to

fight the crime that’s always present

on these streets,” she says.

And like Belkis Pinto, the entire

community of that popular Caracas

neighborhood milled around in front

of the dais. People came out onto

their balconies, perched on stairways,

leaned out of windows, and climbed

onto rooftops. At 2 o’clock in the

afternoon the OSJVSB’s bus arrived

and the musicians started to fill up

the stage. The only person missing

was the star of the event, the conduc-

tor Gustavo Dudamel; then he

appeared and immediately took the

microphone to say how overjoyed he

was to be giving this concert, one of

his most remembered.

The concert lasted two and a half

hours, staring with the Ode to Joy

(from Beethoven’s Ninth Sym-phony), followed by Alma Llanera,

the National Anthem, and the song

V enezuela. This last piece in particular

caused euphoria in the audience,

although everyone behaved properly

and listened attentively to the

symphonic music, so different to

the reggaeton, salsa or vallenato they

listen to every day.

For the children of La Vega, who

were the ones who most applauded

the OSJVSB visiting the barrio, José

Antonio Abreu announced a gift:

that they would be setting up the La

Vega Children´s Orchestra Center

that very year, thanks to the support

of the Mayor’s Office of Libertador

Municipality, a truly unbeatable gift

for a memorable Sunday.

The musician from my neighborhood

La Vega, a working class neighbor-hood in Caracas, celebrates the arrival of Dudamel, Abreu, and the orchestras

115

Page 116: Venezuela the miracle of music

“Imagine a home anywhere in

Venezuela or Latin America, just

like the thousands of homes that are

springing up in all our countries and

elsewhere in the world. The father

is drinking beer and watching a ball

game on television. The mother is

busy doing housework, cooking

maybe, and there’s a small boy in his

room practicing, playing a piece of

Vivaldi’s over and over again. So,

while waiting for supper, the music

gradually envelopes everyone in the

house. Days, weeks, and years pass in

the same fashion, until one day, that

boy, who has been busy studying and

practicing violin, tells his parents:

“I’ve got my first concert with the

Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela

on Saturday.” Then that mother and

father, his brothers and sisters, his en-

tire family will be proud of that small

boy’s dedication, which has resulted

in him achieving his first goal of being

able to play Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin

in a theater.

That boy from a humble home

turns into an individual who can

go out into the world armed with

an extremely powerful weapon: his

self-confidence and his firm convic-

tion in work, in his determination to

attain his goals. Thanks to his musical

instrument he will be able to work his

way up through the worthy ranks of a

model organization –the orchestra–,

which immediately makes him a child

who is also an artist and not a faceless

child from any old slum. When he

reaches adolescence, he will have

broader horizons and clear aspirations

and intellectual and spiritual values

with which to undertake a pro-

fessional path that will provide him

with the means to make a living.

This story is repeated in thousands of

Venezuelan families who have chil-

dren enrolled in the System. And the

ripple effect that the orchestras have

within the family is amazing: without

the attendance, commitment, and

support of parents, grandparents,

brothers, sisters, and close family,

the children could not be part of the

organization. It is the family unit that

is drawn together and strengthened,

and, ultimately, it is the family that

is picked out for a trip, a national or

international tour or a seminar with

important Venezuelan or foreign

maestros.

While it is usually the mothers

who take the children to rehearsals,

fathers are increasingly to be found

there. Both become familiar with the

System, the music, the orchestras, and

the dynamics of the centers where

their children take classes and they

even play a key role in many of the

orchestras’ activities and, in some cen-

ters, they help, when necessary, with

paying for the rent and with cleaning

the center’s premises.

The impact of the System on the

family is so powerful that, today,

several generations are actively in-

volved in all aspects of Simón Bolívar

Musical Foundation, so it is not

unusual to find parents, children and

grandchildren performing different

functions within this great musical

enterprise, some as musicians or

teachers, others as students, and yet

others as producers or managers.

A case in point is the relationship

that the parents of Marisela Rosales,

the president of the Association of

Friends of La Rinconada Center’s

Youth and Children’s Symphony

Orchestra, has developed with the

System. “Our center,” she comments,

“is a place where peace, harmony and

Ripple effect in the family and the community

Eunice Flores and her four children have found a “haven” for self-betterment at the Guatire Center

116

Page 117: Venezuela the miracle of music

happiness prevail. We all look after

the premises to keep it nice and in a

good state of repair, as it’s a unique

treasure our community has. There’s

no violence, drugs or foul language

here. We defend it because it’s our

oasis of peace. My two children study

music here and the benefits they

receive are tremendous.”

Safe havens for the kids

Two stories tell how most of the

System’s centers have become safe ha-

vens. For many large families, more so

if they live in remote villages or slum

areas or are victims of violence and

the lack of security, the center is the

salvation of children and youngsters,

keeping them away from drugs, bad

habits, and the problems arising from

loneliness and the lack of education.

Eunice Flores, a 31-year-old

Venezuelan mother, works at a

Casa de Alimentación (a kind of soup

kitchen) in Guatire. She lives with her

current boyfriend (a potter) and her

five children in El Milagro, a shanty

district located behind the Guatire

bus terminal in Miranda state. Eunice

is fully aware that she can’t leave the

kids alone at home; and she tells us

her story.

“I thought you had to pay, but I came

one day and I realized that you only

had to make a contribution for each

one and I was able to enroll three of

my children. I come to the center

with my kids every afternoon. I feel

they’re doing something productive

and are kept from seeing so many

bad things that happen in that shanty

district where we live. Even though

my husband and I didn’t graduate

from high school, we want them to

have a different kind of life.”

Andrea (violin, 12 years old), Estilven

(horn, 10), and Adriú (violin, 9) are

Eunice’s three children who study at

the Guatire Center. Not long ago,

there was a fire at their house, but

fortunately no one was hurt, “because

the children were out and nothing

happened to them. That’s why we

want them to be at the Center most

of the time,” says Eunice.

Mariluz La Cruz de Romero is the

mother of 11 children and right

away she says: “The System has been

a great solution for our family. My

husband’s a mechanic and he spends

all day working at the mechanical

shop and I take care of the house and

our 11 children, six boys and 5 girls…

an entire troop. The older ones are

at university, but I’ve got six enrolled

here at Montalbán: Walter, the oldest

is 16, he’s been studying trumpet for

four years; next is Valentín, 12, who

also plays trumpet; Oriana, 11, chose

the violin; Luis Alejandro, 10, plays

the horn; Gabriela is 9 and she likes

the cello; and Omar Eduardo, who’s

5, is in the preparatory class. That

leaves only Paola, the baby, who’s 3,

and we will definitely bring her when

she can join the workshops for babies.

Through my eldest daughter, who’s

also a musician and knows the people

at the Montalbán Center, I was able

to enroll six of my children here and

they are giving them an opportunity

to learn a lot of things, not just music,

from the preparatory level through

to the youth orchestras, and, in these

times we’re living in, we’re very grate-

ful for that.”

One of the initiatives that are currently underway is taking shape in the lustrous city of Los Angeles in the powerful United States of America. There, no sooner had the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel arrived to occupy his post as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, than he took out his baton and stood before the upturned faces of about a hun-dred poor children between seven and 12 years of age, many of them Latin immigrants and blacks, to start a Children’s and Youth Orchestra Program aimed at fighting exclusion.

That autumn of 2009 was particularly exciting for more than a hundred mothers and fathers

of the working class districts of Los Angeles. Neither they nor the curious philanthropists nor the directors of the Philharmonic itself believed that, in just a few days, Dudamel could get those children, who had had no previous contact with or training in music, to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. And that is just the start of what “exporting the System” -an expression they also use when referring to Dudamel- is capable of doing. He challenged them with a stimulating phrase, one he himself grew up with: “I want to see your superhero capes; I want you to fly with your instruments,” because he knows how to do it. He is the System’s most original, illustrative, and successful product.

Mariluz La Cruz de Romero with her son, Walter Romero, a trumpet player from the Montalbán Children’s Academic Center

117

Page 118: Venezuela the miracle of music

In selecting Dudamel, the Philharmonic of Los Angeles also made sure of its association with a unique and successful style of music educa-tion. Deborah Borda, the president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, confessed to New York Times critic Arthur Lubow that she had been inspired by what she encountered during the visit she paid to Caracas in 2007 and on subsequent visits in later years. What she found was in marked contrast to the situa-tion in the United States, where art education programs have been eliminated from the school timetables and curriculae. So Borda’s surprise is natural, more so, because the Venezuelan System gives children and young people a place in the orchestra regardless of how poor or how problematical they are. For Borda, what was clear were the amazing results she saw in centers such as La Rinconada and Los Chorros: “I never imagined I’d cry as much as I did in Caracas with the System,” she told Lubow.

The challenge is everywhere, because poverty and corruption, vice and gang wars in poor districts exist the world over. In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in Medellin’s deprived areas and also among its middle and upper-middle classes, where drugs corrupt from the cradle; in Bom-

bay; in Asunción, Paraguay; and in disaster-torn Haiti, the System has ample terrain in which to work its miracles.

Hope in Los Chorros

One of the model nuclei or centers that prove the System’s capacity for bringing about change is, undoubtedly, Los Chorros, located, paradoxi-cally, in an upper class residential area of Caracas. At one time a detention center of the National Institute for the Attention of Minors (INAM), where children and adolescents with behavior problems, who consumed drugs or had been involved in robberies, muggings or other violent offenses, is today one of the most dynamic and productive platforms of that change wrought by music and the orchestras.

Moreover, its present director is one of the boys who lived his own personal drama and tragedy at the old INAM center, Lennar Acosta, who proudly conducts a tour of the classrooms at Los Chorros, previously steeped in gloom and today overflowing with happiness, light, and future, thanks to the fact that the Los Chorros Nucleus of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela set up shop there with

Maestro Abreu and Dudamel closely follow the social progress made by the System

118

Page 119: Venezuela the miracle of music

its entire team of a staff of more than 70 music teachers, instructors, coordinators, and adminis-trative personnel, plus choirs and orchestras.

Lennar Acosta explains that practically 85% of the pupils enrolled at Los Chorros Nucleus, more than 800 children and young people- come from the deprived areas of Petare and Palo Verde and from all the barrios or shanty districts in Sucre Municipality. “We go to the barrios to look for the kids, and we need to do that because a lot of people think that, given its location in Los Chorros, the Center’s intended for children and youngsters whose parents have a high income. The truth is that there’s room for everyone here. The only requirement is a desire to experience the happiness that music and learning a musical instrument provides; that’s all.”

Lennar Acosta’s goal was to make it to the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, but it seems that his preordained task was to take charge of Los Chorros. “I’m on a return journey,” he says. “There’s no room for making mistakes. Years ago teachers of the System made sacrifices for me and offered me a helping hand. Well, now I have to do the same, and do it responsibly and in a spirit of generosity. A lot of the kids who were in detention with me here when Los Chorros was a center for the INAM are already dead and others are still wandering the streets sick and with all kinds of problems. That’s why I’m more grateful every day for the miracle, and my way of returning the favor is to now run this Nucleus with love and to be a full-time soldier of the System.”

“There’s room for everyone at Los Chorros,” says the Center’s coordinator, Lennar Acosta

119

Page 120: Venezuela the miracle of music

n 1995, with the motto “We’re Venezuela, Too”, the National System of Youth and

Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela’s Special Educational Program was born under the tutelage of Maestro José Antonio Abreu, who maintains that music geared to special educa-tion (education designed for disabled children) is a challenge that has manifold possibilities.

Since it started, the program has taken in children and youngsters with impaired hearing and sight, cognitive deficiencies, motor impair-ment, learning difficulties, autism, and Down’s syndrome. The program’s pilot center was, and still is, in Barquisimeto, Lara state, from where it is expanding its radius of action. Since 2000, the program has been spreading out to centers in a number of towns and cities throughout the country: Maracay, Punto Fijo, Valera, Duaca, San Felipe, Aroa, Porlamar, La Asunción, Güiria, Pueblo Llano, Distrito Capital, Los Teques, Los Chorros, La Guaira, San Cristóbal,

La Grita, and Calabozo, and other towns are in the process of setting up the program, so creating an extensive network of 19 centers to date where more than 100 teachers and instructors cater to 1,800 children. Many of those instructors and teachers are young musicians who do social work by assisting teachers who are specialists in psychopedagogy or special education.

Jhonny Gómez, a clarinetist with the Lara Symphony Orchestra and a graduate of the Experimental Teaching University in Barquisimeto with a major in Special Education for Children with Learning Difficulties, is the project’s creator and was later responsible for organizing the System’s Special Education Pro-gram. He comments that the program started off with 16 children with learning difficulties and 12 with impaired sight and that, later, with some significant results under their belt, they focused on learning the special needs of each handicap and finding out which would be the

There’s a place for everyone in the System

José Manuel León Leal, who studies recorder at the Lara Center, is one of the youngsters who has benefitted from the System’s Special Education Program

120

Page 121: Venezuela the miracle of music

best approach for teaching pupils with those handicaps through music.

Gómez also explains that the program is not based on therapeutic sessions using melodies and rhythm, but on a program of learning –modeled after the System’s study plan– for chil-dren, young people, and adults aged between five and 30. “In the past it was believed that, in order to study music, you had to have an ear for music. We broke away from that model when we included practically deaf children in the Coro de Manos Blancas (White Hands Choir), for example. And, last of all, the most important task is to continue rescuing the thousands of Venezuelans who have been segregated by society for generations.”

A miraculous fluttering

No one who witnesses the fruits of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela’s Special Education Program is left unmoved. If the System’s orchestras draw ova-tions, the groups of handicapped children and young people bring tears to the eyes and awaken the consciences of those who hear them, as has happened with visitors of renown and maestros who have worked with our youth orchestras and choirs, among them Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado, Michael Mark Churchill (Director of the New England Conservatory, in Boston),

the violinist Itzhak Perlman, the tenor Placido Domingo, the opera singer Mirella Freni, and Maestro Marcus Marshall (Director of London’s Royal Festival Hall).

This program’s main artistic “product” is, un-doubtedly, the “Coro de Manos Blancas” (White Hands Choir), which has been joined by the Percussion Ensemble, the Rhythm Band, the Recorder Ensemble, the Bell Ensemble, Las Manitos Blancas (The Little White Hands), and the Cuarteto Lara Somos (We’re Lara Quartet). The White Hands Choir, made up of deaf children, came into being in 1999 and is con-ducted by Naybeth García, a special education teacher. She comments that, “in the specific case of children and young people with impaired hearing, emphasis is placed on body language and gestures, the idea being to get deaf pupils to discover and strengthen their inner sense of rhythm. That’s the training we give them in the White Hands Choir.”

García explains that one of the first areas addressed by the Special Education Program was sight impairment. Here they came up against several obstacles. One of them was the lack of scores in Braille, which led them to create the Braille Music Research and Printing Center in Barquisimeto. The purpose of this center is to teach blind children and youngsters to read and write and to help them catch up on

Jhonny Gómez and Naybeth García, creators and pioneers of Simón Bolívar Music Foundation’s Special Education Program

121

Page 122: Venezuela the miracle of music

their schooling, so permitting these pupils to make music and form choirs.

She adds that, when implementing the program, the teacher teaches the handicapped child or youngster how to establish music goals. To do this, different methods suitable for this type of education are used. All the students within this group attend classes every day, either in the morning or the afternoon. The classes include theory, practice, and general rehearsals, and there are also individual classes.

Naybeth García -who has studied Choral Di-rection, Musical Ear Development, Venezuelan Music Arrangements and Repertoire, done spe-cialization courses in, among other subjects, in Braille Musicology, and is also a specialist in sign language- is extremely sensitive to her children’s needs and shows a very special passion for her

work. “Each and every child in the choir conveys a spiritual peace that cannot be expressed in words”, she says.

The Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Spe-cial Education Program has made recordings of the White Hands Choir for television stations in Switzerland, France, Spain, and Germany and also for some Venezuelan television stations. It has also won major national and international awards. In 2010, it won the Nonino Risit d’Aur Prize, bestowed in Friuli, Italy, “for symbolizing a miracle for handicapped children and young people.” During the prize-giving ceremony, the distillery’s president, Giannola Nonino, announced that the foundation bearing her family’s name was to form a White Hands choir that would follow the method created by Naybeth García and be under her direct supervision.

The White Hands Choir has drawn forth ovations from all its audiences and won international awards

In Bonn (Germany), Michael Ladenburger, the director of the Beethoven Haus Society, treasures the gloves given him by the White Hands Choir

Youngsters with Down’s syndrome are given a place in the orchestras

122

Page 123: Venezuela the miracle of music

In 2010, Maestro Claudio Abbado was the delighted recipient of the symbolic gloves from the White Hands Choir for his support of the Special Education Program

Handicapped children, young people, and adults find their place in the System

123

Page 124: Venezuela the miracle of music

nother of the advances that Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation has been implementing

for more than three years and that demonstrates the value of music as a tool of spiritual salvation and social inclusion is the Prisons Academic Program (PAP), a unique initiative without precedent anywhere in the world that has received the recognition of international bodies, among them the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which granted it funding jointly with Venezuela’s People’s Power Ministry for Homeland Relations and Justice.

Feasibility studies for implementing the program started in 2004, thanks to the dedication, initia-tive, and social awareness of a young Venezuelan musician, Kleiberth Lenin Mora Aragón, an active member of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra who also studied law and graduated in International Humanitarian Law and later obtained a master’s in Criminology in 2007. Under his coordination, the program finally started up with the creation of the Prison Symphony Orchestras Network, which was welcomed by the Executive as part of the Venezuelan Prison System’s Humanization Plan.

It is Lenin Mora himself, the National Coordina-tor of the Prisons Academic Program and the

Prison Symphony Orchestras Network, who explains the concept and development of this program, which, since it started nearly five years ago (as at June 2011), has had an impact on a total of 4,453 inmates, who have been given 28,624 hours of music classes and specialization courses in teaching and playing the different instruments that make up an orchestra.

What does the Prisons Academic Program consist of and what are the fundamental values it instills in the inmates?The Prisons’ Academic Program (PAP) is an instrument for achieving the reintegration into society of men and women who are in prison and who, through learning, practicing, and enjoying music, manage to change their lives. I spent time visiting Venezuela’s prisons and interviewing more than 500 inmates to learn about their situations and spiritual needs. From the start, I knew that the goal was to raise their self-esteem, to give them a sense of self-worth, and to rebuild them as individuals so as to prepare them for their reintegration into so-ciety once they’d done their term in prison. In the orchestras, they develop concentration, strengthen their ties with their families, acquire discipline and the habit of studying, and change their perception of the world and their behavior. Besides that, happi-ness comes back into their lives.

The orchestras set them free

124

Page 125: Venezuela the miracle of music

An orchestra for every prison

How did you go about choosing the prisons for setting up music conservatories?The idea is to produce a replica of the System of Orchestras inside the prisons. First, we conducted sociological studies of the individual structure of each prison, as they’re all different. For example, the idiosyncrasies of the Andes region aren’t the same as those of the people on the coast. Second, we studied the security mechanisms inside the prisons. Third, we looked for suitable areas for giving classes and for having a permanent staff there. And four, we worked with staff and teachers who have been trained within the System and who had a profile that would serve as a role model for their pupils, because inmates are always going to idealize their teachers; and to do that, we have a team of behavior modification specialists that does a weekly follow-up in each of the prisons.

How is the conservatory organized inside a prison and how do you go about recruiting pupils?Each prison that runs the program has a team of professionals and collaborators: a coordinator, a secretary, a director (who is a musician trained within the System and who lives in the region), and a group of teachers whose number depends on the prison in question. We have established a minimum staff of 22 teachers for each prison. At the beginning, we had to entice the inmates to get them to sign up. They had the false belief that classical music is tragic, that it would make their world sadder. That’s why they learn to play not only academic music but popular Venezuelan

Lenin Mora

pieces as well. Bit by bit they become enthralled by the music and their acceptance of it grows. We are proud to be able to say that the dropout rate is very low. After two months of classes, the participants generally don’t leave until they’re released from prison.

Are the inmates expected to fulfill some kind of special requirement in order to join the Prison Orchestras Network?In order to form the groups at each prison, we put out a notice and accepted everyone who responded. The only condition was that they shouldn’t have a record of aggression against the prison’s officers. The inmates were interviewed to determine their temperament, character, and morphology and, based on that information, it was decided which musical instrument they would be assigned. Most of them had never seen a musical instrument up close, but three months later they were playing the National Anthem and other fairly complicated pieces. The average time each of them spend studying is four to six hours a day. They can study all day long, if they prefer. The instrument is for their exclusive use. There are group and individual classes, workshops, re hearsals, and also choirs. Once they’re enrolled, they’re in for good. The inmates are expected to go to classes clean, use appropriate language, respect their classmates, not carry weapons, and take care of the instruments they’ve been assigned.

What benefits has this program brought since 2011?The PAP currently has 1.565 pupils and we’ve had 4.453 participants to date. We have given seven people the opportunity to reintegrate into society and they are already members of the Prison Symphony Orchestra project. They will continue with their music studies. All the pupils have received dental care and 147 dental prostheses have been fitted so that the pupils who play wind instruments have a complete set of teeth.

At how many prisons has the Prison Symphony Orchestras Network been set up?At eight so far: the Andean Region Penitentiary in Mérida state; the Western Region Peniten-tiary (Santa Ana) in Táchira state; the Carabobo

125

Page 126: Venezuela the miracle of music

Penitentiary (better known as La Mínima de Tocuyito) and Anexo Femenino de Tocuyito (Women Detention Centre) in Carabobo state; the National Orientation Institute for Women (INOF) in Los Teques, Miranda state; San Antonio Penitentiary in Porlamar, Nueva Esparta state; Coro Penitentiary Community in Falcón state, and Internado Judicial de Barinas (Barinas Detention Centre) in Barinas state.

The program also has artistic and choral groups in each prison. In Mérida, there’s a Wind Ensemble; in Táchira, there’s an estudiantina (a traditional stu-dent music group) that plays folk and traditional instruments and another one in Tocuyito; at the INOF, we have a String Ensemble and a women’s choir; and in Falcón, we have a Wind Ensemble.

Lives changed behind bars

What has it been like for the prisoners, their experience at the concert they held at the Teresa Carreño Theater, for example?At each prison where the program has been implemented, a variety of presentations have been put on: recitals, concerts, technical exhibitions, and teaching concerts for the prison population and their families; a total of approximately 137 to date. The Prison Symphony Orchestras have appeared at the Teresa Carreño Theater on three occasions interpreting a repertoire of Venezuelan and Latin American works and works from the universal symphonic repertoire. Those concerts in the Teresa Carreño were prepared with a selec-tion of 300 musicians from the five prisons. The logistics of transporting the inmates was extremely complicated as it was by bus and each inmate was accompanied by two national guardsmen; besides that we had one empty bus per caravan, motorbikes, jeeps, ambulances, and a group of para medics. But here are the testimonies of some inmates who belong to the Prison Orchestras Network to give an idea of the impact that our PAP has had.

Víctor Villasmil (Flutist, 24, Andean Region Penitentiary)“I’ve been ten months in this prison’s Symphony Orchestra, from the time it started. I’d been dreaming about the day of the concert, of being in the Teresa Carreño Theater, and playing (…). The flute has helped me stop taking drugs; I’ve changed completely.”

Henry Dávila (A former member of the Merida Prison Orchestra, he came to work for FESNOJIV after his release from prison.) “I’m very proud to be an example for the inmates of the Andean Region Penitentiary, where I’m presently working as a music instructor.”

Irma González (Bass player. She is a street vendor who is serving a six-year sentence for theft.)“Before this, my music was reggaeton. My proud-est moment was when my four children (aged 9, 10, 13, and 14) went to see me play in the Teresa Carreño. When they applauded me, I finally felt my life was of some use.”

Heidy Seijas (A violinist and one of the founding members of the INOF Prison Symphony Orchestra)“I arrived at this prison on the last day of June 2006, a week before my birthday. Inside the prison

Dudamel sharing a moment with the inmate musicians at the Teresa Carreño Theater

126

Page 127: Venezuela the miracle of music

walls, I felt that my life was slipping away; all I could think about was the freedom I no longer had and the effort I’d have to make to adapt to this place, far away from all kinds of vice and the temptation to get what I want the easy way. I was very depressed. Over the next five years I became acquainted all kinds of evil, egoism, and envy, but I also found comradeship and friendship. My time here coincided with the start of the Prison Symphony Orchestras Network project. I was 28 and the only music that interested me was salsa and reggaeton; apart from anything else, it was all I’d ever heard. When we saw the musicians arrive at the prison’s auditorium, I said to my fellow inmates, let’s go and badger them. I had the bright idea of rolling up bits of paper into pellets and throw them at the musicians and, after they’d played, the only thing you could hear was all of us laughing. The second time they talked to about this program in the prison, I made fun of it. The secretariat of the Foundation handed out some fliers asking us to always turn up at the music classes bathed, with short nails, our teeth brushed, and with no cigarettes in our hands. My fellow inmates and I had a good laugh about that. The third encounter decided the thing. I challenged one of the violin teachers to play something with salsa rhythm, because that was my favorite kind of music; and when I heard him, I couldn’t believe it. I signed up right away. No sooner had I got the violin in my hands than the teasing and humilia-

tions began inside the prison. I still remember my surprise when I saw a whole lot of notes on the staff. It was all wonderful. I became disciplined, I wanted to get ahead, I stopped swearing, and bit by bit I changed my way of thinking. We were so busy learning that we stopped being violent. I remember that one of the teachers chose a piece for me to play together with a women I detested, and music managed to get us to become friends and to play together. It was something magical.”

Author’s note: The publication here of the names of

the inmates and their testimonies was authorized by the

National Coordinator of the Prisons Academic Program

and the Prison Symphony Orchestras Network.

Music and its healing powers reach Yare Penitentiary thanks to the Prisons Academic Program and the Prison Orchestras Network

127

Page 128: Venezuela the miracle of music

José Daniel Coronado(Blind, aged 18. Barquisimeto Center, Lara state)

“Actually, I grew up like a normal kid. I was 9 or 10 before I realized I was blind, because my parents made me feel just like a normal kid and my childhood was the same as any other small child’s. When I was six, I joined the System and started with the violin; then I tried the piano; and finally I stayed with the trumpet. I learned to play music using Braille and then by ear. That’s how I learn the scores, by ear. Now I’m in fifth grade and I do all my school work, but I’d definitely say that 99.5% of my time is spent on music. I’m a member of the Lara Brass Ensemble and I want to continue studying music. I’ve already composed some small pieces; one of them is an Ave María that Andrea Bocelli lis-tened to… Maybe I’ll end up being a composer.”

Luisana Freites(Aged 20. Barquisimeto Center, Lara state)

“I’m blind and I study violin. I’ve just finished third year in Harmony and third year in History of Music. I’m from here, from Barquisimeto. For me it’s very important to come to the Center because every day I learn something new about music and about life. I’ve lots of friends, some of them are also blind and others are normal. I confess that I love the violin because it is a beautiful-sounding instrument. With it, I feel confident. I’m already in my fifth year studying violin. I’m a member of the Barquisimeto Youth Orchestra, in the first violins section. I read my scores thanks to the Braille system. The teachers are great; they teach you a lot, especially about the importance of discipline. I also sing in a choir for special children. The fact is that I’m very, very happy thanks to the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and the light that music has brought me.

A lighton the road

128

Page 129: Venezuela the miracle of music

Manuel Martínez(Aged 12. Guatire Center)

“I’ve already been studying viola for two and a half years and I’ve been able to play in the Vicente Emilio Sojo Pre-Youth Orchestra. But my thing, what I’d really like to do is to become a conductor. I met Dudamel and I want to

conduct an orchestra too, but I know that that’s going to be very difficult because I’d have to learn a bit about all the instruments and read a lot of scores. But my dad tells me to go for it, that, if that’s what I like, I should study a lot. I put a lot of effort into the viola because I love its sound, and I always like to sing and to listen to music. That’s why pestered my mom for her to bring me to the Center, and I’m already mak-ing my dream come true.”

Jannethe Ramírez de Martínez (Manuel’s mom)

“We live in Las Casitas, a shanty district in Guatire, and

although I have to take care of the house and of Valentina,

our second daughter, who’s three, I do everything I can

to accompany Manuel to his music classes because that

has helped him a lot and has made him more disciplined.

At the beginning, my husband used to say that there was

no money in that music business and he didn’t like the

idea. But I told him that it wasn’t a matter of money but of

discipline; besides, we are both high school graduates and

we want our children to get ahead and have a good educa-

tion. But now, when Manuel told his father he had

a concert, we all went, and proud too.”

Marialis Sarabia and Gabriela Rosas(6 and 14 years of age. Pupil and teacher. Guatire Center)

Two girls, two destinies that have become entwined to learn from and help one another. Marialis Sarabia, the younger, daughter of María Toro, a cleaning lady at the Guatire Center,

asks the elder, Gabriela Rosas: “Teach me that piece you’re playing, I love how it sounds.” And Gabriela, who is already a member of the Francisco de Miranda Pre-Youth Orchestra, at only 14 years of age, takes her responsibilities as a teacher very seriously. She has been receiving training in music teaching techniques and methods for the past year and confidently says: “You have to put a lot more effort into learning the instrument because teaching small children, who don’t know anything about the violin, is more difficult, and you have to have a lot of patience in order to reach them with love and tenderness. That way they fall in love with what we’re doing here at the Center. And when you teach them, you learn more about music too; and you know that, as each year goes by they’ll gradually make progress, just like I’m doing now, and that, one day, both of us can become professional musicians. I, at least, hope to get to the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. That’s my goal. I think it’s the goal of nearly all of us who are in the System.

129

Page 130: Venezuela the miracle of music

Natasha Tesorero(16 years of age. La Rinconada Center, Caracas)

Sadly, Natasha lost her mother just when she turned 14, and the pain she felt found an outlet: music. “My mom adored me and she did every-thing to make me happy. She knew I loved to come to the Center. That’s why, when she died, I decided to carry on with my violin classes and that has helped me to get ahead. It was my great-grandmother who enrolled me here when I was 8, and the whole family pitched in and bought me my violin. Now I live with my maternal grandmother in El Valle and divide my study time between my high school work and music. I hope to go on to university because I want to be an architect. But there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll continue to cling to the violin because it makes me happy and because it allows me to maintain friendships in La Rinconada Pre-Youth Orchestra, to which I belong at the moment.”

Zambra Saavedra(Aged 13. Los Chorros Center, Caracas)

“Maybe I was kind of young when I chose the horn. I was 10 when I had to choose an instru-ment here at Los Chorros Center. But the thing is that when I saw a horn I found it so strange. I loved its shape, the curves of the metal, and I loved it even more when I heard the sound it makes… it was great. And when my parents saw me with the horn, they said it was very strange but, as I’m an only child and they’ve always wanted to give me the best, they respected my decision. My friends say the same thing. They’re surprised because at the high school we go to, the Lino Clemente in Petare, they organize par-ties and invite me and I often tell them I can’t go because I have to go to the Center nearly every day, even some Saturdays. Then my friends say: ‘Gee Zambra, you’re just music. All you think about is music, you don’t think about anything else except the horn.’ And it’s true. I love all this and my Children’s Symphony Orchestra at Los Chorros, to which I belong.”

130

Page 131: Venezuela the miracle of music

Junior Alejandro Chivas González(Aged 9. Montalbán Center, Caracas)

“I like the violin because it has a lovely sound. Before, I used to be embarrassed to play at school, but not now. And since I started at the Center, I love to come every afternoon because you learn a lot of things, and I’ve already learned so much that I’m in the Mozart Orchestra. Besides, I’ve heard Dudamel speak. He played the violin too, and he heard Maestro José Antonio Abreu speak, the person who did all this. I know that he started to play the violin when he was very young too and that he became a professional and that he also played the piano. It’s a shame he doesn’t play now because it would be great to hear him to see how he plays.”

Doris González ( Junior’s and Jesús’s mom)

“I’m a housewife and my husband’s a taxi driver; we live in

La Vega. One day, my husband met Beatriz Abreu, José

Antonio Abreu’s sister, and chatting in the taxi while he

took her someplace, she told him all about the System.

After that we plucked up courage and brought our elder

son, Junior Alejandro, who was 5 at the time, and later

we brought Jesús when he was only two and a half; he

was still in diapers and they put him in the preparatory

class. Now he’s moved on to Music Initiation because he’s

already 5. We’re really pleased because we love the idea

of our sons becoming professional musicians. But what

gives us most peace of mind is to see the progress our sons

have made in everything.”

131

Page 132: Venezuela the miracle of music

Víctor Manuel Dicuru Guerrero(12 years old. Guatire Center, Miranda state)

“I started when I was 9. Some cousins who played in the orchestra told my dad to put me down to study music. That’s how my dad came to enroll me. I didn’t have an instrument for the first two years and in the third year they gave me a viola. I like the viola a lot. They gave me one I’ve got at the Center. I treat it carefully. Sometimes I’m afraid when I have to go from my house to the Center on my own at 5:30 p.m. and do the return journey at 7:30 p.m., because my dad can’t take me every day. He work’s in one of the System’s warehouses and mom is busy with my younger brothers and sisters. That’s why I learned to go on my own. I don’t want to miss my viola classes. The neighbors where we live stop to watch me when I go by with my viola. At home, when my aunts, uncles, and friends of the family visit, my dad asks me to go for my viola and play. And they all sit quiet watching me, and I close my eyes and continue playing. We live in my grandmother’s house in Valle Verde, a barrio in Guatire, in a basement she let us have. I’ve got

a brother and two sisters. One of my brothers is 10 years old, he’s in second grade and I play the viola for him when I see he’s nervous. Mom says he’s got speech problems. My little sister Yusmely is 3. She’s really bright. Sometimes she wants to get hold of my viola to play it. Mom says she’s going to enroll her to take music this year. And the baby is two years old and we don’t know whether she’s going to like music. I feel really happy when I see the orchestras playing. The other day I saw Gustavo Dudamel on televi-sion. I’d like to meet him in person.”

Yusmary Guerrero (Víctor’s mother)

“Víctor Manuel is fully occupied every day of the week.

In the morning he practices the viola at home and in the

afternoon he goes to school, then he comes home, picks

up his viola and goes to his music class at the Center.

That’s nearly every day: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and

Saturday. My husband wants Víctor Manuel to have a

future in music, a profession. This has been a tremendous

relief for us, because there are a lot of kids in the barrio

who roam the streets getting into trouble. That’s why

I got him into the System. I want to save my son from

everything we’re exposed to here.

Emily Andreína Castillo Matheus (8 years old. Montalbán Academic Center, Caracas)

“I started to study music when I was 5, here at the Center. I was very tiny and wanted them to give me an instrument right away. First they put me in the preparatory class, and we played a lot of games. Later, I went up two more levels and they gave me the violin. Then they got me to give an audition and I joined the Mozart Orchestra. I like to study at this Center. When I grow up I want to be a doctor and a violinist. I live just with my mom and my sister, Zulemi. She’s 5 and dances flamenco. My dad doesn’t live with us. I’ve changed a lot with music; that’s what my mom says. I’m not afraid of giving presenta-tions at school any more. Music has taught me not to get nervous when I speak in public. I’ve played the violin at school. Sometimes I get very tired because I have music classes every day,

132

Page 133: Venezuela the miracle of music

from 2 to 6 o’clock in the afternoon, then I get home at about 8 at night, and that’s when I have to do my homework because I set off for school very early. When I grow up I want to continue in the orchestra and travel a lot.

Emilia Matheus (Emily Andreína’s mother)

“I came from Trujillo when I was still very young. I’m

divorced and have two daughters. I work at a nursery

school in El Paraíso and pass by the Simón Bolívar Music

Conservatory every day, as it’s practically next door to

where I work. I used to love seeing those boys and girls

coming and going with their instruments. Sometimes I

went up close, a bit timidly, to try to get a peek inside and

I’d listen to the music. How lovely! I thought. And I’d re-

member my daughters: how wonderful it would be if they

could play like that! One day I went to the movies with

the girls and a girlfriend and we saw Tocar y Luchar (Play

and Fight). That movie gave me the strength I needed to

go inside the Simón Bolívar Conservatory and ask if one

of my daughters could study there. They gave me informa-

tion and suggested I take her to Montalbán Academic

Center, which was for the tiny ones and was completely

free of charge. That’s what I did. I came and pre-enrolled

Emily Andreína, who was four at the time, and shortly

afterwards they called her. I’m happy because music has

taught Emily Andreína to be independent and to be very

discerning. It’s molded her personality despite her young

age. I want Emily to be independent, not to be afraid of

doing the things she wants to in life.”

Wendy Méndez Briceño(Aged 12. Montalbán Academic Center, El Paraíso, Caracas)

“My mom brought me to the Center to study music when I was 6. I’d never seen an instrument. But I was very happy when I started to study here and saw that all the kids had their instru-ments, played nicely, and were very happy. So, every day I’d ask the teacher when they were going to give me an instrument. I went from Music Language to the Training Orchestra and after that they gave me the violin. I like how it sounds; I like the violin a lot. When there are birthdays, I play for the whole family. My family’s very proud of me; they always tell me that. My dad doesn’t live with us; he’s living in Mérida. I live with my mom and my brother in a small rented house in a barrio in Antímano. My brother is 15; his name’s Antonio. He’s very intelligent and a good student. He’s a musi-cian too; he’s here in the Center with me, he’s a percussionist. My mom’s a policewoman. She works for the Metropolitan Police Force in the area of prevention. She’s pleased we’re studying music. She works long hours and worries a lot about me and my brother. At work she learns

133

Page 134: Venezuela the miracle of music

about very sad things that happen to children, that’s why she got us to study music, to protect us from bad things. I always hear her talking to my brother. My brother always looks out for me; he brings me to music classes every day and afterwards we go home together.”

Maite Briceño

(Wendy Méndez’s mom)

“I was very concerned about my children’s future. It’s

not easy to bring up kids nowadays, particularly when

you spend all day working. I was looking for some kind

of activity that would keep them occupied while I was

working. I’d pass the doors of this Academic Center every

day on my way home from work and I noticed the large

number of boys and girls coming and going. One day

I stopped and asked a parent who was outside waiting

for his daughter what they did there. He told me that

they gave music classes and that it was completely free

of charge. So I went in and pre-enrolled them right on

the spot, and two months later they called them. They’ve

been at the Center for six years now. I’m very proud of my

children and happy that I discovered their musical bent.

They started off with the recorder and now they each have

the instrument they want to play for the rest of their lives.”

Eduar Cervantes(17 years old. Los Chorros Center, Caracas)

“I came here thanks to a special program for street kids called “Forging the Future.” As I was already 15, they didn’t accept me here, so a teacher who gave classes here told me I could get in under this special program for street kids, even though I wasn’t one. It was the only way. At the beginning I wanted to play the guitar, but there were no guitars here, so I tried with the tuba, and I liked it. I joined the Center as a street kid, but I wasn’t one. I live at home with my mom, my dad, and my two sisters: Erika, who’s 22 and is studying electronics at university; and Estefanía, who’s 8. Music’s my life. I want it to be my profession. I’m studying for a degree in administration, because a degree is very impor-tant, but what I really want to be is a musician. In a year’s time I’m going to audition for the Simón Bolívar Orchestra and for the Teresa Carreño Symphony Orchestra. That’s why I’m studying a lot, practicing scales, doing breathing exer-cises, studying methods, parts of the orchestra, flexibility and staccatos, among other things. My dream is to join the Simón Bolívar Orchestra.

134

Page 135: Venezuela the miracle of music

I’ve been composing songs since I was four years old, like a game; then in sixth grade I was chosen for a choir, after auditioning. Everyone likes how I sing, but I didn’t know where the orchestras were until I met that teacher and I enrolled as though I was a street kid. Once I started to study here I was so happy that I wanted to spend all my time here. The timetable of the music classes got mixed up with the timetable for classes at school; at both places they expected a lot of me, but I tried to work it so that I did all right at both. I hardly slept, what with doing homework for school and practicing the tuba. I graduated from high school last year and now I’m starting university. My parents are very proud of me and they’re pleased that I’ve been able to find some-thing to channel all that restlessness I felt inside.”

Jefreson Carmona Fernández(Aged 14. Fe y Alegría Center, La Rinconada, Caracas)

“I’ve been studying music for seven years. Before I studied at San Agustín, and now I’m here at La Rinconada Center, where I’ve been for five years. My dad died when I was seven. I didn’t know what was happening. My mom and all the people ran over to see my dad; he was on the ground next to me and he didn’t move. He was bleeding a lot. My mom started to cry and some people shouted that my dad was dead. Now I play the trombone that belonged to my dad and I want to play music so as to always remember him.”

Mary Fernández ( Jefreson’s mother)

“Jefreson has not been able to get over the death of his

father. Seven years ago, the three of us went to a baseball

game in Santa Teresa del Tuy. At the entrance to the

stadium there was a confrontation between two gangs

of delinquents; they were armed and were shooting like

crazy. Everything happened so fast. I was going in to the

game with my husband and my son. I went on ahead and

my husband was right behind me and had Jefreson by the

hand. Then suddenly I felt my husband fall to the ground,

he was losing a lot of blood, and the boy just stood there

paralyzed. It was terrible for everyone, but particularly for

the boy. I have to take Jefreson for some tests but I haven’t

had time because I’ve had a lot of work and live alone with

him. A year ago, from the psychological tests they did on

him, the psychologist said that he couldn’t pass seventh

grade, that he had a lot of anger bottled up inside; he was

blocked after the death of his father. His father used to

play the trombone with a salsa group and Jefreson would

go with him. My husband and I decided to enroll him in

San Agustín Center and the boy was happy because he

used to go to class with his father’s trombone. His father

would take him every day. Since the death of his father,

my son has taken refuge in music; he wants to play all

the time. That’s how he’s coped with his pain. He’s already

a member of the Center’s Ensemble. He comes every day

and spends the whole afternoon here. I can’t bring him, but,

thanks to an arrangement that Maestro Abreu made with

the Caracas Metro, there’s a Metro bus that picks the chil-

dren up at La Bandera station and brings them to the Cen-

ter and then takes them back to La Bandera. If it weren’t for

the System, I don’t know what would have happened to my

son. I live on the main avenue of El Cementerio in Caracas,

and there’s so much danger everywhere. I want to talk to

Maestro Abreu to see if he can get my son a new trombone

because the one he’s got is very small for the level Jefreson

has reached in his music studies.”

Author’s note: All the testimonies and photos in this

chapter were authorized by FESNOJIV, 2010.

135

Page 136: Venezuela the miracle of music

A fresh chance at life

got my hands on my first gun, a .38.

My last robbery was at an electronics

appliances warehouse, together with

two older boys. I always carried a

weapon but I never killed anyone. I

spent most of my time in the barrios

so I wasn’t afraid. I stayed behind

upstairs packing the last box. When

I went downstairs the police arrived,

and our getaway car had already gone.

I started running. The police ran after

me and caught me in Paseo Anauco.

They caught me just as I was throwing

the gun into the River Guaire. They

beat me up until I confessed. I had

money in my pocket and tried to

make a deal with the police, but it

didn’t work; the policeman did for

me. They took me to Cotiza. There I

got stabbed in the chest. It’s survival

of the fittest. Perhaps you are not the

strongest but if you’re tough, you’re

respected. I told them I was twelve

so I’d be sent to a juvenile detention

center. They took me to Los Chorros.

Actually, I was going on fifteen years

old, but I was small for my age. When

I arrived in Los Chorros I was wearing

a T-shirt and shorts because I’d been

playing soccer just before the robbery.

I had long hair. I saw only small kids

Lennar José Acosta Ramírez

I spent my entire childhood in

Carapita. I was born in Caracas on

February 19, 1982, at the Magallanes

de Catia Hospital. My family is from

San Cristóbal, but I’ve lived all my life

in Caracas. In fact, I don’t remember

very much about my childhood in

Carapita because we were always

moving from one place to another.

Then my mother married and moved

to La Candelaria; she got married to

my younger brother’s father. I met my

own father when I was thirteen. We

are four brothers and sisters on my

mother’s side. My mother’s name is

María de los Angeles Ramírez, and

my father is Luis Hernández; he’s

nothing in my life. My stepfather,

my mother’s husband, didn’t like

me or my older brother either; his

rejection made me feel unwanted

at home, that’s why I left. Most of

our stepfathers mistreated us. I had

several. We’re all sons and daughters

of different fathers.

I went to school in La Candelaria.

When I was eight I was in second

it by stealing or getting involved in

shady business; you know, you spend

the day casing a place, watching to

see who stays behind, who takes out

the money, all that, and then you’d

make your move.

I was twelve and sometimes I had as

much as five hundred thousand bo-

livars in my pocket. I didn’t steal on

the streets, because that seemed very

small-time to me. I always thought

big. I saw that the pickpockets earned

nothing. I’d left home to make more

than that and get my family out of

the hole they were in. I used to give

my mother money and I told her

that I was working and that I was

doing OK. I used to go to the house

when she wasn’t there. I’d talk to my

brothers and sisters and leave them

the money. I never thought of going

back home because I felt that if I did

I’d contaminate the others.

When I was high I felt as if I was

somewhere else; you clear your mind

of everything you don’t want there

and start to invent your own world. I

could smoke up to fifteen or twenty

joints a night. I was thirteen when I

grade at the Mariño District Unit;

I always went to school on my own.

It was then I started working in La

Hoyada market in the afternoons,

selling soft drinks, shoes, and clothes.

I kept studying up to sixth grade.

My mother worked all day and

didn’t know I was selling clothes or

anything. I always kept my family out

of all my problems.

I began getting involved in other

types of deals. I was ambitious. Ever

since I was small I had a goal: I

wanted to be somebody in life, but

unfortunately I took the wrong path:

drugs. I started smoking cigarettes

when I was nine and when I was

twelve I tried drugs: first marihuana,

then cocaine and crack. I left home

when I was twelve because I didn’t

want to hurt my mother or my

brothers and sisters. When you get

involved in the world of drugs it

makes you aggressive towards any-

one who’s close to you. I went to live

in El Chimborazo, a rundown part

of town. I spent my time in Pinto Sa-

linas and other shanty districts or bar-rios near La Candelaria. At that age

I was handling a lot of money; I got

136

Page 137: Venezuela the miracle of music

but when I went to the dining room

the older kids started coming down.

I said to myself: “What’s happening

here? I’m finished!” I didn’t have any

problems, because I put on my “It

wasn’t me” attitude and acted cool.

When I sat down to eat I wasn’t

hungry; all around me about ten kids

were asking me for my food. That

made me feel so bad, I gave it to them.

They asked me questions, but I didn’t

say anything because I’ve always kept

very much to myself. If I’d said I used

drugs or robbed people it would have

caused problems for me, because

the social workers would have done

their job: they’d have told the court

what this kid had been up to, and if

he’d been involved with drugs and

robberies he couldn’t stay at that

center. They would have transferred

me to a center they called the “mini-

Planta” (La Planta is a notorious

Caracas prison).

I was given a kitchen helper’s course

at Los Chorros, but then some

medicine went missing and everyone

was punished, and since I was a leader

my punishment was worse, I was

blamed. That really bugged me. One

day they asked me if I was going to

go to the course. I said yes, they gave

me bus money and I escaped. I never

went back. First I went to a friend’s

house in Parque Carabobo, I was

already fifteen, and then I went to

Carapita, a very poor neighborhood;

I got another gun and began using

drugs again. I started buying and

dealing drugs in La Hoyada, where

the street vendors are. I sold toys, but

that was just a front for the drugs.

One day there was a police raid, the

police caught me and, since I was on

a wanted list, I was taken back to Los

Chorros.

I wasn’t sure whether they would have

me back at Los Chorros because they

only took kids under fourteen and

I was already fifteen. Of course, it

helped that I didn’t have any negative

reports in the book. I was still the

leader, but I spent most of my time

alone because I didn’t trust anyone. I

began to watch the kids, their good

sides and their bad sides, all the things

they didn’t have and what I, like it or

not, had had. I got to thinking and

realized that I’d gotten myself into a

hole that I’d never get out of. Then

I decided to go straight. Just then

the Youth Orchestras Project came

to Los Chorros. I was bored and

didn’t want to do anything. But I’d

always liked music. I never dreamed

of playing an instrument. I liked

instrumental music, Venezuelan

music. Once I watched an orchestra

on television; I loved seeing all those

instruments together. That was the

National Youth Orchestra playing.

When the instruments arrived I

wanted to play the trumpet, but

there weren’t any left, they’d all been

assigned. The director, Manuel

Mijares, a fantastic teacher, a cellist,

told me that there was a clarinet left; I

didn’t know what that was. I was fasci-

nated when I saw it. It’s a very formal

and elegant instrument. He taught

me the first four notes. I played those

four notes all day because I didn’t have

a teacher. Then Freddy Velazco came

along; he showed me the first steps

and gave me classes, but he soon left.

After that Edgar Pronio arrived. He

got me really involved in music; he

taught me how to read music scores,

the language of music, and techniques.

I got out of Los Chorros when I was

seventeen. I went back to Carapita

to study high school and continue

with music. That was the agreement

I had with the judge. After being

locked up for so long you become

used to isolation, you feel inhibited,

ashamed and can’t look people in

the face. I never left the house. The

past plagued me. One day a boy I’d

once beaten up came by asking for

money to buy drugs; I told him I

didn’t have any. Even though I wasn’t

doing anything wrong, I went outside

the house, armed, and we had a fight.

At that moment I felt everything I

had achieved till then had slipped

away. Then five thugs armed with

automatic weapons came down

from the upper part of the shanty

district. The guys asked me what was

going on, I explained and they didn’t

do anything to me. Thank God!

From then on I began to realize how

important life is and I never went

back there again.

Seeing so much poverty all around

me, observing the messed-up

glue-sniffers, made me look at myself

in that mirror and realize that that

wasn’t what I wanted for myself.

That’s why I decided to study music.

Music saved my life; it helped let

out a lot of the anger I had inside.

If music hadn’t arrived, like Ignacio

Fombona arrived, a volunteer who

taught me how to work with wood

and helped me a lot with dealing

with my behavior and with my

reeducation, I wouldn’t be here today.

Music opened a door for me. Then

I really got down to it. I studied

cabinet making and, apart from that,

I’ve been playing and making music.

My clarinet means everything to me.

If I’m holding my instrument and

someone tries to take it away from

me I get very aggressive. They’ve

tried to steal it from me three times.

This clarinet was given to me on

my seventeenth birthday. It’s one of

the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

I always used to dream of having a

bicycle or lots of toys, but when I got

home and saw it there, I never asked

for anything else: it was enough. I’d

like Simon Rattle to conduct me. I

saw one of his rehearsals and I think

he’s a great maestro.

I’d have liked to have been born

into an environment where one

of the members of my family was

a musician, so as not to have gone

through what I did. Because, I swear,

I wouldn’t change music for anything.

The System of Youth and Children’s

Orchestras of Venezuela gave me

a new chance in life. The System

includes people, and Maestro Abreu

is the father of all this. I say this from

my heart: a father is not the person

who brings you into the world; he’s

the one who brings you up.

Author’s note: This testimony, the result of a long interview with Lennar Acosta in 2004, is taken from the book Venezuela Bursting with Orchestras and has been summarized for this edition. Today, Acosta is the director of Los Chorros Center (where, as he himself recounts here, he found his path to get ahead in life) and is responsible for the maintenance and care of the organ in the Simón Bolívar Concert Hall. He continues with his clarinet studies, an instrument he also teaches at Los Chorros Center.

137

Page 138: Venezuela the miracle of music

Top-notchteaching

Music education in Venezuela was faced with two choices. As Simón Rodríguez, the Liberator’s great teacher said: “Either we invent or we err.” And José Antonio Abreu preferred to invent.

Félix Petit

VI

Cha

pter

A new generation of outstanding trumpet players being forged at the Latin American Trumpet Academy with one of their teachers, Francisco “Pacho” Flores

Page 139: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 140: Venezuela the miracle of music

ince the second half of 20th Century, there has not been a more impressive, consolidated, over-whelming and futuristic musical training pro-gram in this part of the world than the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. Over a period of thirty-five years of constant work, our country has managed to demonstrate that the teaching method thought up by José Antonio Abreu is capable of winning over the hearts of thousands of children through art and cause such a visible multiplier and suc-cessful artistic explosion as the one that is being witnessed in Venezuela today.

It is not merely a matter of names, such as the young Venezuelan baton Gustavo Dudamel, or the fact that the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic is Edicson Ruíz, his fellow coun-tryman. The point here is that Venezuelan musi-cians are highly thought of and their preparation has reached very high standards, which has enabled them to pass the most demanding tests at competitions and on stages from Berlin to Japan, winning the acceptance of the complex international music industry and market.

The Venezuelan pianist David Ascanio, one of the System’s founders, comments the following: “Thanks to Abreu’s music teaching method, we Venezuelan musicians have lost our fear of playing symphonic music; we’ve lost our fear of the music stand, of the orchestra, of perform-ing concerts every week. He taught us to open our hearts, first to music and then to learning to play it. That’s why our performers have a more profound way of making music; they play from the heart and with the backing of collective excellence. This teaching method has illumi-nated generation after generation of musicians with no complexes whatsoever.”

Staff by staff

Breaking paradigms, already far removed from the traditional methods of the conservatories, the essence of the System’s style of teaching combines intensive group practice from the ear-liest age and the commitment to keep the joy, fun, and pleasure of making music permanently alive. In a nutshell: “first passion, then polishing.”

tended with disciplineA breeding ground

140

Page 141: Venezuela the miracle of music

A child who enters the System between the ages of three and five starts off in the Music Initiation Program. During that first stage, which Abreu calls the phase of encountering and becoming sensi-tized to music, the children play musical games and they are taught children’s songs and manual activities to stimulate the development of their motor functions. They are gradually guided towards developing their sense of rhythm and polyrhythm using their bodies and they become familiar with toy instruments.

Then, during the second stage, called the Musi-cal Induction Phase, they are given the first theo-retical and practical notions of musical forms, while at the same time they develop their audio-perceptive skills. Once the child has an idea of the instruments that make up the orchestra, he moves on to the Instrument Selection Phase, where he is given guidance in selecting an instrument that he likes and suits his natural abilities and he starts to study it.

Finally, the student, who by now has made progress and is between six and eight years of age, goes on to the Instrument Playing Phase, which is conducted in group classes held in

the orchestra or by instrument section or in instrument ensembles, so opening up the world of putting together the different parts of a symphonic work selected by the teacher based on the pupil’s level of knowledge. He starts on the wonderful adventure of the rehearsals and, of course the most exciting part, almost weekly concerts, during which he loses his fear of play-ing in public.

Music stand by music stand

Parallel to this teaching plan, which is imple-mented throughout the System’s national network –in other words in all the nuclei in Venezuela-, there is a process of moving up through the ranks by practicing with the instru-ments: the student-players join the pre-school orchestras and children’s orchestras, and, later, move on to the youth orchestras. Last of all, the most talented players are selected, by means of tough auditions, to occupy a place in the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orches-tra, either group “A” or group “B.” It is there, of course, that they acquire most experience and the highest professional level.

Abreu never stops being a teacher. He often makes time in his busy agenda to be present at special auditions

141

Page 142: Venezuela the miracle of music

Each of the orchestras, in the different catego-ries, is literally a battlefield, a field of com-petitiveness, and promotes striving among the pupils, both individually and as a group. For ex-ample, the children and adolescents who put in a lot of effort and progress have a chance to “win” prizes consisting of attending advanced courses, workshops, seminars, rehearsals or concerts with Venezuelan and international teachers of considerable standing, such as musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic, or world famous personali-ties such as Placido Domingo, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Kristof Penderecki, Yo-Yo Ma, Nikolaus Harnoncourt or other visitors of note.

More than 3,500 teachers, most of whom are founders of the youth orchestras and have re-ceived all their training in the System over a pe-riod of three decades, are in charge of “ polishing” the new generations of “diamonds” coming along behind them to prepare them to take the baton and guarantee the continuity and unend-ing progress of this great cultural enterprise.

Scenarios for attaining goals

While it is true that each nucleus and each orchestra in the country are schools where the contingents of children and adolescents who have been assimilated into the System are trained daily, since 1980, approximately, teaching plan has included the creation of exemplary, model teaching structures as scenarios for training and polishing our musicians.

As the demand of children wishing to join the System and its nuclei has grown, the projects for building new teaching centers have increased. By 2011 FundaMusical Simón Bolívar had the following national teaching centers: the Mon-talbán Children’s Academic Center, the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, the Center for Social Action through Music, the Luthiery Academic Center, and twelve Latin American Academies: for Violin, Viola, Cello, Flute, Piano, Double-bass, Clarinet, Horn, Oboe, Trumpet, Bassoon, and Percussion.

The maestro’s gestures reveal his rigorousness when it comes to teaching

142

Page 143: Venezuela the miracle of music

Montalbán Children’s Academic Center (CAIM) is one of the most original educa-tion platforms and the one that has had the greatest impact of all those created by the System. Lo cated in the Caracas neighborhood of Montalbán, it has had many successes since it opened in 1998 under the management of Susan Siman (a violinist and former member of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra) and cur-rently under André González. CAIM, together with the Center for Social Action through Music, is, undoubtedly, the most attractive show-case where the most prestigious maestros and personalities of the international music world are able to enjoy watching and listening to the future musicians being cultivated in this seedbed.

CAIM started out with 120 children and today, in 2010, it has some 1,200 pupils or more who are taught by 60 teachers from the time they are babies of 36 months until they are 15 or 16 years old, by which time they have completed the eight teaching stages and are ready to move on to a higher level of training, which they obtain at the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, the Latin American Academies, and also at the University Institute for Music Education (IUDEM), an initiative that, today, is attached to the Experi-mental University of the Arts (UNEARTE).

Every morning and afternoon, Montalbán becomes the perfect scenario for discovering how the pool of good musicians is “nourished and grows” “right from the cradle,” with the support and participation of the mothers in the classrooms, as many of the little ones are still bottle-fed and use diapers.

The Simón Bolívar Music Conservatory, located in the Caracas neighborhood of El Paraíso, was founded in 1975 based on a con-cept that is very different to that of traditional conservatories. Today it is run by the teacher and clarinetist Valdemar Rodríguez. Its mission is to support the academic training, to the highest level, of more than 150,000 of the System’s musicians who hope to get their diplomas as Performing Musicians, a qualification that is endorsed by the People’s Power Ministry for Education in Venezuela.

Every year, some 1,200 students from all parts of Venezuela, many of them instrument players with years of experience in orchestras, take advanced classes from 120 teachers in Theory and Sight-Reading, Instrument, Texture (Coun-terpoint and Harmony), History of Music, Aes-thetics, Chamber Music, Orchestra Practice, and Complementary Piano. The courses with

Harnoncourt and Dudamel at a master class with the SJVSB Placido Domingo during a master class-rehearsal with the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra

143

Page 144: Venezuela the miracle of music

the largest number of students are Violin, Flute, Singing, and Cuatro (a four-stringed guitar).

Besides the regular classes, the Conserva-tory’s 36 classrooms are used to hold seminars and master classes. At weekends in particular, the Conservatory is overflowing with pupils, teachers, and cultural managers, as courses are also held there on the guidelines of the Regional Teaching Plan aimed at consolidating academic centers at FundaMusical Simón Bolívar’s re-gional nuclei. Many musicians from other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean who have come to our country to take advanced courses and obtain technical advice and music teaching are also to be found there.

The Simón Bolívar Music Conservatory is currently setting up other academic centers along the same lines in the Venezuelan provinces to cater to advanced students in other parts of the country who are unable to travel to or live in Caracas. An interesting and flourishing project has been started up with the Simón Bolívar Conservatory in Guárico state, in the Venezuelan Llanos or plains region, the Guárico Nucleus. This center has the System’s best teachers who live in nearby states or who travel from Caracas on Saturdays and Sundays to give classes in a variety of musical instruments.

As is customary at every one of the System’s premises, the Simón Bolívar Conservatory lends itself to all kinds of activities: Fridays, Saturdays, and some Sundays it becomes the venue for recitals, concert seasons, or musical celebrations of graduations or promotions, events that are held in its Iván Adler Concert Hall with seating for 50 people. And, to complete its mission and to give a boost to its pupils’ artistic development, it is the home of the Caracas Youth Orchestra, the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Band, the Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz, and the brand new Simón Bolívar Latin-Caribbean Orchestra.

The System puts emphasis on one-to-one teacher-pupil training, such as the training Lila Vivas receives from teachers of the stature of Luis Miguel González

144

Page 145: Venezuela the miracle of music

Constant, disciplined work every day bears fruit: getting to the top

145

Page 146: Venezuela the miracle of music

mong the generation of Venezuelan musi-cians educated in the System of Youth and

Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, Valdemar Rodríguez’s artistic career is one of the most complete and most promising. This clarinetist, born in Yaracuy and who began playing when he was barely five years old, has come a very long way thanks to his talent and tenacity. Before being selected to join the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, where he is the main clarinetist, he belonged to the Yaracuy Youth Orchestra and to the Valencia Symphony Orchestra; after that he took advanced classes with the eminent teacher Luis Rossi and continued his training in master classes with distinguished teachers in Europe and the United States.

But it is his artistic experience that has made him a reference among the Continent’s clarinetists.

He has performed as a soloist all over Latin America, did a recital tour with the pianist David Ascanio, has been the soloist in symphony and youth orchestras in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and Chile, and has taken part in international tours in Europe and Latin America, and then, of course, there are his outstanding performances with Venezuela’s major youth and symphony orchestras.

However, thanks to his teaching abilities and his efficiency as a manager, there were two new jobs in store for him: as Director of the Latin Ameri-can Clarinet Academy and as Deputy Executive Director of FundaMusical Simón Bolívar).

Valdemar Rodríguez told us: “The biggest satisfactions in my professional life have been with my students, because I’ve developed the ability to

and managerial tenacityFoolproof artistic

146

Page 147: Venezuela the miracle of music

discover talents and turn them into professional clarinetists. I believe that this immense passion for teaching is part of my mission in life to help people, particularly people in my country.”

How would you describe your work at the head of the Latin American Clarinet Academy? I’ve made an effort to create a solid clarinet school throughout Venezuela and now, after teaching in many countries in Latin America, I’m seeing the results. Our Clarinet Faculty has a large number of foreigners from South and Central America and has been endorsed by professors from the Paris Conservatory, universities in the United States, international soloists and orchestra con-ductors, and maestros from the Berlin Philhar-monic, among others, as one of the best clarinet schools with more than twenty top clarinetists. This gives me great satisfaction because I’ve been teaching clarinet for more than twenty years. I’ve organized six international clarinet festivals, and that’s part of the pride I feel at being a representa-tive of Venezuelan workers.

How did the Academy evolve?The Latin American Clarinet Academy was formed gradually, step by step. It started as course with eight Venezuelan pupils, who achieved a high level of technical skill and an admirable level of musical development. It was then that a lot of Venezuelan and some Latin American clarinetists applied for the course, and the academy had to find more fellow clarinetists to come and give classes, but using a system of rotating teachers and pupils rather than the traditional setup, so that pupils were able to benefit from the knowledge each teacher had to offer. Apart from that, we had the opportunity to learn to teach, play chamber music, play as soloists, and play in an orchestra, producing all-round clarinetists capable of addressing the clarinet’s various possibilities. Maestros of many nationalities and soloists of international renown come to Venezuela to teach and contribute to the development of the Latin American Clarinet Academy’s pupils.

Valdemar Rodríguez explains that there are two ways to enter the academy. The first, and simplest, is to send in a video, which is evaluated by four of

the academy’s teachers; and the second is to give an audition to those same teachers.

The clarinet: the passion he doesn’t abandon

Although love isn’t something you explain, tell us about your love for teaching.It’s my passion, it’s what I have learned most about and developed. I’ve been teaching for nearly 30 years, at all levels, from beginners to a master’s course, and I enjoy them all. So far I’ve given classes in Canada, the United States, and in nearly all the countries in Latin America, and I’ve also given master classes at the Tchaikovsky Conser-vatory in Moscow and at Beijing Language and Culture University; and now I’ve been invited to give classes in Portugal, China, and Denmark.

What have been the most significant advances and changes at the Simón Bolívar Conserva-tory since you’ve been in charge?Since 1997, we’ve been introducing changes, the idea being to permanently update the Conserva-

Young soloists get their first chance to shine during the International Clarinet Festival

147

Page 148: Venezuela the miracle of music

tory and to be able to offer training of the highest level, both artistically and in terms of teaching quality, to the growing number of pupils, a total of 1,200 to date (2010). One of our achievements has been that we are now able to grant a diploma in instrument playing, which allows graduates to continue their studies at university or other higher education establishments. As for the curriculum, we have increased the number of subjects to offer a very complete course of study where orchestra practice accounts for about 70 percent. Apart from that, the Simón Bolívar Conservatory has emerged as the head organiza-tion and a model for a network of conservatories that already exist in Yaracuy, Carabobo, Aragua, Guárico, and Ciudad Bolívar. But now we have a challenge that is both exciting and gives me much pleasure: that of broadening the artistic horizons of that large contingent of pupils currently in the System and those who will be entering it in the future. I’m talking about new programs: the Venezuelan Popular Music Teaching Program; the Urban Music Program; the Jazz Program, which is already under way with our Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz Orchestra; and the Latin and Caribbean Music Program, which includes the genre salsa.

Has the International Clarinet Festival been a thermometer for measuring t he Academy’s work?To a large extent, yes. The Festival has shown those high levels of training and has provided an opportunity to appreciate how competitive our clarinetists are and the astonishing artistic progress they’ve made. Years ago, when we started, it was impossible to think that a 15- or 18-year-old could play Aaron Copland’s Concert for Clarinet and Orchestra. Today, they do it and come away triumphant. We’ve held eight Festivals so far (now it’s every two years), and it has become an event that attracts outstanding clarinet maestros and

players, which means that I have had the enor-mous satisfaction of seeing the fruits of my work.

Finally, how do you manage to combine all that passion for teaching and the artistic side with your managerial responsibilities as FundaMusical Simón Bolívar’s Deputy Executive Director?I’ve been Deputy Executive Director since 1999, and I can say that it is more than an obliga-tion, a duty, and a pleasure because I have been able to develop and channel my desire to give: it’s knowing that you are in a position and have the power to give, help, and do good to a lot of people. Of course, I’ve had to learn about lots of things: laws, politics, dealing with government agencies, administrative matters, negotiating, budgets, communi cation, publicity, and public relations. I’m basically a musician who learned to sacrifice many other things, but to sacrifice them willingly for Venezuela and for our chil-dren and young people.

148

Page 149: Venezuela the miracle of music

149

Page 150: Venezuela the miracle of music

osé Antonio Abreu did not forget a single detail when he created the National

System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. He not only gave thought to the network of orchestras and chamber music ensembles, the speedy and dynamic method of teaching, the extremely high levels of ex cellence and artistic quality, and the international prestige of his pupils, but he was also able to “buttress” the Simón Bolívar Music Founda-tion with organizations that would provide Venezuelan musicians with all the support they need, such as ensuring the supply and constant maintenance of musical instruments.

That is how the Luthiery Academic Center (CAL) was born, oriented towards the techni-cal and artisanal aspects of the craft. Founded in 1982 with the idea of training professionals in the fabrication, maintenance, and repair of symphonic and popular music instruments, today it is run by Henry Parra, with the support of Richard Arellano, who coordinates the area

of plucked string instruments, Nelson Nobre in charge of the area of bow instruments, and a large staff of master artisans and numerous apprentices.

One of the CAL’s main purposes is to repair and maintain the instruments used by the youth and children’s orchestras around the country. And as the number of children and adolescents joining the System has increase, so too has the demand for this service, with the result that, today, CAL has 10 centers in different parts of the country.

However, its work is not limited to the System’s nuclei and to Venezuela. Through the Social Action through Music Program’s Itinerant Luthiery Workshop, promoted and supported by the Andean Development Corporation, the System collaborates with the training of luthiers in Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.

Every year there are more youngsters who want to make their way in the world of music, and many of them find they have a special talent

with a heartInstruments

150

Page 151: Venezuela the miracle of music

and a vocation for artisanal work and for taking care of instruments. What is more, there is an increasing demand for people to repair and fabricate instruments for the System’s growing student population. To meet this demand, the Academic-Technical Wind Instrument Center was created and set up at Los Chorros Nucleus in Caracas. There a group of specialist teachers give classes to young apprentices aged between 14 and 25, who learn about maintaining and repairing woodwind instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon) and metal wind instru-ments (trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba).

Henry Parra, who also teaches the Luthiery 1 Workshop, speaks of his work with pride: “I’ve been working for FESNOJIV for more than 20 years and one of my dreams is to completely satisfy the domestic market and flood it with our handmade instruments, lovingly cut and put together. What matters to us most at the CAL is that each violin, each viola, each cuatro made here ends up in the hands of one of the System’s students and that they are proud to have them and play them,” he comments.

Richard Arellano, a concert guitarist and a luthier instructor at the Guitar Workshop, talks about his work: “Being both a luthier and a guitarist has meant I’ve forged strong ties with the sole and essence of these instruments. Because of that, I’m able to solve a large number of details when it comes to making them, because I know about the tone, tuning and different types of pitch for guitars, for example. That’s why we aim to get our students to know and love music,” he concludes.

Rómulo Alaluna Calderón, is from Peru and came to Venezuela more than 25 years ago. He specializes in bows and strings, and his violins, in particular, are much sought after. He points out that in order to be a good luthier you have to have a vocation and knowledge of music. “The first thing the student has to learn at the CAL is to identify the different types of wood; that is what determines the quality of the instrument. After that, once the cutting of the wood starts, every-thing flows with passion and, last of all, the instru-ment is sealed with a unique color of varnish. 

Craftsmen bring patience and love to the fabrication of instruments that will eventually be used by the System’s youngsters

151

Page 152: Venezuela the miracle of music

ther platforms for seeking excellence and music specialization are the Latin Ameri-

can Academies, true schools for virtuosi and interpreters of considerable stature. FESNOJIV and FundaMusical Simón Bolívar now have en-trusted this responsibility to outstanding teachers who have had distinguished artistic careers with their instruments of choice and have the know-how that is essential for polishing talent.

The people in charge of the Latin American Academies are: José Francisco del Castillo (violin), William Molina (cello), Félix Petit (double bass), Valdemar Rodríguez (clarinet), Ulises Aragón (horn), Víctor Rojas y José Gar-cía (flute), Francisco “Pacho” Flores and Gaudi Sánchez (trumpet), Omar Ascanio (bassoon), Andrés Eloy Medina (oboe), Annette León (classical harp), María Beatriz Cárdenas (viola), and Miguel Sánchez (trombone).

One of the most remarkable examples of the benefits that the Latin American Academies have brought is the Venezuelan music movement’s pool of magnificent violinists, under the guidance of José Francisco del Castillo. Here are just some of the violinists “molded” by Castillo who have already made an international name for them-selves: Ulyses Ascanio, Osane Ibáñez, Alejandro Ramírez, Jesús Hernández, Claudio González, Carlos Riazuelo, Zaralina Núñez, Joén Vázquez,

Paul Herrera, Ramón Román, Jesús Alfonzo, Ismael Vázquez, Ana Beatriz Manzanillo, Tarcisio Barreto, Carlos Villamizar, Antonio Mayorca, Claudia Villasmil, Joel Nieves, José Saglim-beni, José Scolaro, Edgar Aponte, Octavio Rico, Eddy Marcano, Sergio Celis, Dietrich Paredes, Alexis Cárdenas, Alejandro Carreño, currently the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s concertino, and even Gustavo Dudamel.

Maestro del Castillo, the founder of the first Latin American Academy, the Violin Academy, and undoubtedly one of the System’s most loved and respected veteran teachers, comments that, for more than 30 years, he has had the opportunity to improve his teaching methods every day, so making it possible to obtain better results. “I think that progress has been achieved with the present generations of pupils in less time, more quickly, because, surprisingly, very young children, even from the time they are tiny tots, play to a high level of excellence. That is due, of course, to the fact that we have created a teaching system that streamlines, analyzes each facet of the different technical and musical aspects, instilling in the pupil a spirit of self-criticism and discipline. Generally speaking, the same teaching criteria are used throughout as all the teachers come from the same school. That’s the reason for the success of the Venezuelan school of violin playing.”

as the loadstarExcelence

152

Page 153: Venezuela the miracle of music

Cellist and teacher William Molina, who was one of the first members of the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra and has studied at the Paris Conservatory (thanks to a scholarship he won in a competition in which he beat 180 cello players from around the world), founded the Latin American Cello Academy, where he has perfected the talent of Venezuelan cello players such as Miguel Rojas, Juan Carlos Rosales, Francis Vásquez, Juan Pablo Méndez, Horacio Contreras, and Cecilia Palma, to name but a few.

Molina says with much satisfaction that many his fellow cello players from the SJVSB has be-come his pupils and that “we also have students from other countries, such as Ecuador, Argen-tina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Mexico. In other words, we’re changing the history of music: before we had to study music abroad. I had to go to France, and now a lot of French musi-cians are studying in Venezuela. We’ve created an interactive method with the help of tele-workshops produced by the Inocente Carreño Audiovisual Center. I think all our teachers have tried to tropicalize the knowledge acquired in Europe. To put it briefly, we seek the individual and collective development of the musicians, but very much in our own style, full of passion and energy.”

Félix Petit is the founder of the Latin American Double Bass Academy and confesses that he is a product of the System and the music teaching method created by Abreu. Petit deserves recognition as Edicson Ruíz’s teacher, and he speaks of him with great delight: “I’ve been a double-bass player with the Caracas Municipal Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years and I also have the joy that harvesting the fruits of my work has brought me: the position Edicson Ruíz has won with the Berlin Philharmonic after so much hard work and also the successes of other pupils of mine, Joan González, who is the main double-bass player with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, and Gabriel León, who is with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra.” Petit maintains that there is no special secret to discovering and guiding so many musical talents. “The boys and girls trained in the System have a very special attitude; they always maintain their freshness, force, and vitality. There is no magic formula for getting ahead: here you have to study, then study some more, and remain alert and active. What works the miracle here is the method for learning the instrument, which is one hundred percent innovative as it breaks with the parameters of the traditional, orthodox conservatory, and besides that, we made the discovery of how to learn the instrument by playing and making music.”

The forger of the best violinists the country has had in the last 30 years: the much loved teacher José Francisco del Castillo and director of FESNOJIV’s Latin American Violin Academy

Félix Petit with his pupil Edicson Ruíz

153

Page 154: Venezuela the miracle of music

ne of the key values imparted to the musi-cians of the System is the quest for excellence in any activity they undertake. With that in mind, FundaMusical Simón Bolívar has developed an extensive platform for providing advanced tech-nical, musical, artistic, and managerial training.

Thanks to the organization of seminars, master classes, intensive courses, and Latin American chairs and promotional efforts to obtain inter-national grants and gain entry to international competitions, the musicians of the youth and children’s orchestras have been able to speed up their advanced training, obtain constant feed-back, keep up to date with what is happening in the music world, and have contact with great maestros and personalities.

In addition, thanks to international agreements, Venezuela has become a major center of music specialization, particularly in Latin America. This is a two-way street, since, just as our maestros offer their knowhow to a fair number of musicians in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil,

Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and other countries, so renowned musicians and guest professors from France, Belgium, the United States, Germany, Austria, England, and Italy come to Venezuela to give series of classes of the highest level.

Nearly 30 seminars are held each year, some internal for pupils from the nuclei in the provinces, and others national aimed at the System’s most outstanding pupils and that are also open to foreign students. The System’s most experienced teachers are in charge of giving these seminars, among them Félix Petit (double bass), William Molina and César Noguera (cello), Ulyses Ascanio, Sergio Celis, Ramón Román, and Alexis Cárdenas (violin), Fernando Ruíz, Javier Aragón and Jairo Hernández (brass), Víctor Rojas and José García (flute), Andrés Eloy Medina (oboe), Omar Ascanio (bassoon), Valdemar Rodríguez and Edgar Pronio (clari-net), Edgar Saume (percussion), and Frank Di Polo and Santiago Garmendia (viola).

conservatoryA two-way world

154

Page 155: Venezuela the miracle of music

From Germany with passion

Since 2001, the Simón Bolívar Music Foun-dation has made a tremendous leap in advis-ing on and providing advanced training in a variety of instruments. Thanks to the academic arrangement between the System and the Berlin Philharmonic, seminars of the highest level have been organized each year by this orchestra’s musicians for the string, brass, and woodwind rows and sections.

These seminars have been a revelation for everyone taking part in them: causing surprise and admiration in the foreign guest professors when they discover the pool of good musicians in Venezuela, the magnificent level of prepara-tion they have, and the speed with which they acquire new knowledge, on the one hand; and, on the other, producing satisfaction in the Venezuelan teachers when they confirm, during the seminars, that their pupils are on a par with any great player in the world.

Thomas Clamor, first trumpet of the Berlin Philharmonic and who currently conducts the Venezuela Brass Ensemble, describes, with deep feeling, the relationship he has forged over more than eight consecutive years with the youngsters of the Youth Orchestras: “I keep coming back to Venezuela because I am definitely in love with this program and this country. The way I see it, making music is being able to achieve spiritual harmony, and here that’s a dream come true. In Venezuela, I’ve found fresh inspiration for my professional career, and the entire System, from

Felicitas Hofmeister, a teacher and the first violinist of the Berlin Philharmonic, shares her secrets with the musicians of our Venezuelan orchestras

the top down to the last child, binds me to this country.”

The Venezuelan percussionist and teacher Edgar Saume sums up his experience at these seminars with the German musicians: “Obviously the German teachers have discovered a gold mine here; they’re impressed by the talent of our young percussionists, how well they’re trained, the variety of trends and genres of music they take on, and how fast they learn. That simply confirms that our musicians can go and play anywhere in the world because they have what it takes and know how to do it. Moreover, it tells us that the method of education has been effective and of the right quality. We’re on the right path.”

155

Page 156: Venezuela the miracle of music

A pact with Viennese tradition

“This is an historic day for music and culture in Venezuela. The Vienna Conservatory has always been a reference for our country when it comes to music and this artistic and education cooperation agreement we’ve reached sums up magnificently one of the most important mo-ments in the 30 years of successes garnered by the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras

exchanges of soloists and teachers have, in fact, taken place.

A musical dialog with Asia

Besides awakening uncommon emotions among the audiences, the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra’s two-month tour of Asia towards the end of 2008 gave rise to an extremely important relationship that will bear fruit in the coming years.

In Beijing, a technological integration agreement was reached in the area of instrument fabrication, via the creation of a mixed bi-national company, to put FESNOJIV’s production on an industrial scale. In addition, a teaching plan was drawn up that will permit the exchange of teachers on two levels: teachers for children and young people and facilitators specializing in teacher training. And, last of all, it was decided to found a bi-national orchestra, which was to make its debut at Expo Shanghai 2010.

In Korea, an arrangement was reached for an ex-change with Korea’s most important music con-servatories in the field of music education for children and young people, which contemplates the support of the conductor Sung Kwak and also provides for Takeshi Kobayashi returning to Venezuela to give courses to a new generation of musicians who hope to teach children.

Then, in Japan, where our Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra was already well known thanks to its two previous tours there, several invaluable agreements were reached, including the scheduling of a series of engagements for Venezuelan ensembles at theaters in Asia, as a result of which, the Venezuela Brass Ensemble, Venezuela Winds Quintet, the Millennium Quartet, the Simón Bolívar Quartet, and the Atalaya Ensemble are to appear at China’s National Theater for the Performing Arts, Seoul Arts Center, and Tokyo International Forum.

The Albéniz Foundation, chaired by Paloma O’Shea, will make it possible offer a course leading to Master’s in Music in Venezuela

of Venezuela.” Those were the opening words of José Antonio Abreu’s speech, in November 2006, at the signing of the Cooperation Agree-ment with the Vienna Conservatory, located very near the historically famous house where Mozart spent much of his life.

The director of the Vienna Conservatory, Ranko Markovic, explained that the agreement consists of cooperation and exchanges on the technical and artistic levels and in the areas of teaching and programming between the System and the Viennese conserva-tory. Abreu announced the holding of a Biennial Music Festival between Austria and Venezuela. And thanks to this agreement,

Musical Director Sung Kwak greets Maestro Abreu during a performance given by the SJVSB in Korea

156

Page 157: Venezuela the miracle of music

After the seminars, everyone lets off steam

157

Page 158: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 159: Venezuela the miracle of music

Talentfor export

VII

Cha

pter

We don’t have individual goals, they’re always collective. I’m a creation of the System, and in the future I’ll always be there, working for the

up-and-coming generations.

Gustavo Dudamel

Page 160: Venezuela the miracle of music

m still the child who started playing with mu-sic as a game, and I don’t want to lose that

child. It’s true that, as time passes, one matures, which for me means humility.” That phrase spoken time and again by someone who, today, is on the Mount Olympus of world classical music is the best clue when it comes to deciphering and telling the story of the artistic career of the Venezuelan Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez (born on January 26, 1981, in Barquisimeto, Lara state), the most shining example of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela.

There is no doubt that, while his life is happily linked to the successful Venezuelan social and mu-sical program, Dudamel is writing his own score in a highly personal and intimate style. Because the young man who now steps up to the podium of the most eminent stages and stands before the most prestigious symphony orchestras still carries

that child within him: that only child who, in the solitude of his room organized his toy figures in semicircles, just like an orchestra, and had them listen to music. His grandmother and companion on his tours, Engracia de Dudamel, recalls how he manifested his interest in music at the age of four. “Gustavo loved music from the time he was tiny. One day I took him to a concert where his father, my son Oscar, was playing. I thought he was going to fall asleep, but he paid attention throughout the entire program and, at the end, he said to me: ‘Grandma, I really like that music.’ His interest was so great that we sent him to study with the System, at the Barquisimeto Center.”

At that age, his arms were still too short to play the trombone, the instrument he saw every day at home, but how captivated he was when his father, a professional trombonist who played Latin music and salsa, and his mother, Solange

deciphers the score of his lifeDudamel

160

Page 161: Venezuela the miracle of music

Ramírez, a singer, filled his home with lively music, very different from the music that was starting to fascinate him, the music he would read in the scores copied on the blackboard of the Jacinto Lara Conservatory in his home town, where his first teacher, Luis Giménez, who recalls Gustavo’s early days, still works.

“He arrived at the Center like so many children who come to the System today, but he imme-diately showed signs of great talent; he learned everything with ease right from the start and was able to progress rapidly. When he was 10, in 1991, we gave him his first violin and his first vio-lin lessons, which he continued later in Caracas with José Francisco del Castillo. Today, when I watch Gustavo conducting, I feel I wasn’t mis-taken: from the start, it was clear that Gustavo would become an all-round musician with a very fresh style of conducting and, above all, a trait he always demonstrated, with tremendous personality,” says Giménez.

With the score in his head

The young Dudamel made rapid progress and had the unconditional support of his family. In Lara Children’s Orchestra, Gustavo was chosen to be concertino, when he was only 12, a position he con-tinued to hold in the Amadeus Youth Orchestra. However, his path was a different one. One after-noon, when Luis Giménez arrived late for rehearsal, he discovered that one of the Amadeus Orchestra’s small musicians had already started to play. “It was great, it was like seeing a regular conductor,” recalls Giménez, who immediately appointed Gustavo assistant conductor of the orchestra. With his ex-ceptional musical instinct, the young novice started his orchestral conducting lessons with Rodolfo Saglimbeni. But still in store for him were the rigor and definitive vision of José Antonio Abreu, who took on the tutoring of the talents of all the orches-tra nuclei around the country personally.

In 1998, Abreu saw Dudamel conduct Lara Children’s Orchestra in Barquisimeto. When the concert was over, the maestro talked to Gustavo’s grandparents and told them: “I have to take him to Caracas for his advanced stud-

ies.” By then, Dudamel was already 17, and he moved to Caracas and lived in Parque Central, very near the Teresa Carreño Cultural Com-plex where the José Félix Ribas concert hall is located and where both the National Youth Orchestra and the SJVSB hold their rehearsals and performances. It was in this small corner of the city that Dudamel spent intense weeks and years of training; Maestro Abreu’s offices were even there, as at that time he was Minister for Culture, and found time to attend to the de velopment of his pupils. And in that coexis-tence with artists, Dudamel met the person who was to later become his wife, the ballet dancer Eloísa Maturén, an outstanding member of the Teresa Carreño Ballet.

Being a true Aquarian, in particular as regards his creative abilities, did not distract him from his goal. Focused, with his feet firmly on the ground, Dudamel battled with the mountain of material he had to learn, which suddenly grew. He wasted not a single day of Abreu’s teachings. It was the time for absorbing everything, for listening to everything, for acquiring as many skills as possible, otherwise how was going to face the tough battlefield of the European music world? “José Antonio taught me to study the scores and record them inside me, almost memorize them, no less,” recalls Dudamel, “because as he sees it, there are two types of maestros: those who have the score in their head and those who have their heads in the score.”

Dudamel’s days became a kind of permanent hurricane. Abreu pushed Gustavo at full speed towards the youngster’s own goals… more and more pieces from the symphonic repertoire to study, rehearsal after rehearsal. Then came the opportunity for the first tour of Italy and the Maestro gave him the responsibility of conducting the National Children’s Orchestra, when he was to interpret Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Abreu prepared him personally for this first international test, and success was not long in coming: Dudamel caused a great impact among the Italians. It was then, in 1999, that he met the conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, whom he thinks of as his first foreign mentor.

On the day of his First Communion with his parents, Oscar Dudamel and Solange Ramírez. At his nursery school in his bullfighter’s costume. With his wife, Eloísa Maturén

161

Page 162: Venezuela the miracle of music

Between 1999 and 2003, Gustavo underwent an amazing artistic baptismal fire that many great orchestra conductors would like to have expe-rienced, even at a later stage in their lives. His school as a conductor was the renowned stages of Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Italy, France, and the United States, countries where he had his first successes alongside the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela. During those years, he met two of his most fervent and consistent international supporters: Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle.

A prince in the orchestra kingdom

Modest, even when fans come up to ask for his autograph, good-looking, with enviable youth and freshness; that is Gustavo Dudamel and fame has not changed him. That charisma and his electrifying temperament, full of vitality and energy, were his best calling cards at the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition 2004 in Bamberg, Germany, where he won the day over 15 outstanding competitors from thirteen countries, thanks to his excellent and passionate conducting of pieces by Mahler, Schubert, and the Venezuelan Aldemaro Romero (Fuga con pajarillo), interpreted by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. “I didn’t understand when they an-nounced me as the winner because they were speaking in German. All of a sudden people started me and, at that moment I asked myself, ‘Could it be that I won?’” recalls Gustavo several years after the experience that opened the doors of all the world’s orchestras to him. The news spread quickly: the new prince of orchestral conducting had been born in Bamberg.

The year 2005 was a decisive year, the start of a great artistic tour, which was not free of unexpected quirks of fate, which, fortunately, worked in Gustavo’s favor. Maestro Frans Brüg-gen fell ill, for example, and the organizers of the International Beethoven Festival thought of Dudamel to take his place to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His perfor-mance was so spectacular that the Venezuelan was awarded the “Beethoven Ring” as the best

conductor of the German composer’s Symphony No. 5. In the summer of that same year, Dudamel “fell in love” with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (and its musicians with him), and, one year later, he was appointed principal conductor of this Swedish orchestra, a position he was to occupy starting in 2007. But the stellar perfor-mances and triumphs of that year did not end there, Dudamel made his début with eight more orchestras: the Berlin Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall in London; the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv; the Orchestra of the Academy of Saint Cecilia, Rome; the Camerata Salzburg; the National Philharmonic Orchestra (Great Britain); the Royal Stockholm Philhar-monic Orchestra; the Radio France Philhar-monic Orchestra; and the Los Angeles Phil-harmonic, and they all issued further invitations for the coming years. Besides that, Dudamel redoubled his efforts and conducted the SJVSB in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Germany; and the year was brought to a spectacular close with an exclusive ten-year recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

What came next is already history, still fresh in the memories of his followers and, naturally, of his closest observers: the music critics who try to decipher the Dudamel phenomenon. Between 2006 and 2009, he added débuts with more than 15 new orchestras to his belt, among them the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orches-tra (England), the Saxon State Orchestra of Dresden, the Gurzenich Orchestra of Cologne (Germany), the Philharmonic Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and the Berlin State Opera with which he conducted Donizetti’s L‘Elixir D’Amore. But the great contract that was to bring some calm to the whirlwind of engagements finally came in 2007: he was appointed as the new musical director of the Los Angeles Philhar-monic for five years starting in the 2009-2010 season. During those years, Dudamel was given a monarch’s reception in the United States; he conducted no fewer than four US orchestras apart from the Los Angeles Philharmonic: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Sym-phony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony

Engracia de Dudamel, his grandmother and traveling companion, and Daniel Vielma, his childhood friend and collaborator. With Maestro Abreu and Alejandro Carreño, fellow member and concertino of the SJVSB (center). During a picnic in Los Angeles with Eloísa, the film director Alberto Arvelo, and the composer Nascuy Linares

162

Page 163: Venezuela the miracle of music

Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, and he also took the SJVSB to Carnegie Hall, sharing the podium with Rattle.

A much awaited appearance was Dudamel’s début with the Berlin Philharmonic. That happened in 2008 before an audience of more than 20,000 that filled Berlin’s prestigious concert venue, the Waldbühne and was a great success. The same year saw the launching of his third CD, Fiesta, a collection of Latin American pieces. Between 2008 and 2009, Dudamel appeared in more than 15 countries, including Asia, and his agenda is booked solid until 2016. Not to be overlooked is an unprecedented event in Venezuela’s musical history: our young conduc-tor and his SJVSB proved the popular saying that “no one is a prophet in his own land” wrong when they drew a crowd of more than 20,000 at the Luis Aparicio Stadium in Maracaibo, Zulia state.

It was precisely in Maracaibo that Gustavo Dudamel confessed before a distinguished audi-ence of doctors and professors at Zulia Universi-ty, which paid tribute to him by awarding him an honorary doctorate: “I’m not a child prodigy or a genius, much less the savior of classical music. I’m just at the start of my career and I have to work very hard to successfully complete all its stages,” making it clear, once again, that there is little danger of him “cutting” himself on the double-edged sword of fame. And if there were any doubt about his commitment to the System that formed him, Dudamel dispelled it by saying, “I’m aware of who I am and who I want to continue to be.” To which we add, he will certainly want to continue to be the most splendorous face of a Venezuela that, with music, is eager to emerge from the Caribbean Sea, the lofty mountains of the Andes, the Amazonian forests, and the defiant plains of Florentino and the Devil; the new paradigm of a country of luminous and blessed men and women.

• Finalist at the first Maazel/Vilar Conductor’s Competition (USA, 2004).

• Winner of the first Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition held in

Bamberg (Germany, 2004).

• Winner of the first “Beethoven Ring,” a prize created by the Society of

Friends of the Bonn International Beethoven Festival (Germany, 2005).

• Prix de la Latinité, awarded by the Unión Latina. Dudamel was proposed

by 37 Latin American and African member states (France, 2007).

• ECHO Music Award as “New Artist of the Year” (Germany, 2007).

• Order of Francisco de Miranda bestowed by the Bolivarian Republic of

Venezuela (Venezuela, 2007).

• Nominated for the Latin Grammy for the CD recorded and marketed

by Deustche Grammophon (USA, 2008).

• Young Artist of the Year Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society,

London (England, 2008).

• Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Universidad Centro Occidental “ Lisandro Alvarado,” Barquisimeto, Lara state (Dudamel is the youngest

person to have received an honorary doctorate in this university’s entire

history. Venezuela, 2008).

• World Leader, elected by the World Economic Forum from among 230

outstanding young people from all parts of the world (Switzerland, 2009).

• Ranked among the 100 most influential personalities in the world by the

American magazine Time (USA, 2009).

• Classical BRIT Award to the best male artist of the year (England, 2009).

• Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (France, 2009).

• Saeculum Prize (Germany, 2009).

• Receives an award at the Royal Albert Hall in London for his CD Fiesta

(England, 2009).

• Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Universidad del Zulia (Venezuela, 2010).

• Starred in the documentary “Dudamel, El Sonido de los Niños” by the

Venezuelan filmmaker Alberto Arvelo (Venezuela, 2011).

Accolades in crescendo

In cap and gown on the day he was awarded a doctorate honoris causa by the Universidad del Zulia, accompanied by the university’s authorities

163

Page 164: Venezuela the miracle of music

rom the second half of the 20th century, around the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the fingers on both hands sufficed to count the names of the batons that were given column space as the leitmotiv by classical music critics. The prestigious magazines (Le Monde de la Mu-sique, Classical Review, Gramophone, Beckmesser, Filomúsica, Classic Voice, Classical Music, and so on) and the major dailies of the world’s cultural capitals reproduced year after year the names of Herbert Von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, Sergiu Celibidache, Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Aldo Ceccato, Leonard Bernstein, Bruno Walter… and that was it.

But –who dares doubt it?- the critics lavished their favoritism on some and meted out lashings to others, in particular to the polemical and always defiant Von Karajan, for example, known both for his genius and for his rudeness and eccentricity. And as they say in journalistic circles, critics help to make stars but they also cause them to tumble. In short, despite the prolific creativity of those times, there was not a single personality among those mentioned who managed to achieve the wholehearted consensus of the critics.

However the time had not come for the critics to raise their voices as one in an unequivocal tone of praise. That time was reserved for our Gustavo Dudamel, an unknown Venezuelan,

unassuming, a South American who came out of nowhere with his contagious Caribbean spir-it, free and authentic, without, apparently, having undergone artistic baptismal fire, bringing delight to the competition for young conduc-tors in Bamberg and sweeping to victory against the favorites, his Japanese, English, Italian, German, and French rivals. He erupted on the scene like an unexpected hurricane causing a whirlwind of passions and a media frenzy from which the feared critics and journalists of the art and culture pages of the world’s most influential newspapers did not manage to escape.

Here is a brief sampling of that frenzy unleashed in the early days of the career of a Gustavo Dudamel who, as he himself puts it whenever he speaks to the press, has before him the challenge of “main-taining the success achieved thus far.” He has talent and capacity to spare; all he lacks are years.

Presence, magic, and joy

“This prodigy does not have the air of one who is merely gifted. He has the air of knowing his métier like a seasoned veteran - he’s already ten years into his career - and he has something indefinable yet undeniable: presence. He has panache, but is no show-off . . . One has every indication here of a conductor who is no longer in the early stage of his artistic calling.” (Le Monde, Paris, November 2005)

energetic, and brilliantDazzling,Dudamel’s debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2009

164

Page 165: Venezuela the miracle of music

“A new star is born, and his name is Gustavo Dudamel (…) It has been a very long time since I found myself so deeply and profoundly moved by any musician as I was by this one. He gave a mesmerizing reading of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Everything was there: an electrifying musical ten-sion, overwhelming energy, and a masterly tech-nique of the first order. With a musical language that immediately brings to mind the legendary Leonard Bernstein… Dudamel manages to get the musicians to play like demons.” (Omer Shomrony, The Jerusalem Post, March 2005)

“Anyone who has listened to or watched young Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mahler’s Fifth Symphony has surely felt that the world of orchestral conducting has gained a great star. This young man has a ton of talent, charisma, enthusiasm, and love of music. Such capacity is not something merely learned; it is a gift of God that has been developed over time. The Phil-harmonic Orchestra of Israel played as though it were a great lighted torch (…) The musicians were enthusiastic and seemed to be hypnotized before the young conductor, who molded the meaning of all the sounds with each phrase.” (Ora Binur, Maariv Newspaper, March 2005)

“In his U.S. debut (…), a 24-year-old conductor from Venezuela with curly hair, long sideburns and a baby face accomplished something increasingly rare and difficult at the Hollywood Bowl. He got a normally restive audience’s full, immediate and rapt attention. And he kept it. With the opening bars of Silvestre Revueltas’ “La Noche de los Mayas,” the party sitting next to me put aside its just-opened giant bag of Cheetos and forgot about it until intermission. Once into this arresting depiction of a night of the Maya’s revelry and enchantment, once the percussion department’s battery of drums got to beating and a conch shell called the Maya to carousing, the crowd clapped and whooped. That’s not just rare but a downright wonder at the Bowl on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s classical Tuesday and Thursday programs.” (Los Angeles Times, September 2005)

“Dudamel appeared at the Hollywood Bowl as the guest baton “conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of Russian and Hungarian music (…) He is, as I am certain everyone in the auditorium instantly realized, a phenomenon. No classes in music appreciation are necessary to recognize this kind of charisma, which has laws of its own (…) Like (Carlos) Kleiber, Dudamel does not appear to be leading the orchestra (…) He is the orchestra.” (Los Angeles Times, January 2007)

“Gustavo Dudamel is the System’s most brilliant baton.”(El País, Spain, August 2007)

“Dudamel conducted a blazing Mahler Fifth. From the opening trumpet fanfares, which he had painstakingly shaped in rehearsal, one sensed a real performance was in store. The huge orches-tral eruption after the funeral march, frightening but superbly played and balanced, still rever-berates in the mind. … Wherever Dudamel turns up next, it will be worth the voyage.” (Financial Times, May 2007)

“True class: South America’s lightning conduc-tor… what I experienced was sensational. His name is Gustavo Dudamel… he produced enough electricity to light up Birmingham… a young man with boundless talent, deeply in love, and the world at his feet.” (The Times, London 2007)

His gestures and choreography transmit tremendous energy that moves audiences of all kinds

165

Page 166: Venezuela the miracle of music

“…When the concerts of a foreign youth orches-tra, with an extremely young conductor, are sold out everywhere six months in advance, it means that a great event is in the offing… A new and luminous name is hovering on the horizon: Gustavo Dudamel. The orchestra is the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orches-tra… and it carries his conductor on admirably musical angels’ wings…” (Peter Bilsing, Der Neue Merker, Germany, August 2007)

“…The world of classical music is setting him up as some kind of savior - do we need one? - and the hype machine is at full throttle. One can’t help but worry a little about the crush of it all on this diminutive, innocent-looking, floppy-haired young man, but once he steps on the podium all seems well. (…) Dudamel is an immensely talented, electric performer. His youth shows in his gung-ho style; his maturity, in making it work. (…) Dudamel is fun to watch. The energy he brings to the music is apparent, and it works up through his body and shoots out his hair. But, in his motions at least, he is more Carlos Kleiber than Leonard Bernstein. There is method here, an incisive baton style that dissects the music, uncovering details and nuance rather than merely encouraging them. (Timothy Mangan, The Orange County Register, Los Angeles, November 2007)

“For some time now, the great orchestras of the world have been fighting over the curly-headed 27-year-old Venezuelan. His début with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Waldbühne

before 20,000 spectators is tantamount to being knighted. The Spanish-Latin American program, which is an introduction to Dudamel’s homeland, captivated the audience...” (Berliner Morgenpost, Germany, June 2008)

“There was a drop or two of rain (…) but when the conductor Gustavo Dudamel appeared on stage, even the sky gave a bow. The 27-year-old Venezuelan is one of the young stars of the world of classical music. He is the most famous scion of a program, one of a kind, for furthering the music of his country. Always fresh, he is once again touring the world with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, which he has conducted since 1999, to storms of applause. Now his début with the Berlin Philharmonic has definitely put him in the league of the world’s most sought after conductors. The Berliners did not make things difficult for him, because the Spanish and Latin pieces have accompanied Dudamel since childhood (…) The young musi-cian conducted with fresh, marked gestures, he leapt in the air, and lost no opportunity cause an effect: the music sparkled, blazed, resounded, and reverberated. The members of the Philhar-monic suddenly reacted, no Prussian stuffiness in sight. A veritable rejoicing of applause, shouts, and whistles…” (Thomas Vitzthum, Germany, June 2008)

“This 28-year-old Venezuela could be the first star to shine in 21st century orchestral con-ducting (…) Classical music is hemmed in by the dictatorship of clichés. For those who think that this is a lost world in the hands of the

166

Page 167: Venezuela the miracle of music

initiated, the pedantic and the elitist, Gustavo Dudamel’s smile is like an open window. For those who believe that sopranos should be fat, pianists romantic, and conductors of orchestras irascible, circumspect, despotic individuals with not the slightest sense of humor, the personality of Dudamel would leave them speechless. He puts on no airs. He is capable of getting the audience off their feet and dancing the mambo. He has some of that lively, fun-loving blood in his veins that his father, Oscar, managed to hand down to him from his years as a trombone player with several Latin orchestras in Venezuela. So, Gustavo believes, more than anything else, that music is happiness, emotion, and something else: a calling to change the world. But, besides that, he has sufficient character to dominate an incredible wave of sound and energy from 200 musicians, all under 25, in a single auditorium.” (Jesús Ruíz Mantilla, El Mundo, Spain 2009)

Following his performances, in

the summer of 2010, of a concert

version of Bizet’s Carmen with

the Los Angeles Philharmonic at

the Hollywood Bowl and Verdi’s

La Traviata in Caracas, Gustavo

Dudamel did a season with the

Gothenburg Symphony Orches-

tra (2010-2011). He also took up

another invitation from the Vienna

Philharmonic, with which he made

a European tour that culminated at

the Musikverein in Vienna, did his

second season with the Los Angeles

Philharmonic, including a gala

concert presenting the Peruvian tenor

Juan Diego Flórez that was broadcast

internationally by PBS. Then he

appeared at La Scala in Milan, where

he conducted nine performances

of Bizet’s Carmen. To complete his

successful 2010 agenda, he conducted

the Berlin Philharmonic in a series of

concerts with opera themes together

with the soprano Elina Garanca, cul-

minating with the New Year’s concert,

which was broadcast live.

In January and February 2011,

Dudamel focused on conducting

the Los Angeles Philharmonic on its

first international tour with him as its

musical director, making appearances

in Lisbon, Madrid, Cologne, London,

Paris, Budapest, and Vienna. Then,

also with the LA Phil, he conducted

the “Brahms Unbound Festival,” a

series of seven concerts at which he

performed the Brahms symphonic

repertoire together with the début

of recently commissioned pieces, in

addition to concerts with a varied

repertoire that included works such

as the Turangalila-Symphonie by

On the up and up

Messiaen and pieces by Bruckner,

Gorecki, Gubaidulina, Lieberson,

Mackey, Schumann, Shostakovich,

Takemitsu, and Weber.

In April 2011, he made a tour of Swe-

den with the Gothenburg Symphony

Orchestra and then returned to the

Berlin Philharmonic for two weeks

to conduct it in Berlin and at the

Salzburg Easter Festival. In June, he

undertook a “marathon” tour of South

America, the “Bicentennial Tour,” with

his Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth

Symphony Orchestra giving a series

of 14 concerts that started in Caracas

and continued in Salvador de Bahia,

São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil),

Buenos Aires (Argentina), Monte-

video (Uruguay), Santiago de Chile

(Chile), and Bogotá (Colombia).

167

Page 168: Venezuela the miracle of music

ortraying him with a smile on his face, curly haired, and his arm outstretched holding a baton, the posters with the new conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic are to be found by the dozen on walls and billboards all over the city. That same open, shining face of Gustavo Dudamel travels the streets and avenues on buses, festoons the marquees of theaters around the world, and welcomes visitors at all the centers of the System of Youth and Children’s Orches-tras throughout Venezuela. What’s this all about? It’s quite simply “Duda-mania.”

While in past (London, 2007; New York, 2008; and Berlin, 2009) there had already been clear demonstrations of appreciation and affection for our young conductor, from souvenirs to advertising slogans, it was in Los Angeles that “Duda-mania” went really to town: “Dudamel, vibrant,” “Dudamel, passion,” “Gustavo, energy,” are some of the phrases on the posters fêting his

And in Los Angeles, Dudamel already has his nicknames just like any other idol. They call him “Gustavo the Great,” “Gustavíssimo,” “The Dude” or “GD.” But much of this phenomenon has

been created by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s publicity machine, which really pushed the boat out in October 2009 and energetically pro-moted the début of their young eleventh musical director so that no one would miss the event, which was to end with a fireworks display.

On October 3, 2009, in a preview to the official gala reception, more than 18,000 people enjoyed a five-hour concert at the Hollywood Bowl entitled “¡Bienvenido Gustavo!”, at which he was accompanied by other artists, among them the young Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, Herbie Hancock, and Flea, a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

On that memorable evening in his artistic career, Dudamel made his first appearance accompa-nied by about a hundred children of the YOLA Center’s young orchestra, created based on the same philosophy as the System’s, to perform Ode to Joy from the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Shortly afterwards, the young musicians were replaced by the grownups of the LAP with a choir of 200 voices and four soloists.

has its angelsDuda-mania

168

Page 169: Venezuela the miracle of music

A red carpet in Hollywood

It would not do for Dudamel’s gala début on October 8, 2007, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the home of the Philhar-monic, to be less dazzling than an evening to celebrate the Oscar awards. Nor was it: a parade of patrons and philanthropists and stars from all the arts walked down the red carpet to later enjoy the concert, which lasted until midnight. Afterwards, the guests gathered together at an open-air dinner to the strains of Latin music, salsa to be more precise, which Dudamel and his wife Eloisa danced superbly.

Accompanying Dudamel that evening were Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Don Johnson, Dana Delany, Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett, the architect Frank Gehry, the conduc-tor John Williams, the movie director Gary Marshall, and legends of the big screen Anne Jeffries, Anne Rutherford, the musician and producer Quincy Jones, and Sidney Poitier, who went up to Dudamel to congratulate him and to introduce themselves to the young Venezuelan, who, just days before, had received a letter of welcome from President Barak Obama and his wife Michelle.

Naturally, the biggest fans in Dudamel’s life could not be absent from such an event: his parents, Oscar and Solange Dudamel, and his tutor, maestro, and artistic father, José Antonio Abreu. Many other Latin personalities were also there, because the hiring of Dudamel by this prestigious international orchestra has, to some extent, encouraged the Latin public to take a greater interest in concerts and attracted a larger Latin audience.

But “Duda-mania” has had even greater reper-cussions that have impacted the business world of the arts. At the end of April 2010, Dudamel caused quite a stir when he decided to change his agent and leave Askonas Holt, the agency that had been handling his engagements since 2004, or thereabouts. Van Walsum, an agency that also has its head offices in London, fought to get

Dudamel to join it and leave its rival, Askonas Holt, without the most promising client on its list, which includes musicians of the stature of Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, John Eliot Gardiner, and Bernard Haitink.

There is no doubt that Dudamel is already a personality who is shaping up as a sure target for marketing and advertising worldwide. Just approaching 30, he has virtues that can take him along the path of popularity and fame for the next 15 years at least, something the big brands will want to take advantage of. He preserves the freshness and happiness of a “face that sells,” and, as though that were not enough, his image is associated with children and young people, a strategic segment that guarantees the promotion of a large number of products.

Even his physical appearance is a plus. His halo of elegance, status, and increasing pres-tige ensures companies such as Rolex and its luxurious watches full brand identification. In fact, a month after his début as the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in November 2010, Dudamel became the new image of these magnificent pieces of jewelry, along with other famous artists.

Dressed impeccably in a tuxedo, his hair shining and slicked back, and, of course, wearing an expensive Rolex on his wrist, the photo in the ad-vert makes Dudamel look like a perfect model. To mark the launching of the new image, during a concert conducted by the Venezuelan baton, the gift the company made was not a watch, unfortunately, but a beautiful bracelet.

But “Duda-mania” does not end there. Pink’s, the popular hotdog and hamburger chain, has named one of its hotdog recipes Gustavo Dudamel, and while the ingredients are not entirely Venezuelan, people ask for it and enjoy it very much. Even the Los Angeles Lakers have designed a t-shirt with his name.

169

Page 170: Venezuela the miracle of music

rom many stages around the world emerges the lustrous voice of a young man; he raises his breath as though it encompasses the air above the souls gathered together to listen and enjoy his heartbeat; and he gives flight to his angel, which touches more and more audiences.

But his other voice is more personal and secret. We have attempted to put together a route map with fragments of testimonies given by Gustavo Dudamel as a way of traveling in his company and getting to know him out in the light of day, without the backdrop of the theaters and the paraphernalia that usually accompanies him as a conductor. As dreams take no account of distances, getting to know Dudamel from what he has said, how and where he said is allowed and we will be able to see him conduct himself in his other score, his life.

I

Did you ever think that you’d get a job like being the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic?It’s funny, because for me conducting has been natural right from the start. I fell in love with

that guy standing in front of an orchestra telling the musicians how to play… I started to direct because the conductor was late, and after that, everything’s happened naturally, all this, the Mahler competition… I was 17 when I conducted the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, and I started to conduct when I was 12. It came as a great surprise, a dream, not only to me, Gustavo Dudamel, personally, but also to the Venezuelan project. Conducting the Los Angeles Philhar-monic is an honor, very exciting.

How did you react when you found out?I thought, ‘My God! The Los Angeles Philhar-monic! One of the most important orchestras in the United States where famous conductors such as Carlo María, Giulini and Zubin Mehta have gone before… The fact that they called on a 26-year-old Venezuela was beautiful. It was so beautiful because I’d only played twice in Los Angeles, the first time in 2005, and then again in January 2008 (for the Hollywood Bowl). Normally when they call on a musician to be musical director there’s been a long relationship, years of working together… I remember the first time, the first note we played together; there was a good connection.

Interviews out loud

170

Page 171: Venezuela the miracle of music

What plans do you have for the Philharmonic?I think the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy it. When you love what you do, you can do very special things, magical things, and I think it will be a marvelous season. We have lots of ideas… A very important one is the social program we want to start with the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, for example, which comes from Venezuela’s System. That’s something I find exciting, exporting what we have in my country.

Have you any ideas for giving a Latin or Venezuelan flavor to the music you’ll be conducting? Of course. There’s a touch of Venezuelan and Latin soul in all my pieces of Beethoven, Mahler, Mozart, and Brahms. I think that’s the secret: preserving your identity, your soul. I feel it’s very important to show the public and the orchestra what we’ve got. Obviously, our program will include Latin composers; that’s normal. But the important thing is how we make music, how we enjoy it, having fun, creating magic moments at each concert we give.

What do miss about Venezuela?Everything! I miss the warmth of the people; the Venezuelan’s effervescence, not being able to stop. Venezuela is in constant motion! My country’s a country full of future, it’s an optimis-tic country, and that’s something I take with me everywhere I go.

After all these successes, what dreams do you still have?I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to be a conductor, I wanted to work with the greatest orchestras; and here I am. My dream is to main-tain this, to carry on doing what I love most.

Do you have any specific goals?I’ve got goals for every day. It’s fun because my agenda is full until 2014 or 2015. But you live a day at a time and think about what you want to do the next day. It’s something that evolves a day at a time.

AP, 2009.

II

Critics around the world praise your way of conducting, what do you think makes you different from other conductors?I don’t know. I work very hard and I’m not an irascible conductor. I’m not like the idea people have of a conductor as a grouchy person, certain-ly not! I’m an amiable person, open to ideas.

What does being a complete artist mean, in your opinion? What being a complete artist means is relative because I’ve seen the teachers with whom I’ve studied, who are already 70 or 80, and they still study scores as though it were for the first time. They are people who are in their twilight years and they carry on studying. I think that there are no limits when it comes to music. If you’re thinking about being a complete artist, you’re always going to be bettering yourself.

Panorama. Maracaibo, 2005.(Interviewers: B. Guarisma and M. Contreras)

Always natural and unassuming in his dealings with the media

171

Page 172: Venezuela the miracle of music

III

Rattle has said that you are the best trained con-ductor he has ever known. That’s impressive.Of course, but he says that because he’s very generous, and we’re very fond of one another. I have to say this about Simon, he’s a very special person from whom I’ve learned a great deal and whom I have to thank for the time and knowledge he has given me.

At the moment, given your position in the world of music, you’ll be forced to take fre-quent and long absences from your orchestra to work with others. I’ve got a lot of work engagements, but I try not to play abroad during the four or five months of the year I ought to be working with my orchestra in Venezuela. Apart from that, in 2007, I’ll be starting as the principle conductor of the Swedish National Orchestra in Gothenburg, to which I will also have to devote part of my agenda. But the project in Venezuela, from the artistic and social viewpoints, is very important to me, because that’s where I came from; it’s not just another orchestra, it’s my family.

Marcelo Álvarez says that his generation of Latin voices brings heart to opera. Villazón is more direct and talks of “balls.” What does a Latin American have to say about symphonic music?

Wow! Ideas, lots of ideas, for a start, because, in music -and this is an idea I’ve always maintained- you have the score, which is simply the riverbed, the bit of land over which the water flows. To my way of thinking, music is that river, always chang-ing. And in the case of Latin America, we can talk of a river that, even though it’s existed all this time, is being born or reborn now, with a special energy, with impetus, with a desire to improve and perfect a lot of things. That’s precisely what I try to do with my orchestra and, of course, with all the others with which I’m working; with that energy, that Rolando Villazón refers to when he talks of “balls”; with that passion, that hot blood that we associate with everything Latin.

With your first CD, dedicated to Beethoven, you paid tribute to your family, including your uncle for that present that influenced you so much. You’re talking about the score of the Fifth Symphony, right? I personally consider it to be a tribute to my family, who gave me the opportu-nity to be a musician; also to my teachers who taught me music, and to the entire System, for everything it teaches about humanity; in short, a tribute to mankind. It’s possible to do that with Beethoven, because he’s so complete that he captures the understanding of one having a destiny and the knowledge to fulfill that destiny in a work like the Fifth Symphony, which to some extent materializes transcendence. There are two ways you can interpret this symphony: man either overcomes destiny or he learns to live with it. That’s the dilemma it faces you with. Beethoven, his music, is a tribute to mankind. I speak for myself and on behalf of the orchestra which, after all, is what one hears on the CD. All I’ve done is to work with them, putting forward ideas until we reached an agreement, which is the wonderful part about music. Having clari-fied that point, I think that we pay tribute to music itself for having been capable of changing our lives; for having helped us to understand that there is a path we can follow, while at the same time managing to make those around us feel good.

Dudamel loves to know all the details of the concerts

172

Page 173: Venezuela the miracle of music

Is Gustavo Dudamel’s future tied to his coun-try and will he return there to continue his work despite his commitments? Yes, definitely. I don’t see it as a commitment. It’s my reason for living. Venezuela gave me the opportunity to get to know music and, through music, to make my life what it is today. And that’s why I’m here now, to give the Orchestra everything I’m learning and to grow with them, because I don’t talk about the Orchestra as a group of musicians, but as my family.

Scherzo Nº 212. Spain, 2006.(By Juan Antonio Llorente)

IV

Rhythm, energy, is that what you, in Venezuela, have to contribute to an overly rigid world, the world of classical music?We have just demonstrated that utopias can happen. Ours seemed impossible. No one expected classical music to become a weapon for social change, but what Maestro Abreu has done with the orchestras, rescuing children from poverty and exclusion through music, shows that it is possible, and to a very high level. Today, music saves the lives of many youngsters in my country. Thanks to that training, they have become tomorrow’s audiences as well.

Dudamel in 2004, when the flood of engagements was just starting

173

Page 174: Venezuela the miracle of music

You are the symbol of that entire system. Do you find so much success at such an early age to be a burden? Isn’t it too much responsibility?No, on the contrary, it’s a wonderful respon-sibility, something very important. It makes me very proud. But I have to stress that it isn’t a matter of one person, but of many people. I’m a dragonfly in that universe of the System of Orchestras.

A great conductor must be able to hear music inside his head as well. You know, that’s what happens to me. I’m talking to someone and I’m hearing music in my head. Each of us conductors has to bring our own sen-sitivity to the work; that’s what gives it structure.

You mean your theory of the river?Exactly. The structure is a riverbed. We have to bring the interpretation, the water, which is always going to be different, is always changing.

Also as something that builds human beings, something that contributes values. What does the System teach you in that sense?It teaches us to hope, to dream about what can

be achieved. It teaches us humility and to help our neighbor, to fall in love with music and with those around us.

There we have miracles like the White Hands Choir, where deaf and dumb children interpret music. Does that mean a desire to do away with boundaries?Some of those children go on tour with us. Also, when you see a blind eight-year-old from a very poor home playing the piano and you ask him who taught him, and he says, no one, that he learned on his own, you sense something divine, something you feel deep inside. You have to open the channel for the message of the impossible.

And not to fear strong emotions?No, just cry for joy. Children shouldn’t cry be-cause they’re hungry, because they’ve seen death, murder, violence; children should cry for joy and for no other reason.

El País. Spain, 2008. (By Jesús Ruíz Mantilla)

174

Page 175: Venezuela the miracle of music

V

Your image is that of a model. Not everyone can be Dudamel, but everyone would like to be. What do you see in that wonderful pool of kids?I part from the premise that a conductor with-out an orchestra is nobody. You need the human component, you need the musicians. I don’t think Dudamel’s important. I’m just another member; I’m simply a dragonfly in that universe. I know I’m the image of a role model, but that’s not me, it’s the System. Because what has spread beyond our borders is the message of the System as an artistic and social rescue program; that has meant that such a distant art –such as academic music- now belongs to us.

Apparently you are at a summit, I say apparently because you have assumed that leadership role with extraordinary hu mility. In other words, you are in a position to say something to others. What would your message be to the country, to young people?I think the most important thing we need to focus on is values, the value of life. A young person should be capable of valuing his life and his surroundings, that’s the most important thing. What’s done most harm to our country is self-denigration, when we say: we’re no good at anything and I’ve got to go elsewhere in order to be someone. We have to value being citizens of a country that has a tremendous future and we have to work for that with a lot of discipline and dream, because you have to dream. We have to dream things beyond the limits of our dreams and work for them. We have a beautiful country for which we have to fight.

Television program José Vicente Hoy. Televen, Caracas, 2009.(Interviewer: José Vicente Rangel)

VI

Mentor, tutor and teacher, what do you still have to learn, academically?You never stop learning about art. It’s like when you conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, an extremely well-known piece. You conduct it for the first time and the next time you discover details you hadn’t notice the first time.

Do you read the reviews of the concerts you conduct?From time to time. In Israel, the orchestra’s musicians would come up to me really excited, because the reviews said that they’d rarely sounded with such energy. The reviews are not only for me, they’re for the musicians as well. I’d be walking the streets and I’d see them on the publicity boards.

What about the negative reviews?You disregard the negative ones, I mean the ones that have a negative intent in the sense that they make you feel bad instead of helping you to progress. Here in Venezuela I’ve had more bad reviews than good, but those reviews have not made me grow, they haven’t made me think about the mistake I made so as to change it, they’ve been destructive. That’s why I haven’t read them. But people always mention them to me.

El Nacional. Caracas, 2005.(By Olivia Liendo)

Out in the world, Dudamel encourages children and young people to become more aware

175

Page 176: Venezuela the miracle of music

udamel is the most astonishingly gifted conductor I’ve come across. If he has free

time again we’ll try to have him back in Berlin, but I think he has before him a career that will follow him very swiftly, so Venezuelans should enjoy him while they have him, because the best venues in the music world will try to steal him from them.” (Simon Rattle, Conductor, Berlin Philharmonic. Germany, 2005)

“I think that Gustavo Dudamel is a very special musician… What is needed in music nowadays is this feeling of transformation, and Dudamel, with his Venezuelan orchestra, manages it completely.” (Marina Mahler, granddaughter of the com-poser Gustav Mahler. Germany, 2006)

“Selecting Gustavo Dudamel as being worthy of the first Beethoven Ring was very easy because, quite simply, he is a marvelous conductor, a very attractive and talented person. And it’s not just that he has a good technique, he also has a musical soul.” (Michael Ladenburger, Chairman of the Beethoven-Haus Society. Germany, 2006)

“… Dudamel knows Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 very well and conveys that. He conducts each member of his orchestra impressively and they follow him perfectly. He’s a major music figure despite his young age.”

(Jürg Reinshagen, Chairman of the Lucerne Festival Board of Trustees. Switzerland, 2007)

“The fact that Dudamel has been chosen by the Royal Philharmonic Society for its Music Award for Young Artists 2007 is a confirma-tion of Gustavo’s immense artistic talent and his stellar international career. He is already an archetype and emblem of Latin American musical youth… a world model for the new generation of musicians (…) who daily brings more glory to his country, gaining loftier and more outstanding positions in the world of symphonic music. From the moment I met Gustavo, when he was still a child, I knew that his future was one of broad horizons.” (José Antonio Abreu, tutor and teacher. Venezuela, 2007)

“Gustavo Dudamel is music; he’s life, he’s everything. He is incomparable. I hadn’t heard Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 interpreted like that since Bernstein…” (Marcel Quillévéré, Artistic Director of the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. Switzerland, 2007)

“Gustavo Dudamel is a messiah who comes from the New World overflowing with talent, energy, quality, and naturalness.” (Martha Argerich, pianist. Japan, 2008)

with testimoniesPainting a portrait

176

Page 177: Venezuela the miracle of music

“Gustavo Dudamel is an extraordinary musician. It is because of his total commitment and the re-lationship he establishes with the musicians that he manages to produce such a magical sound.” (Seiji Ozawa, conductor. Japan, 2008)

“Venezuelans should be proud of a musician like Gustavo Dudamel, whom I admire so much.” (Placido Domingo, singer and conductor. Venezuela, 2009)

“I think an atmosphere exists for Gustavo Dudamel to change musical history… He has an ability to communicate the passionate and vital part of music in a very 21st century manner. Dudamel is extremely demanding and very intense when he conducts, but he is also cheer-ful and a lot of fun (…) The musicians come and ask me if they can rehearse more. I’ve never seen them so happy.” (Deborah Borda, President of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. United States of America, 2009)

“Gustavo Dudamel is extraordinary, he’s mag-nificent, he’s great…”(Claudio Abbado, conductor. Caracas, 2010)

“I think Gustavo will bring a new approach to the Los Angeles Philharmonic… First and foremost, diversity.” (Quincy Jones, composer and musical producer. United States, 2010)

“Gustavo has boundless talent, but his develop-ment depends solely on his will and discipline. He can do what he wants and go as far as he wants, but he should not forget that talent is only our alphabet, and that knowing the alphabet is not sufficient to be able to read Don Quixote. He must have the strength and the will to learn from his own reflections on music.” (Daniel Barenboim, conductor)

Javier Vidal

The first thing about Dudamel that

seduces me is the way his main musi-

cal object –his body- dominates the

stage. Dudamel knows that, when he

stands before a symphony orchestra,

his image is the show’s dramatic

thread and the writing of his body

language is the doubly-hypnotic spell

of seeing and listening cast on the

captivating –and at times dark– pos-

ture of the spectator. Dudamel has

the joy of a Bach in his smile and the

piquancy of a Mozart in his eyes; the

romantic ingenuity of a Beethoven in

his invisible punches at the refulgent

brass section, and the mathematical

discipline of a Mahler standing erect

before the tempered strings of the

violins; the shoulders of a Bernstein

for moving his Mambo along with

the hips of a Mehta for Revueltas’s

Danzón; the hair of a Stokowski with

which to chisel Ducas’s wood-

winds, Maazel’s exact raising of the

eyebrows for Pendericki’s soft voices

or Béla Lugosi’s magic “yes” for the

fantastic keyboards of an equally

fantastic Bartok. All that stagecraft,

all that presence with the rhythm

of a Caribbean sea that comes and

goes, rises and falls, is born and dies

in the deepest essence of man: music.

Music to listen to with the skin and

muscles of Saint Gabriel Archangel,

with the heart and kidneys, with

the body in constant motion, to

see it openmouthed gulping down

demisemiquavers and pauses; at the

corners of the mouth in the faint ten-

sion of the adagios; in the Achilles’

heel that fled from blessed waters to

turn them into pasture for mortals;

to be dragged by a wave of irra-

tionality where all emotions merge

and blend, to then emerge from the

depths to become sublimated in his

kinetic baton. Dudamel is the show

of symphonic music. Dudamel is

music and stagecraft.

(Actor, Director, Playwright, and Journalist)

Music and stagecraft

With the conductor Seiji Osawa

177

Page 178: Venezuela the miracle of music

Eloisa Maturén de Dudamel

Leonard Bernstein was one of the

most emblematic musicians of all

time, his qualities were infinite.

He was outstanding not only as

a conductor but also as a com-

poser, pianist, and, of course, his

well remembered foray as a speaker

and educator. There is absolutely

no doubt that his life revolved

around music, and its facets were so

numerous that it seems impossible

to imagine that a man could have

energy to live each of those “musical

lives” as intensely as he always did.

The first time Bernstein came to

everyone’s notice was in 1943,

when, without a prior rehearsal, he

conducted the New York Philhar-

monic in the place of Bruno Walter,

who was indisposed. That concert

was televised right across America

and the next day Leonard was a true

national hero. Later, he became that

same orchestra’s musical director

and remained there for many years,

in what has been acknowledged as

one of the most fruitful orchestra-

conductor relationships of all time.

Leonard Bernstein holds the title

of Laureate Conductor of the New

With Bernstein’s magic baton

A private pre-concert ritual before going out on stage: Eloisa Maturén gives a feminine touch to her acclaimed husband

178

Page 179: Venezuela the miracle of music

York Philharmonic, a way of immor-

talizing his career.

Lenny, as his friends called him, left

a profound mark on the New York

Philharmonic, and Avery Fisher Hall,

the orchestra’s home in New York’s

Lincoln Center, is still covered today

with photos and mementos of the

maestro. The theaters archives are

full of objects that belonged to him,

scores and other paraphernalia that

are revered by the world’s musicians

and music lovers. In fact, I always

say that one of my biggest frustra-

tions is not having had the chance to

meet him. To me, he’s like an unreal

almost fairy-tale character. And here

is where I get to the point of my story.

It happened during Gustavo’s début

with that same New York Phil-

harmonic. One of the memorable

moments that week was when, during

a break in the rehearsals, he had the

opportunity to visit the orchestra’s

archives and relive history by perusing

the scores. He is, of course, a huge

fan of Bernstein’s and he had a real

feast with everything he found there:

scores analyzed with pinpoint accu-

racy, philosophical essays, even a pho-

tograph Leonard kept as a souvenir

of a visit to Venezuela with his New

York orchestra. The picture shows

Lenny attired in a white liquiliqui (traditional Venezuelan dress) and

with an enormous glass of whisky in

his hand, totally blending with the

environment (all that was missing was

a tequeño! – a local appetizer). The

days passed and it was time for the

first concert. The week’s rehearsals

had been magnificent and expecta-

tions couldn’t have been higher.

Just minutes before the show, while

Gustavo was hurriedly getting

dressed, embracing everyone who

dropped into the dressing room,

he went to greet Barbara Haws, the

person in charge of the archives and

with whom he’d been a few days

earlier digging into the orchestra’s

past. After greeting Gustavo warmly,

Haws announced her surprise:

“We’ve decided to lend you one of

Leonard’s batons for you to conduct

this week’s concerts, if you’d like.

Gustavo, hovering between stupefac-

tion and excitement, grasped hold of

the baton as though it were a treasure

and rushed out of the room in the

direction of the podium. Now, let’s

try to imagine for a second what

something like that would mean for

any one of us. For me, I thought, it

would be as though someone had

lent me Margot Fonteyn’s ballet

shoes or Gabo’s typewriter or word

processor. The maestro conducted

the entire concert with the borrowed

baton in a state of euphoria and at the

end the entire audience gave him a

standing ovation for his interpreta-

tion. The next day, the success of the

concert and, of course, the matter of

the legendary baton had made the

news everywhere.

The complete series of concerts

included four repetitions of the same

program. The baton had functioned

marvelously. Gustavo himself

commented that the sensation was

profoundly natural, as though it had

always been his. For those of you who

are not familiar with a baton, it looks,

at first sight, like a wand. It can be

made of wood or a synthetic mate-

rial, be heavier or lighter, shorter or

longer, have a handle of cork or wood

that is either rounded or elongated…

The baton that Gustavo had the

opportunity to use and that, at one

time, belonged to Bernstein, was

made of a very light wood and had a

rounded cork handle. But the truly

strange part of this entire story and

what, in fact, prompted me to tell it,

happened during the last concert.

The baton in question behaved

gloriously throughout the entire

week and was, undoubtedly, one of

the stars, always seeking attention.

Gustavo used it at each concert and,

in his hand, it bounced up and down

almost as much as his hair, with every

movement.

It was the last performance of the

week. Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was

the piece that was to close the eve-

ning’s program. The last movement, a

frenetic Allegro, is capable of getting

the least involved spectator out of his

seat. And then something incredible

happened, two chords before the

end of the work, when there were

something like three seconds of

music to go, say, the baton decided

to take off by itself and, crumbling

into tiny pieces, ended up scattered

over the audience. The wand broke

precisely in the last second. When

the movement finished, the audience,

astounded, needed a few seconds

to recover from the shock and start

to applaud. Just think, what are the

probabilities of the baton –which

had survived nearly four hundred

concerts- breaking precisely at the

last second? There is no logical expla-

nation, but I have an idea that, for me,

fits perfectly: Leonard Bernstein was

present at each concert supervising

every detail and impregnating the

environment with his special energy.

Then at the end of the last concert,

he decided to confirm his presence in

the most obvious way possible. It’s as

though, by causing his own baton to

disappear, he was giving way to a new

one: Gustavo’s.

(Ballet dancer and journalist)

179

Page 180: Venezuela the miracle of music

n the firmament of classical music, Gustavo Dudamel’s star is not the only one to shine.

The System has many talents that are already giving their first international steps, promoted, naturally, by Dudamel, Maestro Abreu, and the advocates and mentors won over by the Venezuelan music program, such as Maestros Abbado, Barenboim, and Rattle, to name but three.

Abreu comments with regard to this emerg-ing generation: “Gustavo has managed to push ahead other youngsters who see the career of conducting as a form of prestige. Coming up behind him there is a litter, a whole generation.” And, true enough, Christian Vásquez and Diego Matheuz are already giving people something to talk about in the world of conductors.

Like Dudamel, this constellation of artistic talents, trained in accordance with the same philosophy, has very clear goals: contribute to the world the freshness and joy of making sym-phonic music to the highest level of excellence and achieve world recognition. But they aspire to attain this always with a great sense of union, because they all grew up at the same time, played at the same conservatories, had the same teachers, shared their problems and worries, and celebrated their joys together. And because they come from the same tree, they understand how wonderful it is to make music together.

The System has also become an artistic spring-board for many, who, after having done their time in the youth and children’s orchestras and once they reach maturity, form their own ensembles. The Venezuelan music movement is full of professional musicians trained in the System who today are playing jazz, salsa, rap, pop and other genres, putting Venezuela in the vanguard of urban, popular, and experimental music.

on the horizonNew sap

Here is just a tiny sample of this new generation from the System that is following the path plotted by Dudamel in the firmament of the complex and competitive world of international music.

Diego Matheuz, under Abbado’s guidance

He is one of the most outstanding Venezu-elan conductors in the cadre of talents. Like Dudamel, he is a son of the System and was also born in Barquisimeto. He is a member of the Mozart Orchestra, which Claudio Ab-bado conducts in Italy, where he started off on the right foot when, in 2009, he was appointed “main guest conductor” of this orchestra, which opened the 2010 season in Bologna, receiving the highest praise and revealing his qualities as an international baton. He has also conducted in Israel, Canada, and other European countries, always under the guidance of Abbado, whom he met in Seville in 2006. Since then, Matheuz has been the Italian maestro’s assistant conduc-tor. In March 2010, Diego also met up with his European tutor at the Lucerne Festival, where he

Diego Matheuz

180

Page 181: Venezuela the miracle of music

obtained magnificent reviews for his perfor-mance with the SJVSB.

His début before an international audience was in San Juan de Puerto Rico, together with the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra, at the Casals Festival in 2008. With more than 16 years’ musical experience, this young conductor born in 1984, started to study music with his father at the age of seven and played cuatro at a school near his home. But the violin is the instrument that always accompanies him and that he plays in the first violin section of the SJVSB. He studied at the Jacinto Lara Con-servatory in Barquisimeto, and was a pupil of José Francisco del Castillo and José Antonio Abreu.

Christian Vásquez: from San Sebastián to Israel

This 26-year-old, who has among his qualities an unassuming manner in his dealings with people and discipline in his work, has also made a major artistic leap: from his native town, San Sebastián de los Reyes, in Aragua state, he was recommended by Maestro Zubin Mehta himself to be the principal baton of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for seven days. That was simply the fruit of his work of nearly two decades in the System conducting the Aragua Youth Symphony Orchestra.

However, the Israeli orchestra is not the only one that Vásquez has conducted beyond Venezuela’s borders. In January 2010, only ten days after leaving for Israel, the Youth Bavaria Symphony Orchestra, in Munich, Germany, had a taste of his expressive and joyful baton. His success was to continue throughout the five performances he gave at the Concert Hall in Haifa, and at the Frederic Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, where his clear style and well-studied interpretations of Tchaikovsky and Schumann won him long applauses.

Vásquez, who has been trained as a conductor entirely by Abreu has a dream: to build up the San Sebastián de Los Reyes Youth Symphony Orchestra. However, owing to his increasing number of international engagements, he has had to focus on studying the symphonic repertoire in depth, particularly the Russian composers, his favorites. “You have to go well prepared to stand in front of the orchestras because good musicians quickly sense who’s a demanding conductor and who isn’t,” says Vásquez modestly.

Alejandro Carreño: concertino with lineage

If there is a member of the present Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orches-

Christian Vásquez

181

Page 182: Venezuela the miracle of music

tra who has been nurtured from the cradle within the System, it is the violinist Alejandro Carreño, the son of one of its most admired and loved founders, Gregory Carreño, and both of them come from a musical family. It is not that Alejandro is the only descendant of a pioneer of the System, but he is the one who has scaled the highest, as he is the concertino with the SJVSB, a position he also held when he was member of the National Children’s Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra, with which he made all the international tours since 2000.

Of refined appearance, at each performance, Carreño is the one who tunes up the orchestra as a prologue to the conductor coming on stage. In order to keep his position, Alejandro has been tenacious and disciplined, an artist through and through, but he has also had the influence of the best teachers: Abreu himself trained him since he was tiny; later Susan Siman and, natu-rally, the great trainer of violinists, José Francisco del Castillo polished him. He perfected his art thanks to the advice of the renowned musicians, Maurice Hasson, Aaron Rosand, and Daniel Strauawa, the concertino with the Berlin Philhar-monic, among others.

Aged 25, Alejandro Carreño is considered one of the most relevant talents, not only of the Sys-tem, but among Latin American violinists. He has performed with a fair number of Venezuelan chamber ensembles and orchestras as guest

soloist and also with international ensembles, among them the Berlin Philharmonic’s String Quartet and the Portland Quartet.

At some of the System’s most important mo-ments and engagements, it has been Carreño who has represented the orchestras’ children and adolescents, such as the performance offered to Pope John Paul II in 1996, during which Alejandro was the soloist, and when he accom-panied Maestro Abreu during the ceremony at which he received the Prince of Asturias Award in 2008, when the young man told the media: “I’m very honored and happy to be accompanying Maestro Abreu, who thought up this System and gave it to Venezuela. With this award we continue to be committed to working at a greater depth every day, with greater quality and commitment in order to feel more worthy of being Venezuelan.”

Francisco “Pacho” Flores: an endless burst of sound

The artistic ascent, at home and abroad, of the Venezuelan musician Francisco “Pacho” Flores

Alejandro Carreño

Francisco “Pacho” Flores

182

Page 183: Venezuela the miracle of music

has been one of the System’s happiest events, largely because, for a long time, the trumpet did not figure as a solo instrument in our musi-cal milieu as Flores is making it sound now with his skill and great artistic gifts. “I dream of breaking new ground for the trumpet, of recording a varied repertoire written for classical trumpet, and, at the same time, of making our Latin American and Venezuelan music known. However, I have to pave a way for myself and I’m determined to enter the world circuit as a concert player.”

And Flores is making his dream come true. In 2009, he presented his first CD, La trompeta venezolana, which contains delightful interpre-tations of popular pieces by this young man from Táchira, the only Latin American trumpet player to have won the most prestigious Euro-pean competitions, among them: the Interna-tional Trumpet Competition in Pilisvörösvár, (Hungary, 2005); First Prize at the Philip Jones International Trumpet Competition (France, 2005); First Prize at the City of Paris’s Maurice André International Trumpet Competition and Special Prize for the Best Interpretation of the Work to be premiered for the competi-tion, composed by Salvador Chuliá Hernández (France, 2006), and First Prize at the Città di Porcia International Trumpet Competition (Italy, 2006).

“Pacho” has solid musical training, which he started when he was eight with his father Fran-cisco Flores Díaz, who belonged to the most im-portant martial bands in Táchira state. When he was 16, he moved to Caracas and studied with Eduardo Manzanilla. In 2005, he obtained his advanced diploma from the National Conserva-tory for the Rueil-Malmaison Region, in France, and joined the National Youth Orchestra. From there he achieved the position of principal trumpet player with Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and went on all its international tours. He also gave performances throughout Latin America with the Simón Bolívar Brass Quintet. In 2007, he appeared in New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, invited by the Spanish Brass to record under the baton of the trombonist

Christian Linbert. He also performed with The State Hermitage Orchestra in Saint Petersburg and made his début at the prestigious Caramoor International Music Festival in New York. In 2008 and 2009, he gave concerts and master classes in Germany, Croatia, France, Spain, Italy, the United States, Japan, and Russia.

As an all-round musician, “Pacho” Flores has also let himself be tempted by teaching and is a pioneer teacher at the Latin American Trumpet Academy; at the same time he is creatively ac-tive with personal projects, such as the program of organ and piano recitals he is putting on with the Venezuelan maestro, Pablo Castellanos.

Angélica Olivo: with the mettle of a soloist

If something is immediately apparent in Angélica Olivo, it is her mettle of a soloist and her demeanor of someone who has been a

Angélica Olivo

violinist from the cradle. Because that is how this young girl from Barquisimeto feels and that is how she sounds. “I believe that my strength as a violinist comes from transmitting the power of the sounds to those who listen to me,” she says with the conviction of someone who, at barely 17, aims to go far. At least that is the belief of Maestro Abreu and her tutors José Francisco del Castillo, Abbado, and Dudamel, who began to

183

Page 184: Venezuela the miracle of music

train her at the tender age of ten and select her as the soloist for important concerts, while arrang-ing for advanced training with Marylou Speaker Churchill, Felicitas Hofmeister, Roberto Valdéz, Sophia Vilker, Francesco Manara, Ivry Gitlis, and Salvatore Accardo.

Olivo has talent to spare, which is why, once she started her studies at Vicente Emilio Sojo Music Conservatory in Barquisimeto, she was transferred to Caracas so that she could also join the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra, where she has been second concertino since 2007.

Angélica Olivo started her national and international training in depth and running: in 2008, she was invited to the Ecuador-Venezuela Young Violinists Festival, accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Ecuador; in 2009, she interpreted Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 in D major, under the baton of Abbado, together with the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra; in 2008, she was chosen to join the SJVSB on its tour of Europe and Asia; and in 2010, she went to Bologna at the invitation of Abbado himself to take part in the season of the Mozart Orchestra.

Olivo was chosen to present Maestro Abreu with the Youth and Children’s Orchestras of

Venezuela’s medal during the 35th Anniversary Concert in 2010, held in the Simón Bolívar Concert Hall at the Center for Social Action through Music. On that occasion she wore her candid smile, which, together with her impeccable technique and passionate playing, is a passport to certain success.

Lila Vivas: a perfectly tuned leader

She has made her way through all the stages of the System because, since she arrived at Montal-bán Children’s Academic Center, Rubén Cova and Susan Siman were certain that this little six-year-old had what it takes to become a magnifi-cent violinist. So began the marvelous transfor-mation that happens to the children who join the System as they progress year after year. First Lila was chosen for the Mozart Orchestra, then, when she was eight, she joined the Pre-school Orchestra and later moved on to the Children’s Orchestra, finally making the jump to the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, which, under the guidance of Ulyses Ascanio, has become one of the System’s star ensembles. It is with this same orchestra that Vivas has performed at major and successful concerts conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Claudio Abbado.

Lila Vivas

184

Page 185: Venezuela the miracle of music

Lila Vivas’s outstanding performance has earned her the place as first concertino with the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra. She herself confesses that you have to have leadership qualities in order to perform the responsibilities of first concertino. “Standing in front of the concertino’s music stand is a major commitment, because it forces you to be three times better than everyone else in the orchestra, you have to study a lot, and, if the conductor doesn’t turn up, you have to guide the rows of instruments and know how to tune up the orchestra. And while you get lots of praise, you can’t let it go to your head; you have to focus firmly on the responsibilities you’re assigned… We learn all that in the System from the time we’re very young,” says Vivas.

Lila confesses that “it’s easier to achieve success than to keep yourself there,” that is why she does not let up in her efforts to always do better. She divides her time between her violin studies, currently with Luis Miguel González, her classes at UNEARTE (National Experimental University of the Arts), and, of course, rehearsals and concerts with her orchestras, which are as intense as ever. And when she is chosen, she also goes to the rehearsals for the international tours of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Sym-phony Orchestra, with which she has already traveled to Europe, the United States, and Asia.

Daniel Arias: a top-notch cello

How Daniel Arias came to reveal his musical talent was somewhat less conventional, albeit delightful. This outstanding cellist tells that singing was his first passion. “My father has been a teacher of Venezuelan popular music for many years, so I started to learn music when I was a kid. I love to sing and I used travel around Venezuela playing the typical music of the Llanos (plains region) at parties and musical encounters. I’d also take part in festivals in Guárico, Aragua, Cojedes, Portuguesa, and Barinas, and I always won the competitions.” But his true calling was symphonic music and his instrument, the cello.

So, he formally started his music studies at the Miranda Symphony Orchestra Nucleus and, when he was 14, he went to the Latin American Cello Academy to study under Valmore Nieves and William Molina. Later, after participating in a fierce competition under the baton of Ulyses Ascanio, Daniel won the place of associate principal cello with the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra, which has allowed him to display his top-notch playing and resulted in Maestro Abreu giving him the opportunity to take part in some of the SJVSB’s international tours.

Daniel is already making a career for himself with his international performances, such as the one he gave in 2010 at the Domaine Forget International Music Festival in Quebec, Canada. That same year he gave a demonstration of his talent during the System’s 35th Anniversary Concert that was much applauded. However, Arias has another goal in his sights. “I see myself in the future as a great maestro of the cello and I’m studying hard to achieve that goal, and I’m also preparing myself to be a soloist with the great orchestras of the world, because I want to be acknowledged internationally.”

Daniel Arias

185

Page 186: Venezuela the miracle of music

While his family and friends in

Caracas were crossing their fingers

and praying, thousands of miles away,

in Berlin, a name that could have

belonged to a contestant from Spain

or Latin America stood out on all the

jury’s lists. The contest among more

than a hundred musicians, most of

them Japanese, Chinese, Europe-

ans and North Americans, was an

engagement of talent and yet more

talent, all of them competing for a

chair and music stand in the double-

bass section of the most demanding

orchestra in the world, the Berlin

Philharmonic.

That name belonged to none other

than the Venezuelan Edicson Ruíz,

the youngest of all the contestants.

So young was he, barely 17, that he

did not even meet the minimum

age to join the German orchestra,

according to the organization’s

regulations.

But that was not what counted that

afternoon in Berlin, what mattered

was the magnificent training, the

blooming talent, the magic of his

performance and the heavenly

sounds pouring from his double-bass.

That afternoon, the name of that

young man from Caracas, who had

been educated at one of the System’s

nuclei attended by students from

San Agustín, a lower income district

of Caracas, was announced as the

winner by the directors of the Berlin

Philharmonic. Edicson Ruiz became

that orchestra’s youngest member

ever since it was founded in 1887.

“That day,” recounts Edicson, “both

my Venezuelan professor, Félix Petit,

and Professor Klaus Stoll, main

bass of the Berlin Philharmonic

who trained me there a few months

before, told me that the purpose of

this audition wasn’t about winning

but was part of something very

important for me: experience. It had

nothing to do with winning or losing.

So, I decided to show who I was and

where I came from during those two

days of auditions... I prepared myself

to play the best I could, using every-

thing I’d learned so far, keeping my

own personality. My only concern

was to play well. I never thought I’d

Edicson Ruíz: A tremendous leap from San Agustín to BerlinWith his mother, Morella Derruelles, who’s idea it was to encourage Edicson to assume the discipline of his music studies

186

Page 187: Venezuela the miracle of music

win. How could I win if the best in

Europe were there? But God blessed

me, and I also had a lot in my favor:

my age, my talent, my desire to

learn, a good level of training, and

of course, what the possibility of

training and polishing me over time

represented for the Philharmonic.”

How did you end up at the San

Agustin center, where did you come

from, what were you doing at that

point in your life?

I got involved with the System of

Youth and Children’s Orchestras

of Venezuela thanks to a comment

made by one of my mother’s friends.

Her children were studying music

and she told my mom she should try

and see if I liked music and maybe

that would calm me down. I was

almost ten and I liked the group

Maná a lot, besides I was in primary

school, my grades were not the best

but they were OK, I played a lot of

football and baseball with the kids on

the block. I’d tried karate, swimming,

ceramics, and singing, and music was

far from my mind. It was really my

mother who insisted, she said to me:

“If you don’t like it, you can quit”. As

soon as I started, from the very first

day, I was drawn by the double-bass.

I was motivated by it in a very special

way. I began taking classes with Félix

Petit, the best teacher on the planet,

the best guide, the best professional

I’ve ever met.

What were your studies like at the

System of Youth and Children’s

Orchestras of Venezuela and what

were your goals?

I never set out to join the Berlin

Philharmonic. God put me on this

path, just like everything else that

has happened to me. As for my

goals, I can say that there are a lot of

opportunities to grow in the System.

Deep down, I’ve always wanted to

play, that was my goal. But, thanks

to God, I had the opportunity to

travel abroad and was able to see

and analyze other possibilities in

the best music centers in the world,

and that helped me dream about

Berlin. However, I have to say that I’d

be nothing if I hadn’t had Maestro

Abreu’s support and vision, or my

mother’s drive, or Professor Petit’s

wisdom, or my training in the Sys-

tem. Why? Simply because Abreu

created and gave us a style of music

teaching where the youngster is faced

with a score, live and direct, learns

how to read it and how to play the

instrument at the same time, whereas

everywhere else in the world you’re

expected to study music theory for

at least three years and only then do

you start with an instrument. Take

me, for example, I remember when I

was invited to my first rehearsal with

the National Youth Orchestra when

I didn’t even know how to really hold

the bow, much less where to put my

left hand -obviously, because I’d had

it explained to me only a short time

before-, and I was in front of a music

stand holding Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. That allowed me, the same

as all the other children and young-

sters in the System, to fly, to learn

very quickly; it helped me to learn to

read scores faster and develop speed

in the left hand and the right. I’ve no-

ticed that many of my colleagues still

have problems of that type. What I

mean is that our teaching method

is the most direct, fastest and most

efficient in the world. The profes-

sors at the Berlin Philharmonic and

other music centers of the world

are amazed by the System’s wealth

of talent and the good training its

youngsters have.

What’s your experience at the

Berlin Philharmonic been like, and

what demands have been made on

you workwise?

The Berlin Philharmonic expects me

to be a real musician, something I

haven’t managed yet because I’m still

in training. They demand total dedi-

cation in order to reach each of the

objectives they set me rehearsal after

rehearsal, program after program,

concert after concert. Every week it’s

a new experience, performance after

performance, season after season,

it’s always different, and at the same

time you learn a lot of things. Whole

days are given over to music. I’m at

the Philharmonie from ten in the

morning to seven at night. I also

have the opportunity to try new

double-bass works that haven’t been

played before, such as the ones writ-

ten for me by Arturo Márquez and

Blas Atehortúa, which I’ve been able

to play in Caracas with the Simón

Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. Also

I’ve been fortunate enough to have

been invited by important musicians

like Heinz Holliger to play Baroque

and Renaissance chamber music. I’ve

been invited to play as soloist with

European ensembles as well. God has

made my life better. I’m very grateful

for all the opportunities. Because

of that, I allow myself to dream of

becoming better every day. I want to

be a complete man; I’m here on this

earth to evolve in every way.

Remarkable success

Since winning the first prize at the

International Society of Bassist’s

competition in Indianapolis in

2001 at a very young age, Ruíz has

enjoyed remarkable success and

been tirelessly pursuing his artistic

career. He has played as a soloist with

the Venezuelan Youth Symphony

Orchestra on a yearly basis since

2001. In Europe, he played as soloist

with Portuguese orchestras in

2005. In 2006, he made his début

as a soloist at the Lincoln Center in

New York with the Philharmonic

Orchestra of the Americas. He has

given recitals at the 2006 Lucerne

Festival, for the Berlin Philharmonic

in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and also at a

number of chamber music, modern,

and vanguard music festivals in the

Azores, Switzerland, Italy, Germany,

Spain, and Russia, presided over by

Heinz Holliger, Andras Schiff, and

chamber ensembles of the Berlin

Philharmonic. He is a member of

the Berlin Philharmonic’s Double

Bass Sextet and is also involved in

the education project proposed by

Simon Rattle and carried out by his

orchestra since 2002.

Author’s note: This interview with Edicson Ruíz done in 2004 has been taken from Venezuela bursting with orchestras and updated for this publication.

187

Page 188: Venezuela the miracle of music

a maestro seduced by the tropicsClaudio Abbado:

n tune with his elegant, unhurried gate, the famous conductor Claudio Abbado

always appears before his interlocutors with a demeanor worthy of a wise maestro. When greeting the Venezuelan children and young-sters, he shakes their hands with the warmth and confidence of someone who considers himself one of them, just another musician. Interviews with journalists are definitely not the preferred medium for conveying his ideas and opinions, but he is aware that it is part of the job he has been doing in Venezuela since 2005: making people around the world aware of the merits of the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela and its wealth of talent.

Abbado starts off this conversation with a con-fession. “Five years ago, when I came to Caracas for the concerts given by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, I was fortunate enough to hear the National Youth and Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, which was already being conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Quite simply, I was extremely excited by the idea of this orga-nization, this marvelous initiative to help young people and children, those youngsters who come from the barrios. This has been done by means

of an effective musical and cultural method that has managed to rescue more than 300,000 young people in recent years. I immediately said to myself: ‘I’m witnessing something unusual; I haven’t seen this anywhere else in the world.’ That was when I invited the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela to Berlin and got the sponsorship of the Berlin Philharmonic, which immediately welcomed the sponsorship project and has become an enthusiastic supporter of José Antonio Abreu’s project.”

Now, Abbado is a member of the System’s family and his presence is always expected and a reason for celebration in the orchestras. In 2010, Abbado spent a long time in Venezuela: weeks of intense rehearsals and communion with the youngsters of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted in March that year in Lucerne, obtaining high praise from the critics. Abbado also conducted the Teresa Carreño Orchestra, one of the most brilliant ensembles of the new generations and where he found very special talents, such as the violinist Angélica Olivo, whom he has invited to go to Italy to play with the Mozart Orchestra, not to mention his close relationship with the young

188

Page 189: Venezuela the miracle of music

conductor Diego Matheuz, who is his assistant in Italy and takes his place at many international engagements.

Maestro, what’s your opinion now after those first years of close association with the System and the Youth and Children’s Orchestras?I’m delighted. I’ve been so excited since I arrived because what Maestro Abreu has done and con-tinues to do is something great, fantastic, some-thing musically, culturally, socially, and humanely unique. Already the System does not belong to Venezuela alone. All countries, even those with major musical and artistic capitals, are getting to know it and want to imitate it because there is no program of these dimensions and with such noble purposes anywhere else in the world. It moves me deeply to see how these young Venezuelan talents have developed after working with the SJVSB for the past five or six years, both here in Venezuela and at major world venues where we’ve performed together. I feel that there is excellent communication and understanding between the youngsters and myself.

How would you classify the level of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orches-tra today? The level of the SJVSB has risen amazingly. Now it has a broader and richer sound. It’s an orchestra that displays a most unusual enthusiasm and joy for making music. Every time I come I find they have raised their standard; I love it. I work sec-tion by section and then we put all the sections together and listen to the achievements. That’s my method for making chamber music, which I want to develop more intensely with the Venezuelan talents. The Simón Bolívar is already a major orchestra in the world of symphonic music.

Formidable growth

For those who are familiar with Claudio Abbado’s career, the passion that this acclaimed conductor gives to his performances and professional challenges comes as no surprise, particularly his efforts to support young talents or tear down the barriers of artistic isolation. His résumé abounds with examples, such as when

he resolved to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on October 8, 1989, right in the middle of the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the times he has donated his prizes and awards to musi-cians who needed special support in order to continue their musical careers.

Abbado is the founder of the European Com-munity Youth Orchestra and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. Although in 2000 he decide to take on fewer public engagements, this has not stopped him from promoting musicians that he, with his expert artistic eye, considers should be brought to the public’s notice, either by getting them to record a CD or by inviting them to play as soloists at his concerts with the most sublime orchestras or by offering them new opportunities of work by founding new ensembles, among them the Mozart Orchestra, whose home is in Bologna. It is to all this that Abreu refers when he says: “Abbado is devoting all his efforts, at the height of his career, to help the world’s children and young people; that is the most noble and significant gesture than any artist can make for mankind.”

At this point in your artistic career, what does making music with children and young people mean to you?We musicians have other ways of communi-cating with people. It’s a deeper communication, through our hands and eyes, through something more transcendental: music. That’s why I’m happy to know that I can work with young

During rehearsals in Caracas and in other cities around the world, Maestro Abbado counts on the collaboration of the young Venezuelan conductor Diego Matheuz

189

Page 190: Venezuela the miracle of music

people because, to me, they represent new energy; it’s a new emotion in my career.

Maestro, how much is there left for the System to do?I’ve seen nothing else like it anywhere else in the world. The work that’s being done in Venezuela is exemplary and we’ve started to do the same in Italy and in the United States as well; and that’s how it’s going to be in the rest of the world. This is work that is highly beneficial, particularly for the nations of Latin America and of other continents. My humble contribution consists of telling the whole world about it, as I’ve been doing since 2005. We have to support them as much as we can because, in each of these orches-tras and in each of these young Venezuelan musicians, beats the hope of a better world.

What’s your view of Venezuela from the cultural point of view?Venezuela is not just an oil country; it’s not just a nation that has soil rich in energy. There is so much here: the vegetation, the light, the generosity of its people. There is something much bigger, and for that reason we can say that Venezuela is a cultural power: the talent of its artists, the passion of its musicians, from the youngest to the best trained, is something that one doesn’t easily find in the most reputed capitals of the music world.

What most impresses you about the Program created by Maestro Abreu?That it cultivates the love for music in children and young people; that is something you don’t often see nowadays. For me it’s an honor and a pleasure to be able to share this experience. What impresses me about the System’s Program is the social line and profile that has been given to this project, seeing how music can help poor children, enrich them spiritually, seeing how it can turn them into better human beings and capable individuals. It’s wonderful to be a witness to this work that my friend Abreu has done. It’s something unique because, with this program, it’s possible to give back to these young people a more humane, a pleasanter life. This work that is being done with people who

come from sectors that have very few economic resources, from families who struggle hard to survive, and who are being given the opportu-nity to study and have a musical instrument, to learn about culture and have a normal life, is an example for the rest of the world. Another as-pect of the System that delights me is that these young musicians have managed to rapidly be-come music teachers, true music professionals, without abandoning their careers as soloists and orchestra members or as university students, even studying for other careers. Besides that, one perceives that they are very proud when they’re able to get a job in the capital, but, at the same time, they have no objection to working in their hometowns or in towns in the provinces. That I find quite simply marvelous.

What do you think of the System’s Special Education Program that won the Nonino Risit d’Aur Prize in Friuli, Italy, with your support? A miracle. From the social point of view, it’s a miracle what this System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras can do and has already achieved with the handicapped. It’s moving. That’s why you have to experience it in person to convince yourself that in the 21st century you should be working along these lines. I’ll take these musicians to Rome, to Paris, and to the most important music festivals so that the world learns about this great richness of talent that Venezuela and Latin America have. And I was very moved to receive the gloves of the White Hands Choir from the hands of the children, young people, and directors of this program; I will treasure them. Apart from that, I’m so delighted to have this program in Italy as well, because work is already being done to imple-ment it there, under the direction and with the advice of its Venezuelan creators, naturally.

190

Page 191: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 192: Venezuela the miracle of music

Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra “A” Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra “B” Academic Orchestral Program

Founding DirectorJosé Antonio Abreu

Acting Executive Director Eduardo Méndez

Deputy Executive DirectorValdemar RodríguezMusical DirectorAlfredo RugelesGeneral ManagerVíctor RojasAssistant ManagerMirley Sánchez

FIRST VIOLINSRamón Román( concertino)Joel NievesIgor Lara (Assistant concertino)Eddy MarcanoLuis JackoschBorgan AscanioJosé ScolaroOllantay VelásquezMercedes SalazarMiguel NievesJosé OteroCecilia GómezOrlando GómezMaría Cecilia TuestaVíctor Vivas Vanessa GarridoLorena Ródenas

María José RamírezMario QuiñonesElayza PérezEddie CorderoLuvin VillasmilMarian GutiérrezRhomy LópezCorina ÁlvarezLaura OsunaJosé Laurencio SilvaIraida Mora

SECOND VIOLINSPeyber Medina*Efraín Lara**Luis HernándezMaribel SernaNorma MolinaYda PalavecinoHisvett GarrachánJosé PeredaMery OrozcoEvelio BarazarteMaría AntonietaBelmonteDaniela PinzónJesmar JatarArmando NúñezAlessandro LugoAlexander GonzálezAndrea LaresManuela PagliucaMiguel Ravago

VIOLASFrank Di Polo *María Beatriz Cárdenas *

Luis Bohórquez **Richard UrbanoGisela GonzálezJavier MoraJesús PérezLuis Felipe MolinaRosa María BarriosMónica GómezCarmelo MéndezGilmer MendozaHeidy RoaAntulio DuboyRicardo NarváezAna Patricia LiendoAntonio MalavéIván SánchezJoyce BlancoCristina AlvaradoFélix Barradas

CELLOSWilliam Molina *Valmore Nieves **Juan Pablo Méndez **César NogueraMaría Eugenia PradoFranklin AltunaArgelia MartínezRoy GarcíaSamuel PérezDarlenys ZamoraMónica FríasMaría G. FigueroaWalter Carbonara Kenny AponteViviana KasasMaría José Romero

Manuel Hernández

DOUBLE BASSESDavid Carpio *Néstor BlancoJosé Gregorio LópezJesús ZambranoNéstor PérezMiguel SegoviaMarcos RomeroAbraham MaduroIkser MijaresJorge Luis LealJuan Manuel GuevaraGerald Ruiz

FLUTESJosé García *Víctor Rojas *Raimundo Pineda **María José León **José MedinaEnver CuervosAna Paola RinconesEdgardo CaraballoEric Chacón

PICCOLORaimundo Pineda **Enver Cuervos

OBOESAndrés Eloy Medina *Víctor Morles ** José Gregorio Sánchez**Fernando ÁlvarezMaya Rodríguez

Vicente Moronta

CLARINETSValdemar Rodríguez *Jorge Montilla *Gorgias Sánchez **Carmen Borregales**Oscar GonzálezDemian Martínez

BASSOONSOmar Ascanio *Leonardo Deán *Héctor BarriosJesús AcostaCarlos AdarmesMarcella Frías

HORNSFrancisco Javier Aragón *Fernando Ruiz *Rafael Cantor *Ulises Aragón *Juan Carlos Maldonado *Henry QuintanaKleiberth MoraJosé FloresEdgar PulgarAndrés Aragón

TRUMPETSAlexander Barrios *Francisco Flores **Gaudy Sánchez Giancarlo CastroHernán QuinteroEdwin González

Brayahan Cesin

TROMBONESGuillermo Alquati *Miguel Sánchez *Eliel RiveroMelissa SánchezSalvador Sáez

BASS TROMBONES Duvardo EcharryOscar MendozaJosé ZerpaFranklin Moreno

TUBASÁngel Linares **Romaing PoleoAlexis Urbina

PERCUSSIONEdgar Saume *Yván Hernández **Margarita CarreñoAlberto VergaraMaría Eugenia VásquezCarlos MosqueraJesús PérezJosé Alberto Márquez

KEYBOARDVilma Sánchez General Services ChiefLuis VelásquezTechnical Sta�Marfrank HerediaDarwin Rangel

Rafael RodríguezEmmanuel Méndez

* Principal** Assistant

Founding DirectorJosé Antonio Abreu

Acting Executive Director Eduardo Méndez

Deputy Executive DirectorValdemar RodríguezMusical DirectorGustavo DudamelGeneral ManagerVíctor RojasAssistant ManagerRené Pirotte

FIRST VIOLINSAlejandro Carreño ( concertino)Eduardo SalazarJesús PintoBoris SuárezAmanda OchoaAnna Virginia GonzálezCarlos VegasDouglas IsasisEbert CeballoEmirzeth HenríquezFelipe RodríguezHéctor RoblesJaneth SapienzaJosé Laurencio SilvaLuis Adolfo GonzálezLuis Barazarte María José OviedoNicole Rodríguez

Oriana SuárezRubén LópezVerónica Balda

SECOND VIOLINSMoisés MedinaGregory MataAlirio VegasAdriana Von BourenAnderson BriceñoCarlos Luis PerdomoDaniel HerreraDaniel MarínDaniel RieraDaniela DíazEdgar PiñeroEduardo GomesEnrique CarrilloImanuel SandovalIsrael MéndezJosé GuédezJuan PérezOswaldo MartínezPatricio MeriñoRonnie MoralesWilliam GonzálezWilliam López

VIOLASIsmel CamposLuis AguilarCarlos CoralesCarmen GragirenaDavid Peralta Fabiana ÁlvarezGreymar MendozaJhoanna Sierralta

Juan ChacónLuís VelásquezLuz CadenasMary Francis AlvaradoMiguel JerézOriana LoaizaPedro GonzálezSamuel Jiménez

CELLOSEdgar CalderónAimon MataAbner PadrinoBenito LiendoCarlos EreúCésar GiulianiEnn René DíazJean Carlos CoronadoJhonn RujanoJosé David MárquezJuan StabilitoLeandro BandresLuis MataMaricmar PérezMónica FríasRicardo CornielYackson Sánchez

DOUBLE BASSESClaudio HernándezAntonio CamachoDaniel PérezFreddy AdriánHecmary Barroso Jorge Alí MorenoLuis PeraltaOscar Luque

Vanessa MatamorosYholmer YépezZahira Guaramatos

FLUTESKatherine RivasGabriel CanoAron GarcíaDiego HernándezEmily OjedaEngels GómezEtni MolletonesFernando MartínezMariaceli NavarroYaritzy Cabrera

OBOESFrank GiraldoElly Saúl GuerreroAlvaro ManzanillaEly MolletonesHairin ColinaJhon EscobarNéstor Pardo

ENGLISH HORNElvis Romero

CLARINETSDavid MedinaCarlos EscalonaDaniel JaimesJesús AntónRanieri Chacón Rebeca AscanioRaphael González *Henry Pérez *

BASSOONSGonzalo HidalgoDaniel GarcíaAlexander RicaurteCrisbel MaucóEdgar MonrroyMowgli Bello

CONTRABASSOONAquiles Delgado

HORNSRafael PayareKaylet TorrezDanny GutiérrezAlexander UrbinaEdgar AragónFavio GiraldoJosé MelgarejoLuis CastroReinaldo Albornoz

TRUMPETSTomás MedinaGaudy SánchezAndrés AscanioAndrés GonzálezArsenio MorenoDavid PérezGerald ChacónJonathan RivasLeafar RiobuenoLuis Alfredo Sánchez Miguel AlbonozMiguel Taglia!coOscar LópezRomán Granda

Víctor CalderaWerlink CasanovaWilfrido Galárraga

TROMBONESPedro CarreroAlejandro DíazEdgar GarcíaJackson MurilloJoel MartínezJonathan SalazarLeudy InestrozaLewis EscolanteMayerlin Carrero

BASS TROMBONES Alexander MedinaFrancisco BlancoJhonder SalazarLisandro Laya

TUBASLewis PantojaChristian Delgado

PERCUSSIONFélix MendozaRamón GrandaAcuarius ZambranoEdgardo AcostaJuan Carlos SilvaLuis Trejo Luzbel JiménezMatías AzpúruaSergio LópezSimón GonzálezVíctor Villarroel

HARPSGalaxia ZambranoRodolfo SarabiaAdel SolórzanoXavier Perri

PIANOSVilma SánchezCoordinaciónCésar MarvalJoel BetancourtSecretary’s O�ceAndreína de la HozLisbeth OlivaresTechnical Sta�Ramón VegaEdgar CamachoDanny CastilloJosé CampuzanoNaudy NaresReproductionRichard Santafé

* Guest

192

Page 193: Venezuela the miracle of music

Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra “A” Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra “B” Academic Orchestral Program

Founding DirectorJosé Antonio Abreu

Acting Executive Director Eduardo Méndez

Deputy Executive DirectorValdemar RodríguezMusical DirectorAlfredo RugelesGeneral ManagerVíctor RojasAssistant ManagerMirley Sánchez

FIRST VIOLINSRamón Román( concertino)Joel NievesIgor Lara (Assistant concertino)Eddy MarcanoLuis JackoschBorgan AscanioJosé ScolaroOllantay VelásquezMercedes SalazarMiguel NievesJosé OteroCecilia GómezOrlando GómezMaría Cecilia TuestaVíctor Vivas Vanessa GarridoLorena Ródenas

María José RamírezMario QuiñonesElayza PérezEddie CorderoLuvin VillasmilMarian GutiérrezRhomy LópezCorina ÁlvarezLaura OsunaJosé Laurencio SilvaIraida Mora

SECOND VIOLINSPeyber Medina*Efraín Lara**Luis HernándezMaribel SernaNorma MolinaYda PalavecinoHisvett GarrachánJosé PeredaMery OrozcoEvelio BarazarteMaría AntonietaBelmonteDaniela PinzónJesmar JatarArmando NúñezAlessandro LugoAlexander GonzálezAndrea LaresManuela PagliucaMiguel Ravago

VIOLASFrank Di Polo *María Beatriz Cárdenas *

Luis Bohórquez **Richard UrbanoGisela GonzálezJavier MoraJesús PérezLuis Felipe MolinaRosa María BarriosMónica GómezCarmelo MéndezGilmer MendozaHeidy RoaAntulio DuboyRicardo NarváezAna Patricia LiendoAntonio MalavéIván SánchezJoyce BlancoCristina AlvaradoFélix Barradas

CELLOSWilliam Molina *Valmore Nieves **Juan Pablo Méndez **César NogueraMaría Eugenia PradoFranklin AltunaArgelia MartínezRoy GarcíaSamuel PérezDarlenys ZamoraMónica FríasMaría G. FigueroaWalter Carbonara Kenny AponteViviana KasasMaría José Romero

Manuel Hernández

DOUBLE BASSESDavid Carpio *Néstor BlancoJosé Gregorio LópezJesús ZambranoNéstor PérezMiguel SegoviaMarcos RomeroAbraham MaduroIkser MijaresJorge Luis LealJuan Manuel GuevaraGerald Ruiz

FLUTESJosé García *Víctor Rojas *Raimundo Pineda **María José León **José MedinaEnver CuervosAna Paola RinconesEdgardo CaraballoEric Chacón

PICCOLORaimundo Pineda **Enver Cuervos

OBOESAndrés Eloy Medina *Víctor Morles ** José Gregorio Sánchez**Fernando ÁlvarezMaya Rodríguez

Vicente Moronta

CLARINETSValdemar Rodríguez *Jorge Montilla *Gorgias Sánchez **Carmen Borregales**Oscar GonzálezDemian Martínez

BASSOONSOmar Ascanio *Leonardo Deán *Héctor BarriosJesús AcostaCarlos AdarmesMarcella Frías

HORNSFrancisco Javier Aragón *Fernando Ruiz *Rafael Cantor *Ulises Aragón *Juan Carlos Maldonado *Henry QuintanaKleiberth MoraJosé FloresEdgar PulgarAndrés Aragón

TRUMPETSAlexander Barrios *Francisco Flores **Gaudy Sánchez Giancarlo CastroHernán QuinteroEdwin González

Brayahan Cesin

TROMBONESGuillermo Alquati *Miguel Sánchez *Eliel RiveroMelissa SánchezSalvador Sáez

BASS TROMBONES Duvardo EcharryOscar MendozaJosé ZerpaFranklin Moreno

TUBASÁngel Linares **Romaing PoleoAlexis Urbina

PERCUSSIONEdgar Saume *Yván Hernández **Margarita CarreñoAlberto VergaraMaría Eugenia VásquezCarlos MosqueraJesús PérezJosé Alberto Márquez

KEYBOARDVilma Sánchez General Services ChiefLuis VelásquezTechnical Sta�Marfrank HerediaDarwin Rangel

Rafael RodríguezEmmanuel Méndez

* Principal** Assistant

Founding DirectorJosé Antonio Abreu

Acting Executive Director Eduardo Méndez

Deputy Executive DirectorValdemar RodríguezMusical DirectorGustavo DudamelGeneral ManagerVíctor RojasAssistant ManagerRené Pirotte

FIRST VIOLINSAlejandro Carreño ( concertino)Eduardo SalazarJesús PintoBoris SuárezAmanda OchoaAnna Virginia GonzálezCarlos VegasDouglas IsasisEbert CeballoEmirzeth HenríquezFelipe RodríguezHéctor RoblesJaneth SapienzaJosé Laurencio SilvaLuis Adolfo GonzálezLuis Barazarte María José OviedoNicole Rodríguez

Oriana SuárezRubén LópezVerónica Balda

SECOND VIOLINSMoisés MedinaGregory MataAlirio VegasAdriana Von BourenAnderson BriceñoCarlos Luis PerdomoDaniel HerreraDaniel MarínDaniel RieraDaniela DíazEdgar PiñeroEduardo GomesEnrique CarrilloImanuel SandovalIsrael MéndezJosé GuédezJuan PérezOswaldo MartínezPatricio MeriñoRonnie MoralesWilliam GonzálezWilliam López

VIOLASIsmel CamposLuis AguilarCarlos CoralesCarmen GragirenaDavid Peralta Fabiana ÁlvarezGreymar MendozaJhoanna Sierralta

Juan ChacónLuís VelásquezLuz CadenasMary Francis AlvaradoMiguel JerézOriana LoaizaPedro GonzálezSamuel Jiménez

CELLOSEdgar CalderónAimon MataAbner PadrinoBenito LiendoCarlos EreúCésar GiulianiEnn René DíazJean Carlos CoronadoJhonn RujanoJosé David MárquezJuan StabilitoLeandro BandresLuis MataMaricmar PérezMónica FríasRicardo CornielYackson Sánchez

DOUBLE BASSESClaudio HernándezAntonio CamachoDaniel PérezFreddy AdriánHecmary Barroso Jorge Alí MorenoLuis PeraltaOscar Luque

Vanessa MatamorosYholmer YépezZahira Guaramatos

FLUTESKatherine RivasGabriel CanoAron GarcíaDiego HernándezEmily OjedaEngels GómezEtni MolletonesFernando MartínezMariaceli NavarroYaritzy Cabrera

OBOESFrank GiraldoElly Saúl GuerreroAlvaro ManzanillaEly MolletonesHairin ColinaJhon EscobarNéstor Pardo

ENGLISH HORNElvis Romero

CLARINETSDavid MedinaCarlos EscalonaDaniel JaimesJesús AntónRanieri Chacón Rebeca AscanioRaphael González *Henry Pérez *

BASSOONSGonzalo HidalgoDaniel GarcíaAlexander RicaurteCrisbel MaucóEdgar MonrroyMowgli Bello

CONTRABASSOONAquiles Delgado

HORNSRafael PayareKaylet TorrezDanny GutiérrezAlexander UrbinaEdgar AragónFavio GiraldoJosé MelgarejoLuis CastroReinaldo Albornoz

TRUMPETSTomás MedinaGaudy SánchezAndrés AscanioAndrés GonzálezArsenio MorenoDavid PérezGerald ChacónJonathan RivasLeafar RiobuenoLuis Alfredo Sánchez Miguel AlbonozMiguel Taglia!coOscar LópezRomán Granda

Víctor CalderaWerlink CasanovaWilfrido Galárraga

TROMBONESPedro CarreroAlejandro DíazEdgar GarcíaJackson MurilloJoel MartínezJonathan SalazarLeudy InestrozaLewis EscolanteMayerlin Carrero

BASS TROMBONES Alexander MedinaFrancisco BlancoJhonder SalazarLisandro Laya

TUBASLewis PantojaChristian Delgado

PERCUSSIONFélix MendozaRamón GrandaAcuarius ZambranoEdgardo AcostaJuan Carlos SilvaLuis Trejo Luzbel JiménezMatías AzpúruaSergio LópezSimón GonzálezVíctor Villarroel

HARPSGalaxia ZambranoRodolfo SarabiaAdel SolórzanoXavier Perri

PIANOSVilma SánchezCoordinaciónCésar MarvalJoel BetancourtSecretary’s O�ceAndreína de la HozLisbeth OlivaresTechnical Sta�Ramón VegaEdgar CamachoDanny CastilloJosé CampuzanoNaudy NaresReproductionRichard Santafé

* Guest

193

Page 194: Venezuela the miracle of music

Venezuelaplanted with choirs and orchestras

VIII

Cha

pter

I want to be in you, beside you, on you, Venezuela, even despite yourself. I want to stay here, unwavering and forever,giving neither a step forward nor a step back.I must love you for all I’m worth,and the love I have for you, Venezuela,dissolves me in you.

Antonio Arráiz

Page 195: Venezuela the miracle of music
Page 196: Venezuela the miracle of music

here is a country rich in oil, islands, multi-azured seas, melodious rivers, and generous mountains studded with exotic trees and spectacular flowers that grow only there; a land where tiny tots jump from their cradles singing and playing violins, pianos, flutes, cellos, harps, cuatros, maracas, and drums; where its men and women live and work in numerous orchestras and choirs producing the spiritual sustenance for millions and millions of happy souls who inhabit its every corner… they are the musi-cians of the north and of the south; they live in the east and in the west too. There is no other country like it, where the inhabitants sow sym-phony orchestras from the great mouth of the Caribbean to the entrance of its deep Amazo-nian jungle and from its westernmost point on the Paraguaná Peninsula to Guasdualito on its most remote frontier. It is the country of music and it is called Venezuela.

That is the map of our country at the start of the 21st century: a splendid hive of more than

300 pre-school, children’s, youth, and symphony orchestras concentrated in some 230 regional centers located in 24 states of the country, where 300,000 Venezuelan pupils and musicians coexist, with no distinction as to age or social class. But building up this enormous orchestra network has required time and ministry. Igor Lanz tells us of the early years of this country that is an orchestra.

“The start of the National Network of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, because founding the first Youth Orchestra required the participation of musicians from all parts of Venezuela; some were from the Andes, others from Lara, a fair number from Aragua, and also from the Llanos (the central plains). Once that first orchestra had been formed and its impact throughout Venezuela demonstrated, many of those pioneer musicians went back to the provinces to found new nuclei or centers, and they were able to break with another paradigm:

The country of music

196

Page 197: Venezuela the miracle of music

that the capital was the only place it was possible to study and make music. The principle of the System is equality and opportunities for all, and that was achieved through the process of decen-tralizing and deconcentrating teaching and the practice of music undertaken by José Antonio Abreu. In the early 1980s, there was an orchestra functioning in every state, and today, to our great satisfaction, we not only have orchestras in all the towns of Venezuela, but several orches-tras in the same region,” tells Lanz.

There are many examples of the System’s founding musicians who have done admirable work so that, today, the towns where they were born could enjoy a first class musical move-ment. Henry Zambrano is a case in point. After spending some time in Caracas as a double-bass player with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, he went back to the Llanos, where he founded the first music centers in Portuguesa, Barinas, and Apure states.

“I was in Caracas up until 1981. At that time, everyone was coming to Caracas, while the children in the provinces were left without teachers. So, I went to Guanare and founded the Portuguesa Youth Symphony Orchestra with 100 kids, and today it has more than 300 musi-cians. Then I went to San Fernando de Apure and founded another orchestra. After that I was in Miranda to reorganize the children’s and youth orchestras in Los Teques; and I also stayed a while in Barquisimeto and I set up a center there. The biggest problem was the distances

between one place and the next; even so, I covered those routes twice a week for 25 years running so that the centers in Portuguesa and Apure would flourish. Then I devoted my time to founding the centers on the border, around Guasdualito and later in Puerto Aya-cucho. There’s still a lot to be done, but I think it’s precisely that that keeps me young and keen to carry on working,” comments Zambrano.

A center for every town

How did they organize the transfer of the System to all the states of Venezuela? Practi-cally from the start of the program, a func-tional, educational, artistic, and administrative structure called a “Nucleus” was created, which performed a wide variety of functions. All the teaching, orchestral, choral, and artistic programs, plus the promotional, and cultural dissemination programs of the local communi-ties, are carried out at these nuclei or centers under the same administrative-educational scheme, which follows the general guidelines laid down by Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion’s Nuclei Management Office.

Francisco Ces, the Nuclei Management Office’s Director, explains: “The Nucleus is a model and an unbeatable school for living in society, where teachers, cultural managers, chil-dren, adolescents, workers, and volunteer fami-lies interact. They function autonomously and have independent legal status, but they all work towards achieving a single goal: excellence and music leadership in their region. There are cases of regions that have centers very near one another, only 100 kilometers apart, and they are different because the demands made on each are different and respond to the needs of the population they cater to.”

The way the centers have multiplied in recent years is amazing, says Ces. In 2005, the System had 96 centers around the country and in April 2010 they came to 230, and it is estimated that, by 2011, there will be around 250 catering to a population of 300,000 children and young people who make music in 396 orchestras.

Henry Zambrano

Ángel Linares and Francisco Ces, FundaMusical Simón Bolívar’s Nucleus Coordinator and Director

197

Page 198: Venezuela the miracle of music

“The proliferation of the centers has been an exceptional and unique phenomenon in Venezuela. Every week, we get requests to open new centers from all the regions, barrios, communities, state governments, mayoralties, municipalities, and populations of Venezu-ela that want to get their children and young people into the orchestras. This extraordinarily high demand, from both parents and regional authorities and cultural promoters, has had two very positive results: 1) it has favored and achieved self-management at many centers, because it is the entrepreneurs, civil society, and organized communities that work, together with Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation, to set up these centers in the regions; and 2) there is growing encouragement, support, and proposals from the authorities in each region for creating new centers, which prompts us to form strategic alliances, because we need one another: the re-gional authorities want to implement solutions and carry out cultural and educational plans, and we, in line with our objective, continue expand-ing the virtues of the System so that they reach all the country’s children and young people.”

A number of examples illustrate what Ces is saying. In Trujillo, the state authorities have got involved in setting up six new centers in just one year; and the eight nuclei that had been opened up until 2005, are to be joined by 17 centers for the System of orchestras starting in 2010. As for the speed with which the centers have been multiplying since 2009 in some states, the num-bers speak for themselves: Aragua, went from 4 nuclei in 2005 to 12 in 2010; Miranda from 10 in 2005 to 20 to date; Yaracuy had 6 in 2005 and now has 17; Monagas had 2 in 2002 and today has a total of 11; Táchira went from 3 in 2005 to 15 in 2010; Vargas had 3 in 2005 and today has 9; Zulia went from 4 in 2005 to 13 today; Carabobo had 2 in 2005 and now has 8; Mérida jumped from 3 nuclei in 2005 to 13; and Capital District had 6 in 2005 and today has 16.

Another special feature of the centers is the large number of children and adolescents they take, not only to join their orchestras, but also, a fair number who are not necessarily strictly music pu-

pils, but come to take part in the choirs, student folk groups, bands, special education programs, and lutherie workshops. The states that benefit the largest number of children and adolescents are: Capital District (more than 32,000), Miranda (more than 10,000), Aragua (more than 6,000), Guárico (more than 7,000), and Yaracuy and Tru-jillo (with more than 5,000 each), explains Ángel Linares, the National Nuclei Coordinator.

Strengthening the most remote nuclei

The social awareness of many of the System’s musicians contributes to a large extent to the development of the nuclei that are located a long way from the towns or in places with very needy child populations. Rafael Elster is a case in point. This former trumpet player at the Miranda Nucleus and with the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Orchestra, who has a degree in music and has studied at the Juilliard School and Queens College, New York, explains: “It’s very important not to lose sight of the nuclei that are a long way from the towns; the area of the Llanos (the central plains region), where we now have the valuable support of Fernando Ruíz, requires priority attention. We’ve also got tremendous growth in Guárico and also in Ciudad Bolívar now with the Upata Nucleus, and we are deter-mined to cover the needs in Amazonas with the Puerto Ayacucho Nucleus, because we have a duty to help the children and youngsters who live in the country’s most depressed areas.”

Rafael Elster

Anzoátegui Children’s Orchestra

198

Page 199: Venezuela the miracle of music

Elster has already devoted himself body and soul to this line of work for ten years directing one of the most demanding and socially complex cen-ters, the Sarria Nucleus located in the José Martí Bolivarian School in Caracas, where the child and youth population faces serious problems of poverty, marginalization, and drugs. He is also the projects coordinator for Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Executive Office and sup-ports Eduardo Méndez with new undertakings and initiatives and helps to channel donations for The System’s thousands of children and youngsters.

Diversity that resounds

In the interior, Venezuela is a hotbed of musi-cians, instruments, and countless ensembles and Venezuelans full of artistic projects and making their way with the best tool they’ve managed to find: being daring, ingenious, and skilled players

and interpreters in order to produce sounds with different “energies.”

Each region of the country has managed to develop its music potential. Even though the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra brings together the best players and has its unique sound, the sound of musical Venezuela, each orchestra plays the sound of its state because one of the virtues of the nuclei network is that it has encouraged and consolidated not only the decentralization of music, but also the idio-syncrasies of the people in each region. Henry Zambrano describes the “energies” emanating from the System’s regional orchestras.

“The Llaneros (people from the Venezuelan plains region) are easy-going, open, they win you over in no time at all; their musicians and their orchestra are like that: they have an open, friendly sound; the Zulianos (from Zulia state)

Puerto La Cruz Nucleus gives Maestro Abbado a great reception

199

Page 200: Venezuela the miracle of music

are more focused on themselves and so is their orchestra, proud and energetic; the Larenses (from Lara State) are great artists, they’re born with a unique musicality, their orchestras are melodious and of a high musical caliber; the Andinos (from the Andes) find it more difficult to communicate, they’re more reserved, intro-verted, so their orchestras have a more serene temperament; the Orientales (from the eastern region) have vast beaches and that burning sun, so their orchestras are warm, the beauty of their music is infectious and cheerful; whereas the men and women from the capital are always more daring, besides being more elegant, and so are the orchestras from the capital states: they’ll risk everything to get the best sound, the best interpretation, and they always maintain a certain elegance at the concerts.”

Music leaders from the regions have also made a tremendous contribution to the development of their home states. They do not forget where they come from; while many have stayed in the places where they were born or have gone back there after consolidating their professions as musicians in the capital, others live in Caracas but maintain contact with their home states and help them out by taking on management or artistic activities. Examples of this abound in the System: Valdemar Rodríguez looks out for Yaracuy, Gregory Carreño for Trujillo and Miranda, Rubén Cova for Zulia, César Iván Lara for Mérida, and even Gustavo Dudamel for his beloved Lara. Two more artistic emblems from the regions are Tarcisio Barreto, from Barqui-simeto, and Eddy Marcano from the island of Margarita. The former is the director of Lara Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Barqui-simeto Nucleus’s Conservatory and also one of our country’s most experienced conductors; and the latter is the first violin with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, a teacher, the guest conductor of a number of orchestra ensembles, and an outstand-ing Venezuelan musician who has undertaken the task of reviving Venezuelan music.

A commitment to Lara

Tarcisio Barreto was born in Barquisimeto and continues to live there promoting the land where he was born. His entire training, both as a violinist and a conductor, was with the System and his disciplined talent has allowed him to perform a variety of functions without aban-doning his artistic career as a soloist. Thanks to his inspiration and dedication, the Lara Youth Symphony Orchestra is considered, together with the Anzoátegui Youth Symphony Orches-tra, to be the most brilliant and international of all the regional orchestras. Barreto comments on the growth of his state and, in general, on the impact the System has had in the provinces.

“Today we can say that, when it comes to music, we are a first-world country and a world re-ference. The know-how is in Venezuela and in all the nuclei in the provinces. Every one of them performs an exceptional function, whether in providing artistic training or in connection with social work. But what has been achieved with this immense network of orchestras and nuclei is, above all, a method that is tailored to the idiosyncrasies of the Venezuelan people and of each region: we are talented, quick, and lively. And that’s how the System is. We learn to play by playing, to sing by singing, and to conduct by conducting. And there are plenty of people willing to help; Dudamel, for a start, and the

Tarcisio Barreto and Luis Giménez, teachers and pillars of Barquisimeto Nucleus

200

Page 201: Venezuela the miracle of music

many good musicians and teachers that Lara has produced, which has also allowed us to develop a deeply rooted connection with our musicians. That’s why we have an enormous commitment: the commitment to grow and meet the heavy demand we have in Lara, and to continue to be proud to be the System’s second oldest nucleus, and to carry on harvesting artists and happy Venezuelan citizens,” concludes Barreto.

Just like Aragua state -where the first nucleus the System set up in the provinces is located-, Lara has a nucleus that is an unbeatable model of organization, so much so that the majority of international observers who visit the country include a visit to Lara as an indispensible part of their itinerary. Maestro Barreto has the help of a dedicated team of teachers, musicians, and managers, each of them leaders in their own area: Luis Giménez, Alfredo D’Adonna, Luis Gary Núñez, Libia Gómez de D’Adonna, Pedro Vásquez, Jhonny Gómez, and Joél Pérez, plus the many other people who devote time around the clock to all Lara’s nuclei and modules.

Margarita in the heart of a violin

Anyone who listens to Eddy Marcano play his violin, whether he’s interpreting symphonic or chamber music or his outstanding variations of our Venezuelan music, will realize that he is the product of highly rigorous technical and artistic training. It so happens that he is another of the top level music “products” created by the System who is enjoying growing international prestige, mainly in the United States and Latin America. A true son of his native island, Mar-garita, Marcano, who has been concertino in both the Children’s and Youth Orchestras of Nueva Esparta and has taught at the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, tells of the strong ties he con-tinues to have with the state where he was born.

“What’s been happening on the island is won-derful. Nueva Esparta is full of great exponents, artists, and creators. But, with the System’s support, it has become a social center for music because the futures of many children have been improved, turning them into fine men and

women, keeping them away from bad habits. At the same time, thanks to music, the people of Margarita have become a better audience, with a high level of sensitivity for appreciating art and for accompanying their musicians. I’ve experi-enced all these changes up close and what I see is that we’ve got a new society on Margarita, the society forged by Maestro Abreu with his great wisdom and boundless generosity.”

In his capacity as the first president (until 2009) and founder of the Nueva Esparta Youth Symphony Orchestra, Marcano comments: “The effects and influence of the System in Nueva Esparta have produced unique results. The members of Nueva Esparta’s Symphony Orchestra have been the best students at university, and many of them are already professionals who graduated with the highest honors: lawyers, teachers, administrators. And this phenomenon, which is happening all over the country, has shown us that Venezuelans have considerable tenacity, discipline, and sensitivity that have allowed them to achieve their dreams and goals and that music has given them a vision of their country based on overall development. Moreover, the System has permitted the devel-opment of highly talented musicians in other musical genres, such as salsa, jazz, folk music, rock, and, above all, our Venezuelan music, which has drawn on the talent of great soloists thanks to the existence of a pool of musically rich ensembles.”

Eddy Marcano

Alfredo D’Adonna conducts the Barquisimeto Youth Symphony Orchestra

San Cristóbal Youth Symphony Orchestra

201

Page 202: Venezuela the miracle of music

here is another seam of talent that shines bright when, for a special concert, any of the System’s orchestras is crowned at the back of the stage with choirs, a flood of talent that does not go unnoticed in the musical footprint being left by 21st century Venezuela.

Venezuela’s children’s choir, Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela, is a clear example of how it is possible to have a top notch choir with children who are actively involved in the daily dynamic of the System, taking part in its children’s and youth orchestras as well as in its choirs.

This has made a number of achievements possible: children’s choirs of excellent quality that have received outstanding reviews from international visitors of renown. The choirs take part in important events, courses, workshops, concerts, and festivals and, over the years, this has prompted many of their members to get interested in and take up choral singing.

Apart from that, outstanding youngsters have emerged who have carried on with their studies in singing and choral direction, which, to some extent, has resulted in these choirs becoming “schools” for training experienced directors and choristers, and, more recently, thanks to the creation of the Academy of Singing, for the training of many youngsters who go on to study lyrical singing.

Among the goals that the National System of Choirs Office, under Lourdes Sánchez, has set itself are to underpin still further the training of choir teachers and directors, create a choral di-rection chair, and form new children’s and youth choirs, all aimed at setting up a solid academic structure for those who take up singing as pro-fession, as well as providing logistical support for the choral programs of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Academy of Singing.

The Systemis also a choir of voices

202

Page 203: Venezuela the miracle of music

Planting a choral structure

The System’s choral program has expanded in all parts of the country. It could be said that each nucleus has at least one children’s choir. However, states such as Lara, Guárico, Aragua, and Carabobo have a sizeable choral structure. Its main nuclei have an academic format that includes pre-school, children’s, and youth choirs, and, more recently choirs of parents and friends. This structure has given the regions con siderable strength in terms of choirs, to the point where there are already modules and nuclei for choirs only.

“Apart from that,” explains Lourdes Sánchez, “in the past four years we have consolidated a chil-dren’s choir project called “Music in Schools” with the support of Bancaribe, who have helped us to set up new choirs in elementary/middle schools, in particular under an arrangement with the Fe y Alegría schools network, which means we have been able to expand our social project. More children join this project every year. In 2009, we gave a lovely concert at the Center for Social Action with 800 children. This year we have 1,300 children and youngsters enrolled following the incorporation of two new schools in Lara and Carabobo.”

She comments that all this has been done partly through planning and partly by happenstance, and that the whole enterprise has been spiced with the huge demand that makes the setting up of so many nuclei necessary.

And adds: “We are helped by the support we get from private organizations and government agencies, the premises and facilities, and the labor force we have in each region. This has produced different results, which are adapted to each local-ity. The most important thing is that we have been able to reach so many parts of the country where children did not have the opportunity to enrich their lives through music and where today, through the System, we are offering a new alternative for intellectual growth.”

Lourdes Sánchez has worked for

the System for more than 20 years.

She started at Los Teques Nucleus

as a language and musical initia-

tion teacher. Then she assumed the

direction of Los Niños Cantores de Los Teques, where she stayed for 18

years until Maestro Abreu decided

to transfer her to Caracas to work at

Montalbán Academic Center. Later,

in 2007, she was in charge of creating

Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela

together with the teacher Margot

Parés-Reyna.

Her responsibilities at Simón Bolívar

Musical Foundation’s National

Choirs Office have focused on con-

solidating the children’s choirs.

She has attended a large number of

national and international events

with the choirs, including festivals

in Latin America and Europe. She

was a member of the team of choir

directors on the Voces Andinas a Coro

(Andean Voices in Chorus) project

undertaken by the Andean Develop-

ment Corporation, the purpose

of which was to contribute to the for-

mation and growth of and training

for choral programs in the countries

of South America. This teaching

experience with the System, together

with the experience acquired at

other educational establishments,

has given her the know how to guide

and support choir training efforts

in many places. That is how she has

come to give conferences and talks

on the Choral System in Venezuela

and Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-

tion and also training talks for choir

directors.

“Having been at FESNOJIV –now

Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-

tion– for more than 20 years was a

great learning experience for me,

both in terms of managing people

and from the artistic viewpoint. I’ve

learned to live with a child’s need to

learn, a teacher’s need to have more

teaching tools, and with the need

to strengthen the system of choirs

and to collaborate to consolidate it.

I have a lot of ideas for bringing that

about, and firm convictions as well.

Everyone’s time, help, and collabora-

tion, the experience of many, team-

work, and the desire for intellectual

sustenance will give us the strength

to carry on this wonderful work

that Maestro José Antonio Abreu

has placed in our hands,” concludes

Lourdes Sánchez.

A calling that transcends

Lourdes Sánchez

203

Page 204: Venezuela the miracle of music

With his all-encompassing vision

of artistic creation, Maestro José

Antonio Abreu has opened a new

window for forming Venezuelan

children and youngsters and keeping

them healthily occupied: Funda-

Musical Simón Bolívar’s Academy

of Singing, which takes youngsters

between the ages of 13 and 21.

Under the musical direction of

Margot Parés-Reyna and with the

collaboration of Juan Mateo Rojas,

the pupils receive a musical educa-

tion –geared not only to training

soloists but future teachers as well-,

which covers voice technique (given

by Parés-Reyna), repertoire (with

Franca Ciarfella), history and general

knowledge (with Fernando Lleras),

and style and interpretation (with the

singer Isabel Palacios).

One choir to emerge from the

Academy of Singing was Simón

Bolívar Musical Founda-

tion’s Metropolitan Youth

Symphony Choir, which

is appearing throughout

the country with produc-

tions such as Cumpleaños de Leonor, a zarzuela by the

Venezuelan composer José Ángel

Montero, Mozart’s Così fan Tutte and

The Marriage of Figaro. Moreover,

its members have received master

classes from outstanding inter-

national maestros: Gerald Wirth

(Director of the Vienna Boys Choir),

Bernhard Kerres and Michael

Pinkerton (both directors of the

Conservatory of the City of Vienna),

as well as from international artists

such as Laura Claycomb, Renée

Morloc, Cybele Gouverneur, and

Markus Marquardt.

Margot Parés-Reyna, an outstanding

Venezuelan soprano who has re-

ceived the highest level of vocal and

artistic training both at home and

abroad (she studied with Herta Glaz

in Los Angeles and with Schuyler

Hamilton in Paris), has made her

dream come true: that of seeing

the first generations of singers and

choristers develop in Venezuela, with

the idea of not only enhancing the

staging of symphonic choral works

by the System’s orchestras, but also of

promoting a sizeable group of singers

with whom to form a major opera

movement.

Commenting on these goals,

Parés-Reyna says:

“It’s a privilege to be part of the

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation

team, because, during the many

years I worked in Europe, I always

had a dream in mind: of returning to

Venezuela to give back to my coun-

try the many things it gave me that

allowed me to be successful in my

career as a vocalist and opera singer.

Maestro José Antonio Abreu, with

his customary generosity, has offered

me a fantastic platform from which

I’m able to contribute to the develop-

ment of a major choral movement

that is being formed in the System of

Youth and Children’s Choirs.”

Margot, who has won an important

place on the opera stages of Europe

(she has sung at the opera houses of

Marseilles, Strasbourg, Montpellier,

Toulouse, Lyons, Liège, Lausanne,

Metz, Nantes, and Nancy, and also

at the International Festival in Jeru-

salem and at the Teatro del Maggio

Musicale Fiorentino), explains that

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s

Academy of Singing is patterned,

throughout the country, on the same

system as the orchestras: “Right

from the time they are very tiny, the

children take part in pre-school and

children’s choirs such as Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela. Then, when

they are older, they learn about

the correct physical coordination

for producing vocal sounds of the

highest quality. After that they

continue their training in different

youth choirs and they continue their

development in that fashion until

they become exceptional singers

and upright and happy individuals

besides.”

Parés-Reyna: an academy to grow singing

Barquisimeto Nucleus Children’s Choir

A song that multiplies

“The relationship our choirs have developed with the Venezuelan choral movement has brought about a mutually beneficial exchange; receptivity and acceptance have meant that this has been an enriching experience for everyone. Today, Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation National Choir System joins the movement started in the 1930s with the founding of the Lama Choral Society. That is the movement led by Vicente Emilio Sojo, Juan Bautista Plaza, and the students of the Santa Capilla School of Composition that, for approximately 40 years, turned out great maestros who wrote beautiful

204

Page 205: Venezuela the miracle of music

Libia Gómez d D’Adonna exudes

enthusiasm from every pore, it shows

in her smile and is even reflected in

her voice with its Lara accent. And

the personality of the woman who

managed to get the System of Choirs

up and running in all the nuclei in

Lara as productively and successfully

as she has done could not but be

open, dynamic, and cordial. And the

numbers and facts give testimony

to that: by 2010, Lara had a total of

38 pre-school, children’s, youth, and

adult choirs, and even one made up

of parents of the young musicians

who attend the Barquisimeto

Nucleus. Libia, whose entire family is

involved in the System (her husband

is Alfredo D’Adonna, a member of

the Lara Symphony Orchestra and

the System’s coordinator in Lara,

and her two children, who are also

musicians) started to sing with the

Youth Choir but never imagined she

would take on the role of musical

director for all the choirs she has

founded with the support of seven

coordinators.

“I knew nothing about choral direc-

tion, but thanks to my music studies

and the encouragement of Maestro

choral works. With the System’s choral program we have joined this movement and, today, we want to continue to contribute to the growth and strengthening of the capacity of our singers and choir directors in every region of the coun-try,” Sánchez insists.

With the idea of creating a choral structure in Venezuela, Maestro Abreu considered forming the Youth Symphony Choir of Venezuela, which, from the start, was made up of the symphony choirs of Lara, Aragua, Guárico, Carabobo, Falcón, and Zulia states. This impor-tant national choir was born with a delightful repertoire of Venezuelan madrigals and has also taken part in major symphonic-choral works, among them Antonio Estévez’s Cantata Criolla, Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies I and II, Mozart’s Requiem and his opera Don Giovanni, La Bohème by Puccini, Carmen by G. Bizet, Villalobos’s Choro Nº 10 and Floresta Amazónica, The Planets by Gustav Holst, Zadok The Priest, The King Shall Rejoice, and Dixit Dominus by Handel, Inocente Carreño’s Réquiem, and Venezuelan première of Seven Gates of Jerusalem, Hymn to Saint Adalbert, O Gloriosa Virginum, and the Eighth Symphony by the notable Polish com-poser Krzysztof Penderecki, under the batons of Gustavo Dudamel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Isaac Karabtchevsky, Nicolas Kraemer, Sir Simon Rattle, Alfredo Rugeles, Felipe Izcaray, Inocente Carreño, Christian Vásquez, and Pablo Castellanos, to name but a few.

Abreu, I accepted the job and I love

it. I’m in love with my “baby choir,”

the tiny tots of between 4 and 5, and

with all the choirs we’ve managed to

form in each of the Lara nuclei, in

particular La Camerata Larense.

But it’s not just a question of singing.

In the past seven years, Libia has

had to work on training the choir

coordinators who look after Lara’s

choir network, not only in voice

techniques, but also in the repertoire,

which encompasses major sym-

phonic choral works such as Mahler’s

Symphony No. 2 and Venezuelan and

Latin American folk and popular

songs, including her own arrange-

ments and adaptations for the

different voices. “My constant dream

is that all the singers, from the tiny

tots to the adults, have the wonderful

experience of sharing and being

happy through music, regardless of

where they’re from or to which social

stratum they belong because, in a

choir, all the voices are important and

make up the whole,” she says.

An entrepreneur in a major key

Lara has more than 30 choral groups

Libi

a G

ómez

de

D’A

donn

a

205

Page 206: Venezuela the miracle of music

“In capital region, the Metropolitan Youth Sym-phony Choir is shaping up as one of our major choirs. We are planning its academic and profes-sional training by getting them to continuously take on challenges of extremely demanding musical works both a capella and works with an orchestra,” explains Lourdes Sánchez.

As a result of the reorganization of the choir, in January 2010, it had the opportunity to take part in the Training Workshop given by Maestro Gerald Wirth, at which they studied W. A. Mozart’s Mass in C and his motet Regina Coeli together with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, besides the staging of motets by Anton Bruckner, all under the baton of the Austrian maestro.

Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela, a choir that has been functioning for three years, has been fortunate enough to come under the supervi-sion and receive the guidance of Maestro Wirth at three workshops, with notable results in its artistic development. Worthy of mention is the staging of Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis for boys’ voices and organ.

Following the orchestras’ example

The choral program has drawn on many of the youngsters who started off in the children’s and youth choirs and who have found in the choral world a place for developing as musi-cians. The choirs have been the training ground for some youngsters who have later taken up choral direction. Moreover, the need to train thousands of youngsters has made in necessary to set up cooperation networks with institu-tions to organize the attendance of international and Venezuelan maestros and prepare courses and workshops through the National System

of Choirs Office and the Nuclei Management Office’s Academic Training Division. This expansion, which involves about 30 directors in Caracas alone, has drawn on the experience of renowned maestros who have visited us. For example, in 2007, Maestro Gerald Wirth’s first visit was extremely well attended by 120 direc-tors from all parts of the country, who took full advantage of the opportunity.

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation has already started its course in choral direction studies un-der Maestro César Alejandro Carrillo. This year it is also to commence a national training plan drawing on the experience of Argenis Rivera and Juan Carlos Bersague, two choral leaders who are coordinating the choral program in Mérida and Zulia states. These are merely the beginnings of an academic structure that offers in-house training in other aspects of choral work for Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s choral directors. They also have universities and conservatories that offer the necessary training for choral directors.

Mention should also be made of the accomplish-ments of the choral coordinators who have been doing an excellent job of teaching and training choirs in their respective states: María Contreras, who has trained a large number of leaders in Guárico; Iraida Pineda, who has been training youngsters in Aragua for the past 30 years; and Libia Gómez in Lara, who has been setting up a network with nearly 60 choirs, from pre-school to adult. And there are other regional choir coor-dinators who have started to do important work in their states: Aura María Ríos in Carabobo, Juan Carlos Bersague in Zulia, Rafael Silveira in Anzoátegui, Ricardo Navas in Falcón, and Cruz Taylor Almao in the Llanos.

Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela

206

Page 207: Venezuela the miracle of music

The Austrian professor Gerald

Wirth is enchanted with the voices

of the National System of Choirs of

Venezuela. He has paid three visits to

Venezuela, most recently in 2010,

to give workshops and share his

sound and extensive experience in

choral work with Venezuelan singing

teachers and choristers. He is the

principle director of the Vienna Boys

Choir, with which Maestro Abreu

has had agreements since 2005 to

exchange teaching experiences.

“Exchange” is precisely the term

Wirth prefers to use to describe

the work he has done in Venezuela

together with Simón Bolívar Musical

Foundation’s teachers Margot

Parés-Reyna and Lourdes Sánchez.

“When Margot spoke to us in

Vienna about what the System of

A single song from Vienna to Caracas

Orchestras is, it sounded to us like a

very good program. But when you

come to Venezuela, you find that her

words fell short: we discovered some-

thing incredible, musically speaking,

and so, of course, we justify the goal

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation

has of transferring its success with the

children’s and youth orchestras to the

choirs, because it’s very important to

create a balance between music and

singing. Apart from that, the System’s

orchestras, particularly the Simón

Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, put on

major symphonic-choral works, and

developing the vocal component is

extremely important. But the work

here is shaping up extremely well,

particularly with Los Niños Cantores de Venezuela, as they are working very

hard on voice technique with Margot

and Lourdes. That’s why I say that

I’m only here to reinforce what they

already know how to do.”

Wirth comments that the Vienna

Boys Choir, with a tradition of more

than 500 years, has something in

common with the System, in the

sense that their small boys and

adolescents follow a demanding pro-

gram of vocal studies to achieve the

exquisite level that has maintained

them as a “vocal jewel” for so many

years. “However,” notes Wirth, “it is

in no way comparable to the social

work that the System does with

Venezuelan children from poor back-

grounds, which offers a possibility for

saving other children at risk in many

parts of the world. I’m thinking, for

example, of the children in Serbia or

the children who are in warzones.”

The Vienna Boys Choir with Maestro Abreu

Gerald Wirth

207

Page 208: Venezuela the miracle of music

he explosive music dynamic that the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela has produced has invaded stages the length and breadth of the country and is giving birth to such a solid, professional, and rich movement that everyone is saying: “That musician comes from the System,” regardless of whether they hear him playing Venezuelan or Latin American music, urban or folk music, rock, salsa, or chamber music. Apart from belonging to their orchestras and interpreting symphonic repertoires, these musicians form groups to play other musical genres or to explore the repertoire of the instru-ment they play –strings, wind, woodwind or per-cussion- in greater depth. Many are developing interesting musical projects that are different or experimental and are even managing to produce CDs, besides playing with other groups that do not belong to Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion. The result: they are nurturing the musical vanguard that Venezuela has become.

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation has en-sembles of different musical tones: countless

quintets, quartets, trios, and bands, and 363 chamber music ensembles, among them the Brass Ensemble of Venezuela (under the baton of the German maestro, Thomas Clamor, who has conducted it at major international festivals such as The Proms in London); the Trumpet Quartet of Venezuela; the Millennium Quartet; the Simón Bolívar String Quartet; the Ávila Trio; the Epic String Quartet; the Atalaya Percussion Ensemble; the Lara Brass Ensemble; the Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz (under Maestro Andrés Briceño); the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphonic Band (created by Valdemar Rodríguez and Jesús Ignacio Pérez Perazzo –its conductor- to foster the talent of the System’s most outstanding wind instrument players); the Francisco de Miranda Youth Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Maestro Andrés González); the Caracas Youth Symphony Orchestra (under Maestro Dietrich Paredes), and the Teresa Carreño Youth Sym-phony Orchestra, which has attracted some of the System’s emerging talents and, under Maestro Ulyses Ascanio, is offering concerts at home and abroad that are having a considerable impact.

Springboardto the vanguard of music

Brass Ensemble conducted by Thomas Clamor

208

Page 209: Venezuela the miracle of music

Festivals, an opportunity to shine

The contingent of musicians receiving training in the System also has a wide range of possibili-ties for demonstrating their virtues and level of artistic development at numerous music festivals and encounters that become attractive programs, which audiences throughout the country thank by turning out en masse and offering their enthusiastic applause. The Mozart Festival, the Verdi Festival, the Mahler Festival, the Vivaldi Festival, the Villa-Lobos Festival, the Beethoven Festival, the System in the World Festival, the Spain-Venezuela Arts Encounter Festival, the Bancaribe Youth Festival are all put on with Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s conceptual and logistical support. Other festivals are devoted to specific instruments and are international in scope, such as the International Oboe Festival, the International Violin Festival, the International Clarinet Festival, the International Flute Festival, and so on.

One of the recent initiatives for fostering the talent of musicians in the Andean states was held in January 2010 as part of the 15-day Mérida Music Festival put on at different venues in the city, among them the Universidad de Los Andes’s Main Lecture Hall. With Eduardo Méndez at its head, this festival was a new opportunity for the System’s most outstanding musicians, particularly the players of stringed instruments, to show the public what they can do, as the Mérida Sym-phony Orchestra did at its first appearance with Simón Gollo (violin), Horacio Contreras (cello), and Jhonny Viloria (viola) under the baton of Maestro César Iván Lara; and also the Mérida Youth Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Jesús Morín. Prestigious guests appearing at this event included our double-bass player Edicson Ruíz, the Venezuelan bass singer Iván García, and the pianist Rhodri Clarke.

The Polyphonic Bell Choir of Venezuela, the only one of its kind, with headquarters at El Tocuyo Nucleus

Horacio Contreras, Gerardo Vila, and Simon Gollo (below), Mérida Music Festival

209

Page 210: Venezuela the miracle of music

A stage for celebrating splendor

f the 1990s saw a great musical blossoming in Venezuela, the first decade of the 21st

century was no less promising, thanks to new spaces and initiatives that give free rein to the multiplicity of artistic talents that have been forged within the System.

A case in point is the Música Bancaribe pro-gram –an alliance between Bancaribe and Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation–, which has opened up a whole series of possibilities for supporting the System. The Bancaribe Music Festival is one of those alternatives for giving back to Venezuelans the top-notch concert agenda they have set their hearts on while, at the same time, allowing them to enjoy international artists of renowned prestige and emerging national talents.

The format used by the Bancaribe Music Festival encompasses more than concerts with soloists, guest conductors, and our Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Orchestra, as it also offers master classes, open rehearsals, and other activities. During the first festival, held in 2005 to mark Bancaribe’s 51st anniversary, the public was able to enjoy five concerts in the Teresa Car-reño Theater conducted by Gustavo Dudamel,

who alternated with the guest international baton, Robin Ticcitati, the musical and artistic director of Sweden’s Gavie Gavie Symphonic Orchestra. The soloists were no less prestigious: Andrea Griminelli (flute), Joshua Bell (violin), Kirill Gerstein (piano), Daniel Blendulf (cello), and Sylvia Schawartz (soprano).

In 2006, Universidad Central de Venezuela’s Main Lecture Hall and Teresa Carreño’s José Félix Ribas Concert Hall were the venues for the second festival. This time our young baton in ascent, Gustavo Dudamel, alternated with the ex-perienced conducting of Maestro Claudio Abbado and the SJVSB accompanied renowned Venezuelan and international figures such as Aldo López Gavilán (piano), Hélene Grimaud (piano), Maurice Bourgue (cello), and the Venezuelan Kristhyan Benítez (piano).

Sir Simon Rattle, already much loved by the Venezuelan public, graced the third festival, in 2007. Dudamel and the director of the Berlin Philharmonic shared a repertoire consisting of works by Brahms, Berg, and Shostakovich. Once again, the SJVSB conquered the public that filled the Main Lecture Hall, where the guest soloist, the Czech mezzo soprano Magdalena Kožená,

210

Page 211: Venezuela the miracle of music

also appeared. Dudamel conducted in the Teresa Carreño Theater again in 2008, for the eighth festival, alternating with the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, who conducted the première of his own works: Largo, for cello and orchestra and Symphony N° 2 for Orchestra, the “Christmas Symphony.” The soloist was the Finnish cellist Arto Noras.

In 2009, the name was changed to Youth Festival and, that year, it had the conductor Wayne Marshall as a special guest, who took turns with Dudamel in conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra at the Ríos Reyna Concert Hall. The soloists were Jean Yves-Thibaudet (piano), Emanuel Ax (piano), and Kirill Gerstein (piano). On that occa-sion, the box office takings were donated to the Hospital Cardiológico del Oeste and the audience was able to hear, among other pieces, Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, “The Age of Anxiety,” written by Leonard Bernstein in 1949.

Schools filled with song

Besides the Youth Festival, each year the Música Bancaribe program puts on a Children’s Choir Festival, which is part of the Music in Schools project, also created by Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation and Bancaribe, and which has been held three times to date. A large number of popular institutions, educational establishments, and the System’s nuclei have taken part with their choirs, among them: the Carlos Delfino Foundation (La Vega), La Rinconada Nucleus (Las Mayas), Los Salesianos Module (Sarría), Gustavo H. Machado Complex (Los Chorros), The Children’s Foundation (Propatria), Fe y Alegría’s Abraham Reyes Elementary/Middle School (23 de Enero), Pedro Felipe Ledezma Elementary/Middle School (Carapita), Jesús Enrique Lozada School (Chapellín), San Agustín Nucleus (Parque Central), María Taberna Educational Establishment (Caricuao), Carmen Maizo de Bello Na-tional Bolivarian Educational Establishment (El Valle), San José de Calazans School (Propatria), La Auxiliadora Children’s Home (San Bernardino), and Fé y Alegría’s Virgen Niña Elementary/Middle School (Casalta).

Thanks to the Children’s Choir Festival, music and singing are reaching a large number of schools and a sizeable student community. To this end, Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation and the singing and music teachers who have been trained by the System guarantee the excellence of this program by setting up

a study program together with the schools’ directors. Under this program, which seeks to form well rounded children and youngsters of pre-school and school age, alliances with some schools have also been formed to gradually set up the teaching of symphonic music.

Moreover, the music and education activities undertaken jointly by Bancaribe and the orchestras are not concen-trated in Caracas, they also benefit several regions of the country through the holding of concerts at the nuclei in major cities in the provinces, such as Barquisimeto, Mara-caibo, Puerto Cabello, and Valencia.

Finally, another way that Bancaribe supports Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation is by equipping the System’s nuclei that have the largest number of pupils with instru-ments. Also, as part of the Música Bancaribe program, a special line of credit with preferential interest rates has been opened so that advanced musicians and teachers and professional musicians who are members of the or-chestras can acquire their own instruments and continue with their artistic careers.

211

Page 212: Venezuela the miracle of music

Paraphrasing Aquiles Nazoa, the director of Bancaribe, Edgar Dao, emphasizes the importance of the program of Youth and Children’s Choirs for 21st century Venezuela.

In every age, long before the times

of Leonardo da Vinci, the patron has

been one of the key figures that

allowed artists’ creations to come

to the notice of society. Down the

centuries, they have gone under

different names: philanthropist, pa-

tron, sponsor, cultural promoter. But

regardless of the name they are given,

what is important is the vocation,

spirit of understanding, and passion

that inspire these men, women, and

companies as well as their convictions,

to elevate these artistic talents.

But there is one thing about which

the president of Association of the

Youth and Children’s Symphony of

Venezuela, Edgar Alberto Dao, is

quite certain: his categorical rejection

of the label of “patron.” “I’m not, nor

do I consider myself to be, a patron,

nor do I want to be so considered. The

only title I’d wish to be worthy of is,

as the Liberator said, that of Citizen.

Simply that: a Citizen who abides by

the law, is concerned for his country,

and has a demanding conscience and

an explicit will to work and serve.”

It is that very same philosophy that

has inspired him throughout his

working life, from when he was

young to his consolidation as a

successful businessman, the one he

has transferred to Bancaribe and his

staff during his 20 years as the bank’s

president, “besides,” as he says, ”the

modern concepts of business or

corporate social responsibility.”

That is why, one day more than six

years ago now, when we first met

Edgar Alberto Dao, we found that he

was interested in consolidating still

further the support that

Bancaribe had started to formally

give the National System of Youth

and Children´s Orchestras in 2000.

That interest found an outlet in

the book Venezuela bursting with

orchestras, published in 2004, and

about which he says with pride: “It’s

the continuation of the passion to

be an editor inculcated in me by my

father. He insisted that one always

had to leave testimony of the best of a

country’s memory.”

“I’ve always had a special interest in

Bancaribe not being merely a financial

institution, but in it also assuming its

responsibility as a good corporate

citizen. In line with that same premise,

and as has happened with other

initiatives that we’ve undertaken in

different spheres of national life, we

set out, more than ten years ago now,

to support the youth and children’s

orchestras, which, from our point of

view, has been a true privilege rather

than a duty. In this case, we are the ones

who have a debt of gratitude with

Maestro Abreu, who, with his imagina-

tion, with his youngsters and musicians,

with his orchestra conductors and

managers, has allowed us to take part

in his great undertaking, helping with

what falls within our sphere of compe-

tence and where we can,” explains Dao.

A work for Venezuela’s soul

Edgar Alberto Dao (Puerto Cabello,

Venezuela) recalls his first contact

with the System’s founder and the

smallest musicians of the National

Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela

15 years ago, when he was invited to a

concert in honor of his friend Aníbal

Latuff. Those were the years of artistic

splendor in Venezuela, in the 1990s,

and Maestro José Antonio Abreu

was –as he is today- tirelessly making

known the benefits that his musical

and social program offers children

and young people.

What struck you most about that

concert?

I’d already heard people talk about

Abreu’s orchestras, but it wasn’t until

then that the profoundness of his

music had a great impact on me. I

remember that that evening they

started the concert with Tchaikovsky’s

1812 Overture and ended with the

National Anthem. Their playing was

remarkable. Such intensity and force,

such powerful and majestic sounds

“When I mention the orchestras my heart is filled with stars”

Edgar Dao, the president of the Association of the Youth and Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela

212

Page 213: Venezuela the miracle of music

came as a surprise because of the con-

trast between those robust sounds

and the bodies of children who were

so tiny that their feet didn’t reach the

floor; little ones who were at the same

time fragile and powerful; tiny vir-

tuosi angels. To my mind, there could

have been no better calling card.

Apart from the impact of your first

contact with this education and

cultural program, how would you

assess it?

The day after the concert I looked for

Maestro Abreu’s phone numbers, and

I called him and said: ‘I want to talk to

you. I think you’ve found a great ad-

mirer of your work. I’d like to find the

way to contribute and to participate in

whatever way you consider necessary,

both personally and on the corporate

level.’ Then I continued to develop

that relationship and I have been able

to observe the System’s virtues up

close, both its artistic and educational

aspects and its social side. To my mind,

Abreu’s work is the most important

thing that has been done in Venezuela

in the 20th century. That is why the

System is universal, because it makes

it possible to improve the quality of

education for children and young

people to a level that is far superior to

any standard. Besides that it is a pro-

gram that enriches the soul of a nation

and its present and future values. This

unique, incomparable undertaking of

Abreu’s is Venezuela’s great contribu-

tion to the rest of the world.

The pride of Venezuelans

Obviously there are other initiatives

in Venezuela geared to inculcating

values in children and young people,

however, Bancaribe created the

program “Música Bancaribe,” which,

systematically and without interrup-

tion, meets important requirements,

on many fronts, of the 300,000 musi-

cians who are part of the orchestras.

It is true, there are many different

initiatives in Venezuela worthy of

support, because the needs are many

and are becoming more acute. For

reasons of efficiency, one has to

concentrate one’s support and partici-

pation: some are called on to think

up initiatives, others to carry them

out, and the rest to cheer them on,

because you need a lot of shoulders to

push the cart. With that in mind, we

sought out the System to do our part.

It is only fair to recognize the continu-

ous support that our administrations

have given the System over the past

35 years, the same length of time that

it’s been in existence. It is one of the

national programs that have merited

uninterrupted support.

The System is the most polished

expression of Venezuela and her

people; it’s the best we have to offer

the world. Let me recall here, if I

may, a verse that my much admired

poet, Aquiles Nazoa, dedicated to

his platonic love, Teresa de la Parra, to

whom he wrote: “I name Teresa de la

Parra and, in naming her, my heart is

filled with stars”; and I, paraphrasing

those words with the utmost respect,

apply it to the System and say: “I name

the Orchestras, and in naming them,

my heart is filled with stars.”

What, in your opinion, are the most

outstanding virtues that the System

contains and, on the personal level,

what prompted you to chair the

Association of the Youth and Chil-

dren’s Symphony Orchestra

of Venezuela?

The System not only has virtues from

the artistic and cultural viewpoints,

it also makes contributions of

great quality for the betterment of

Venezuelans. As a matter of fact, the

way in which its conductors conduct

the orchestras is a clear example of

humility, good teaching, and intimate

spiritual communication with those

who are being conducted. I find that

they also practice certain virtues that

we Venezuelans don’t cultivate as

often as we should, teamwork, for

example, and I also observe order and

discipline in the System. I admire how

responsibly they organize their tours

so as to fulfill the delicate respon-

sibility of taking care of so many

children and adolescents, leaving no

detail to chance and eliminating the

possibility of incidents of any kind.

Discipline, order, responsibility,

planning, communication, humility,

solidarity, in addition to its sublime

musical training, those are the virtues

I appreciate in the System.

The country we want to listen to

What’s your vision for the country?

Would it be the vision of a Venezuela

completely in tune, with all its citi-

zens pointing in the same direction

and aiming for the same goals, as

happens in the orchestras?

Exactly. In the System of Orchestras,

we have a scheme of values and virtues

that we can develop in all spheres

of national life. I would like for

Venezuela, which I’ve always consid-

ered to be the country of hope, not to

be condemned to being a country of

hope forever, but for it to become the

country of hopes come true. Besides,

I think that we Venezuelans are very

well equipped on the spiritual side

and in terms of our natural kindness,

our innate happiness, hospitality,

generosity, and our sense of solidarity.

All those values are to be found in the

System and also in the orchestra nu-

clei planted in all the country’s towns.

Thousands of children, adolescents,

and adults are preparing themselves

to become more than musicians;

they are learning to become good

citizens. Like them, we can learn to

behave with discipline, humility, and

responsibility.

What great challenge do you

think the System is facing, bearing

in mind how developed it has

become and the impact it is having

internationally, and, on the other

hand, what is the commitment

Venezuelans should make in view

of this great achievement?

The System has performed its func-

tion impeccably. It has give much

more than could possibly have been

imagined and has become a source

of inspiration for the entire country.

And it gives me great satisfaction to

publicly acknowledge the tenacity

and will of Maestro Abreu and of

those who accompany him in the

System. The important thing is that

the country and we Venezuelans see

the System as a reflection of what we

can be as a nation and as citizens.

213

Page 214: Venezuela the miracle of music

Total number of nuclei and modules

�e country is one big orchestra

Total nuclei nationwide

Distrito Capital16

Vargas 9

Miranda 20

Guárico 11

Anzoátegui 9

Monagas11

Sucre9

Nueva Esparta 5

Delta Amacuro1

Aragua12

Amazonas1

Bolívar5

Carabobo8

Falcón5

Trujillo16

Mérida13

Táchira15

Portuguesa5

Cojedes3

Barinas3

Apure6

Zulia13

Lara10

Yaracuy17

Number of orchestras (youth, children’s, pre-school): 396 Number of youth and children’s choirs: 342

Number of teachers in this musicians’ army: 3.500

Number of youth orchestras: 146Number of children’s orchestras: 150Number of pre-school orchestras: 100Total student population catered to (children, adolescents, young people, and adults): 300.000

States with the largest number of orchestras

Miranda

Gran Caracas

Mérida

Zulia

Lara

Trujillo

Nueva Esparta

Sucre

38

32

28

26

25

22

20

20

Mérida (Andean Region Penitentiary)Táchira (Western Region Penitentiary)Carabobo (Carabobo Penitentiary / “Mínima de Tocuyito”)Miranda (National Orientation Institute for Women, INOF)Falcón (Coro Penitentiary Community)

Capital DistrictFalcón (Paraguaná and Punto Fijo)Guárico (Calabozo)Lara (Aroa, Barquisimeto, Duaca and San Felipe)Mérida (Pueblo Llano)Miranda (Los Teques and Los Chorros)Nueva Esparta (Porlamar and La Asunción)Sucre (Güiria)Táchira (San Cristóbal and La Grita)Trujillo (Valera)Vargas (La Guaira)

Anzoátegui (Puerto La Cruz)Aragua (Colonia Tovar, Maracay)Bolívar (Ciudad Bolívar)Delta Amacuro (Tucupita)Distrito Capital (Caricuao -National Luthery Academic-, Center Propatria, Montalbán and San Agustín del Sur)Guárico (San Juan de Los Morros)

Lara (Barquisimeto)Mérida (Mérida)Miranda (Guarenas, Chuao, Chacao and Los Chorros)Monagas (Maturín)Sucre (Cumaná)Táchira (San Cristóbal)Yaracuy (San Felipe)

Academic Centers and Luthery Workshops

Special Education Program

Prisons Academic Programand Prison Orchestra Network

Total Nºof centers 20 Total (with 12 nuclei nationwide

and 25 music ensembles)1 Totalof nuclei 5

Total

230Total nuclei nationwide

Capital DistrictLatin American Academies (HQ: Center for Social Action through Music)Montalbán Children’s Academic CenterLuthery Academic CenterSimón Bolívar ConservatoryNúcleo CarapitaNúcleo ChapellínNúcleo La RinconadaNúcleo La VegaNúcleo PropatriaNúcleo San AgustínNúcleo Sarría

Módulo Caricuao Módulo San Bernardino Módulo Los Magallanes Módulo Catia Módulo Antímano Módulo Casalta II Módulo Fuerte Tiuna Módulo Propatria Módulo El Valle Módulo Carapita Módulo Las Acacias

Children’s Choir ProgramYouth Choir Program

Amazonas StateNúcleo Amazonas, Puerto Ayacucho

Anzoátegui StateNúcleo Anzoátegui Núcleo Anaco Núcleo Aragua de Barcelona

Núcleo CantauraNúcleo El Tigre Núcleo LecheríasNúcleo Santa AnaNúcleo Puerto Píritu y PírituNúcleo San Mateo

Apure StateNúcleo AchaguasNúcleo El AmparoNúcleo GuasdualitoNúcleo San Fernando de ApureNúcleo San Juan de PayaraNúcleo Biroaca

Aragua StateNúcleo MaracayNúcleo San Sebastián de los ReyesNúcleo San CasimiroNúcleo CamataguaNúcleo TaguayNúcleo La VictoriaNúcleo Colonia TovarNúcleo San VicenteNúcleo TejeríasNúcleo CaguaNúcleo TurmeroNúcleo El Consejo

Barinas StateNúcleo BarinasNúcleo RealNúcleo Socopó

BolívarNúcleo Ciudad Bolívar

Núcleo GuasipatiNúcleo Puerto OrdazNúcleo San FélixNúcleo Santa Elena de Uairén

Carabobo StateNúcleo CaraboboNúcleo BelénNúcleo Las BrisasNúcleo Puerto CabelloNúcleo TocuyitoNúcleo ValenciaNúcleo MariaraNúcleo Los Lanceros, Puerto Cabello

Cojedes StateNúcleo San CarlosNúcleo TinacoNúcleo Tinaquillo

Delta Amacuro StateNúcleo Tucupita

Falcón StateNúcleo CoroNúcleo CumareboNúcleo La Vela de CoroNúcleo MirimireNúcleo Punto Fijo

Guárico StateNúcleo Altagracia de OritucoNúcleo Calabozo I ( has 2 Módulos)Núcleo Calabozo II (has 2 Módulos)Núcleo CamaguánNúcleo El Sombrero

Núcleo San Francisco de TiznadoNúcleo San Gerónimo de GuayabalNúcleo San Juan de Los MorrosNúcleo Valle de la Pascua (has5 Módulos)Núcleo TucupidoNúcleo Zaraza

Lara StateNúcleo BarquisimetoNúcleo Programa de Educación EspecialNúcleo CabudareNúcleo CaroraNúcleo Duaca (Special Education Program)Núcleo El TocuyoNúcleo SanareNúcleo SarareNúcleo QuíborNúcleo Santa Rosa

Mérida StateNúcleo BailadoresNúcleo ChiguaráNúcleo El Vigía Núcleo Fe y Alegría de El Valle Núcleo La ZulitaNúcleo MéridaNúcleo MucuchíesNúcleo Santa Cruz de MoraNúcleo TabayNúcleo TovarNúcleo TucaníNúcleo Ejido

Miranda StateNúcleo BarutaNúcleo CarrizalesNúcleo CaucaguaNúcleo ChacaoNúcleo CharallaveNúcleo CúaNúcleo El HatilloNúcleo GuarenasNúcleo GuatireNúcleo HigueroteNúcleo Julián Blanco de MaricheNúcleo Los ChorrosNúcleo Los TequesNúcleo MamporalNúcleo Ocumare del TuyNúcleo PetareNúcleo Río ChicoNúcleo San Antonio de los AltosNúcleo Santa LucíaNúcleo Santa Teresa del Tuy

Monagas StateNúcleo Mangosal de La Puente Núcleo CaripitoNúcleo Maturín Núcleo MonagasNúcleo Santa BárbaraNúcleo PunceresNúcleo CaripeNúcleo Indígena de BujaNúcleo JusepínNúcleo MorichalNúcleo CaicaraVirgen de la Esperanza MisioneraChildren’s Home Module

Nueva Esparta StateNúcleo La AsunciónNúcleo PorlamarNúcleo TuboresNúcleo Juan GriegoNúcleo Jóvito Villalba, Isla de Coche

Portuguesa StateNúcleo Acarigua-AraureNúcleo GuanareNúcleo TurénNúcleo GuanaritoNúcleo Agua Blanca

Sucre StateNúcleo CarúpanoNúcleo CariacoNúcleo CumanáNúcleo GüiriaNúcleo MarigüitarNúcleo Río CaribeNúcleo TunapuyNúcleo YaguaraparoNúcleo Cumanacoa

Táchira StateNúcleo IdenaNúcleo La GritaNúcleo MichelenaNúcleo Palmira INúcleo Palmira II (Diócesis of de San Cristóbal)Núcleo Puente Real, San Cristóbal Núcleo San Antonio del TáchiraNúcleo San Cristóbal Núcleo San Juan de Colón

Núcleo San Pedro del RíoNúcleo TáribaSpecial Education NucleusNúcleo SeborucoNúcleo Capacho de IndependenciaNúcleo CANTV, San Cristóbal

Trujillo StateNúcleo BetijoqueNúcleo BoconóNúcleo CaracheNúcleo EscuqueNúcleo La Puerta Núcleo Sabana de MendozaNúcleo TrujilloNúcleo ValeraNúcleo Monte CarmeloNúcleo Sabana GrandeNúcleo El DividiveNúcleo CandelariaNúcleo Santa AnaNúcleo MotatánNúcleo CarvajalNúcleo Pampanito

Vargas StateNúcleo CaraballedaNúcleo MaiquetíaNúcleo Playa Grande, Catia La MarMódulo Naiguatá Módulo Uramarí Módulo Tarmas, CarayacaMódulo Tropicana Módulo La Guaira Módulo Todasana

Yaracuy StateNúcleo AlbaricoNúcleo AroaNúcleo BoraureNúcleo ChivacoaNúcleo CocoroteNúcleo San FelipeManuel Rodríguez Cárdenas Pre-school Orchestra NucleusIndependencia Youth Orchestra NucleusNúcleo NirguaNúcleo Sabana de Parra Núcleo San FelipeNúcleo VeroesNúcleo YaritaguaNúcleo YumareGuama Youth Orchestra NucleusSan Pablo Youth Orchestra NucleusSpecial Education Program Nucleus

Zulia StateNúcleo CabimasNúcleo Costa OrientalChildren’s Fundation Nucleus, MaracaiboNúcleo Lagunillas, Ciudad OjedaNúcleo La GuajiraNúcleo MaracaiboNúcleo Puertos de AltagraciaNúcleo Santa Rosa de AguaNúcleo Maracaibo CentroNúcleo El LaberintoNúcleo La ChinitaNúcleo La Cañada, UrdanetaNúcleo San Carlos del Zulia

Source: Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Nuclei Division and Regional Nuclei

214

Page 215: Venezuela the miracle of music

Total number of nuclei and modules

�e country is one big orchestra

Total nuclei nationwide

Distrito Capital16

Vargas 9

Miranda 20

Guárico 11

Anzoátegui 9

Monagas11

Sucre9

Nueva Esparta 5

Delta Amacuro1

Aragua12

Amazonas1

Bolívar5

Carabobo8

Falcón5

Trujillo16

Mérida13

Táchira15

Portuguesa5

Cojedes3

Barinas3

Apure6

Zulia13

Lara10

Yaracuy17

Number of orchestras (youth, children’s, pre-school): 396 Number of youth and children’s choirs: 342

Number of teachers in this musicians’ army: 3.500

Number of youth orchestras: 146Number of children’s orchestras: 150Number of pre-school orchestras: 100Total student population catered to (children, adolescents, young people, and adults): 300.000

States with the largest number of orchestras

Miranda

Gran Caracas

Mérida

Zulia

Lara

Trujillo

Nueva Esparta

Sucre

38

32

28

26

25

22

20

20

Mérida (Andean Region Penitentiary)Táchira (Western Region Penitentiary)Carabobo (Carabobo Penitentiary / “Mínima de Tocuyito”)Miranda (National Orientation Institute for Women, INOF)Falcón (Coro Penitentiary Community)

Capital DistrictFalcón (Paraguaná and Punto Fijo)Guárico (Calabozo)Lara (Aroa, Barquisimeto, Duaca and San Felipe)Mérida (Pueblo Llano)Miranda (Los Teques and Los Chorros)Nueva Esparta (Porlamar and La Asunción)Sucre (Güiria)Táchira (San Cristóbal and La Grita)Trujillo (Valera)Vargas (La Guaira)

Anzoátegui (Puerto La Cruz)Aragua (Colonia Tovar, Maracay)Bolívar (Ciudad Bolívar)Delta Amacuro (Tucupita)Distrito Capital (Caricuao -National Luthery Academic-, Center Propatria, Montalbán and San Agustín del Sur)Guárico (San Juan de Los Morros)

Lara (Barquisimeto)Mérida (Mérida)Miranda (Guarenas, Chuao, Chacao and Los Chorros)Monagas (Maturín)Sucre (Cumaná)Táchira (San Cristóbal)Yaracuy (San Felipe)

Academic Centers and Luthery Workshops

Special Education Program

Prisons Academic Programand Prison Orchestra Network

Total Nºof centers 20 Total (with 12 nuclei nationwide

and 25 music ensembles)1 Totalof nuclei 5

Total

230Total nuclei nationwide

Capital DistrictLatin American Academies (HQ: Center for Social Action through Music)Montalbán Children’s Academic CenterLuthery Academic CenterSimón Bolívar ConservatoryNúcleo CarapitaNúcleo ChapellínNúcleo La RinconadaNúcleo La VegaNúcleo PropatriaNúcleo San AgustínNúcleo Sarría

Módulo Caricuao Módulo San Bernardino Módulo Los Magallanes Módulo Catia Módulo Antímano Módulo Casalta II Módulo Fuerte Tiuna Módulo Propatria Módulo El Valle Módulo Carapita Módulo Las Acacias

Children’s Choir ProgramYouth Choir Program

Amazonas StateNúcleo Amazonas, Puerto Ayacucho

Anzoátegui StateNúcleo Anzoátegui Núcleo Anaco Núcleo Aragua de Barcelona

Núcleo CantauraNúcleo El Tigre Núcleo LecheríasNúcleo Santa AnaNúcleo Puerto Píritu y PírituNúcleo San Mateo

Apure StateNúcleo AchaguasNúcleo El AmparoNúcleo GuasdualitoNúcleo San Fernando de ApureNúcleo San Juan de PayaraNúcleo Biroaca

Aragua StateNúcleo MaracayNúcleo San Sebastián de los ReyesNúcleo San CasimiroNúcleo CamataguaNúcleo TaguayNúcleo La VictoriaNúcleo Colonia TovarNúcleo San VicenteNúcleo TejeríasNúcleo CaguaNúcleo TurmeroNúcleo El Consejo

Barinas StateNúcleo BarinasNúcleo RealNúcleo Socopó

BolívarNúcleo Ciudad Bolívar

Núcleo GuasipatiNúcleo Puerto OrdazNúcleo San FélixNúcleo Santa Elena de Uairén

Carabobo StateNúcleo CaraboboNúcleo BelénNúcleo Las BrisasNúcleo Puerto CabelloNúcleo TocuyitoNúcleo ValenciaNúcleo MariaraNúcleo Los Lanceros, Puerto Cabello

Cojedes StateNúcleo San CarlosNúcleo TinacoNúcleo Tinaquillo

Delta Amacuro StateNúcleo Tucupita

Falcón StateNúcleo CoroNúcleo CumareboNúcleo La Vela de CoroNúcleo MirimireNúcleo Punto Fijo

Guárico StateNúcleo Altagracia de OritucoNúcleo Calabozo I ( has 2 Módulos)Núcleo Calabozo II (has 2 Módulos)Núcleo CamaguánNúcleo El Sombrero

Núcleo San Francisco de TiznadoNúcleo San Gerónimo de GuayabalNúcleo San Juan de Los MorrosNúcleo Valle de la Pascua (has5 Módulos)Núcleo TucupidoNúcleo Zaraza

Lara StateNúcleo BarquisimetoNúcleo Programa de Educación EspecialNúcleo CabudareNúcleo CaroraNúcleo Duaca (Special Education Program)Núcleo El TocuyoNúcleo SanareNúcleo SarareNúcleo QuíborNúcleo Santa Rosa

Mérida StateNúcleo BailadoresNúcleo ChiguaráNúcleo El Vigía Núcleo Fe y Alegría de El Valle Núcleo La ZulitaNúcleo MéridaNúcleo MucuchíesNúcleo Santa Cruz de MoraNúcleo TabayNúcleo TovarNúcleo TucaníNúcleo Ejido

Miranda StateNúcleo BarutaNúcleo CarrizalesNúcleo CaucaguaNúcleo ChacaoNúcleo CharallaveNúcleo CúaNúcleo El HatilloNúcleo GuarenasNúcleo GuatireNúcleo HigueroteNúcleo Julián Blanco de MaricheNúcleo Los ChorrosNúcleo Los TequesNúcleo MamporalNúcleo Ocumare del TuyNúcleo PetareNúcleo Río ChicoNúcleo San Antonio de los AltosNúcleo Santa LucíaNúcleo Santa Teresa del Tuy

Monagas StateNúcleo Mangosal de La Puente Núcleo CaripitoNúcleo Maturín Núcleo MonagasNúcleo Santa BárbaraNúcleo PunceresNúcleo CaripeNúcleo Indígena de BujaNúcleo JusepínNúcleo MorichalNúcleo CaicaraVirgen de la Esperanza MisioneraChildren’s Home Module

Nueva Esparta StateNúcleo La AsunciónNúcleo PorlamarNúcleo TuboresNúcleo Juan GriegoNúcleo Jóvito Villalba, Isla de Coche

Portuguesa StateNúcleo Acarigua-AraureNúcleo GuanareNúcleo TurénNúcleo GuanaritoNúcleo Agua Blanca

Sucre StateNúcleo CarúpanoNúcleo CariacoNúcleo CumanáNúcleo GüiriaNúcleo MarigüitarNúcleo Río CaribeNúcleo TunapuyNúcleo YaguaraparoNúcleo Cumanacoa

Táchira StateNúcleo IdenaNúcleo La GritaNúcleo MichelenaNúcleo Palmira INúcleo Palmira II (Diócesis of de San Cristóbal)Núcleo Puente Real, San Cristóbal Núcleo San Antonio del TáchiraNúcleo San Cristóbal Núcleo San Juan de Colón

Núcleo San Pedro del RíoNúcleo TáribaSpecial Education NucleusNúcleo SeborucoNúcleo Capacho de IndependenciaNúcleo CANTV, San Cristóbal

Trujillo StateNúcleo BetijoqueNúcleo BoconóNúcleo CaracheNúcleo EscuqueNúcleo La Puerta Núcleo Sabana de MendozaNúcleo TrujilloNúcleo ValeraNúcleo Monte CarmeloNúcleo Sabana GrandeNúcleo El DividiveNúcleo CandelariaNúcleo Santa AnaNúcleo MotatánNúcleo CarvajalNúcleo Pampanito

Vargas StateNúcleo CaraballedaNúcleo MaiquetíaNúcleo Playa Grande, Catia La MarMódulo Naiguatá Módulo Uramarí Módulo Tarmas, CarayacaMódulo Tropicana Módulo La Guaira Módulo Todasana

Yaracuy StateNúcleo AlbaricoNúcleo AroaNúcleo BoraureNúcleo ChivacoaNúcleo CocoroteNúcleo San FelipeManuel Rodríguez Cárdenas Pre-school Orchestra NucleusIndependencia Youth Orchestra NucleusNúcleo NirguaNúcleo Sabana de Parra Núcleo San FelipeNúcleo VeroesNúcleo YaritaguaNúcleo YumareGuama Youth Orchestra NucleusSan Pablo Youth Orchestra NucleusSpecial Education Program Nucleus

Zulia StateNúcleo CabimasNúcleo Costa OrientalChildren’s Fundation Nucleus, MaracaiboNúcleo Lagunillas, Ciudad OjedaNúcleo La GuajiraNúcleo MaracaiboNúcleo Puertos de AltagraciaNúcleo Santa Rosa de AguaNúcleo Maracaibo CentroNúcleo El LaberintoNúcleo La ChinitaNúcleo La Cañada, UrdanetaNúcleo San Carlos del Zulia

Source: Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Nuclei Division and Regional Nuclei

215

Page 216: Venezuela the miracle of music

The Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation team, the musicians of the SJVSB, and Dudamel at the Luis Aparicio Stadium during a rehearsal for closing concert of the national tour, Maracaibo 2010.

Page 217: Venezuela the miracle of music

IX

Cha

pter

Art is not a mirror in which we contemplate ourselves but a destiny in which we become fulfilled.

Jorge Luis Borges

cultural enterpriseA flourishing:

Page 218: Venezuela the miracle of music

hen the applause becomes the concert’s closing work and the entire orchestra

celebrates its triumph in the dressing rooms, behind the scenes an army of men and women breathes a sigh of relief, because it is they who, day and night, have been rehearsing a score of organization, logistics, and complex artistic production, tenaciously playing the best instru-ments they have to achieve perfection: love for their boys and girls, devotion to and limitless faith in the System, and a fierce conviction that all their efforts contribute to the progress and glorification of a great Venezuela.

Together they make up an incredibly energetic piece of machinery called Simón Bolívar Musi-cal Foundation. And it is that enthusiastic troop of workers that takes the pulse and monitors the life of the orchestras; looks after the physi-cal and psychological health of thousands of young Venezuelan musicians, both children and adolescents; makes sure that the rehearsals are held in safe, well-equipped locations; and makes every effort to ensure that the national and international tours go off with their customary efficiency, without the slightest hitch.

Thanks to this finely tuned “management ensem-ble,” today, Venezuela has enviable experience in organizing and putting on artistic events. Simón

Bolívar Musical Foundation has brought together a multidisciplinary team of professionals that has grown and developed alongside the orchestras. Many of the founding musicians have taken the reins of the orchestras and others, from the new generations, are already training as managers, be-cause, after all, who is in a better position to know about the needs, fears, anguishes, joys, and goals of the System’s boys and girls, if not those who went before them and lived the same experience of “playing and fighting”?

Working for the most forgotten

A violinist since he was a child and a social manager since he was a teenager, if his achieve-ments are anything to go by, those two passions have always beat in the breast of Andrés González, a young musician who was born in Guatire, Miranda state, where he started to show aptitude for heading up initiatives in the most needy communities of the socio-economic pyramid. From being a member of the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela and the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra, he went on to become the direc-tor of the Guarenas and Guatire Nuclei and founder and director of the Francisco de Miranda Youth Symphony Orchestra. But his social conscience prompted him to do more:

sounds!

How greatthe management ensemble

218

Page 219: Venezuela the miracle of music

today he is Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion’s Director for Social Development and, besides that, the Acting Director of Montalbán Children’s Center.

“We’re taking the social work that the System has been carrying out for so many years to a deeper level. That’s my challenge, the challenge of everyone at the System. At the Office for Social Development, there are no limits on the work we have in mind; it involves completely opening up to, communicating with, and getting closer to the communities, the Communal Councils, and the cells in the barrios or shanty districts so as to set up nuclei there for children who don’t have access to the cells that already exist and for youngsters who’ve never left their neighborhood and who live practically hidden and forgotten,” explains González.

However, setting up one of the System’s nuclei or centers in a depressed neighborhood means more than just imparting the music teaching philosophy. González is fully aware of this, and adds: “The boys and girls who are already part of the System and who live in barrios lack housing, food, and instruments and, for that reason, the social improvement plan contemplates eco-nomic aid and help with solving their housing problems, quite apart from providing musical training. Others suffer from malnutrition, so we provide them with ongoing medical care on a case-by-case basis. Besides that, we want to reach to farthest flung parts of Venezuela, the southern region and Bolívar and Sucre states, for example.

Proof of what González is saying is the fund-ing amounting to $4 million that his office has managed to get with the support of the Commu-nal Councils and the Ministry for Communes in order to make inroads into needy regions that are a long way from the capital. “Those projects are: equipping with instruments all the nuclei in Sucre, Trujillo, Guárico, and Mérida states that need them; building a new System headquarters for Portuguesa state; and setting up a very large nucleus in the Guajira, Zulia state, and another one in the southern part of Lara state”.

Experience and charm

The responsibility of heading up Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Institutional Develop-ment and International Relations Office is a “perfect fit” for Bolivia Bottome. She is elegant, speaks several languages, and has solid public and cultural relations know-how. After working for the System for 29 years, her experience is of

Andrés González

Bolivia Bottome

219

Page 220: Venezuela the miracle of music

key importance, given the tremendous interest that has been generated by the bounties of the Venezuelan musical-social program, which are reaching other continents, even Africa.

“Here in this office I attend to all kinds of requests from individuals, institutions, government agencies, and foundations, and also from journalists, writers, reporters, musicians, researchers, and moviemakers wanting to make contact to come to Venezuela and/or to meet Maestro Abreu to interview him or to take part in seminars, conferences, and forums. I also get requests for the orchestras to give performances, which I send on to the other office. When I go on tour, I have to be present when agreements and arrangement are being made, and I’m also responsible for representing and monitoring seminars, symposia, and talks, activities in which Maestro Abreu and Gustavo Dudamel are involved,” explains Bottome.

However, quite apart from the System’s current boom, Bottome is amazed at the musical level achieved by the orchestras, simply because she witnessed the SJVSB’s first international steps. “The System has evolved enormously; not only because the number of orchestras has grown, but also because of the orchestra’s constantly growing artistic status and the ever increasing musical demands that are being made on it. Each generation that joins the orchestras comes with a better level of informal preparation than the one before. They don’t start at zero; on the contrary, now the boys and girls join with knowledge of music in their heads.”

Equilibrium at the epicenter

Among the cultural managers to have emerged from the orchestras, Leonardo Méndez is one of the most remarkable. A trumpet player trained at Barquisimeto Nucleus and later a member of the SJVSB, he has held a number of posts at the System, where he has always demon-strated an amiable disposition, composure, and equilibrium. But one of the tasks he has found most demanding has been the coordination

Leonardo Méndez

of the different areas at the Center for Social Action through Music.

“As envisaged by Maestro Abreu, the best things in music are happening at the Center for Social Action. It’s the epicenter of an effervescent cultural activity of an extremely high interna-tional standard that few music centers in the world can equal. On a typical day we have, for example, one of the largest concert halls being used for a rehearsal with Maestro Abbado and the Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra, while Dudamel and the SJVSB are recording for Deutsche Grammophon, and at the same time, an international seminar on choral singing is being held with the Austrian professor, Gerald Wirth and more than 30 directors of the Sys-tem’s choirs. As though that were not enough, more than 250 pupils are in the classrooms and more are in the library. In other words, in one day we might have more than 700 people engaged in some kind of activity; and that does not take into account the Saturday program, when, from eight in the morning, a fair number of musicians, students, and teachers from all over the country meet here to take classes at the Latin American Academies.”

220

Page 221: Venezuela the miracle of music

Planning and drawing up the schedules of activi-ties that are carried out at the Center for Social Action through Music’s 14,000 square meters is no easy task. “We love what we do and we know how hard we have fought to have a modern music center and a new concept of conservatory such as this one. That is why we all respect this infrastructure and its schedules, although the truth is that the musicians and teachers like being here so much that we often have to reprimand them because they stay past opening hours and we are late in closing,” notes Méndez.

Amassing visual and sound memories

If there is an area that has become vitally impor-tant for Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation, it is the Audiovisual Center. At the height of the era of communications and globalization, audio-visual media and new technologies are vital for disseminating the System and making it available to the masses. And, thanks to the foresight of Maestro Frank Di Polo and the pianist Beatriz Abreu, the System’s visual and sound memories have been systematically recorded and preserved right from the orchestras’ early years.

Today, the Audiovisual Center, located in the Cen-ter for Social Action through Music, shows tre-mendous potential. A group of communications professionals plan and execute large-scale projects. Thanks to the latest technologies and equip-

ment, they are able to turn a rehearsal room into a re cording studio, a classroom into a movie room where pupils and musicians watch videos, take part in video-conferences, and use the tele-workshops, or a conference room into the ideal location for filming interviews and television programs.

The Center’s technical director, Sergio Prado, a communications major who has spent more than 18 years at the System, tells us about the work they do there. “We now have 35 years’ of activities assiduously recorded and preserved. We perform a variety of tasks, but there are two I consider fundamental: 1) making audiovisuals for promoting the System worldwide, where the main inputs are the successful concerts and the national and international symphonic-choral concert mises en scène, and 2) the production of music tele-workshops, which are audiovisual classes for each instrument that talk about and describe it from its history to technical aspects and issues of interpretation. Those CDs are dis-tributed to approximately 90 nuclei throughout the country, and that supports and has an amaz-ing multiplier effect on the teaching function.”

At the Audiovisual Center, Sergio Prado works with a large team. One of its outstanding members is the Venezuelan photographer and communications major, Nohely Oliveros, who, with the support of Frank Di Polo, performs the titanic task of keeping a photographic record,

Some members of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Audiovisual Center, among them the photographer Nohely Oliveros and Sergio Prado

221

Page 222: Venezuela the miracle of music

both in Venezuela and in the countries where the System’s orchestras and soloists make appearanc-es. Thanks to her creativity and dedication, the entire world has been able to appreciate the most beautiful and moving pictures of our musicians, as well as the faces of thousands of children and adolescents from all the country’s nuclei.

Music is the best medicine

An indispensible team for Simón Bolívar Musi-cal Foundation is the medical team because, as the System’s population grows, taking care of the health of the children and youngsters at all the nuclei throughout the country becomes a huge responsibility. Dr. Yolanda Baroni, who heads up the medical team, explains: “We’ve had to grow in every way, from expanding the size of the team to broadening our concept of what constitutes a health service, which is becoming increasingly more comprehensive.” Baroni is accompanied by specialists in general and oc-cupational medicine, pediatricians, radiologists, physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, physiotherapists, and psychologists.

The medical care provided by Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation consists, essentially, of monitoring the sick children who belong to the System, providing care during seminars and tours, and, among other things, organizing vaccination campaigns, talks on nutrition and sex education, as well as seeking donations of medi-cines for the student and teacher population.

“When we go on tour, we take our first aid kit with all the medicines for the most common illnesses and complaints. We doctors always stay in the hotel to be available around the clock. If a child or adolescent requires medical supervi-sion, we set up a room and give him treatment; and we look in on all the rooms before bedtime,” explains Baroni.

The most unusual aspect of the service provided by the System’s doctors is the type of patients they care for: children who may regularly suffer from nerves or stress before the concerts and aches and pains from excessive use of bones and

muscles. But Baroni reveals that, “owing to the social strata from which a fair number of the System’s children and adolescents come, some of them are anemic and/or show signs of under-nourishment or sometimes the parents, either from ignorance or carelessness, don’t realized that the child is sick. There are also youngsters with emotional problems, either because they come from broken homes or because of the economic problems they have. In these cases, they are given support and a sympathetic ear, but the best therapy for them all is definitely music.

Keeping up with the maestro

Keeping up with José Antonio Abreu is not precisely the right phrase for defining the attitude and capacity that those who work directly with Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion must have. As Liliana Arvelo, the Director of Abreu’s Office, would say, the phrase would be: “keeping three steps ahead of any situation and any responsibility he assigns them.” And it is precisely because of her understanding of the processes and solutions that she occupies one of the key positions in this foundation, with which she has been involved for eight years.

“Working alongside Maestro Abreu, keeping his daily agenda, prioritizing his commitments, audiences, and meetings, liaising with the government and Venezuelan and international bodies and foundations, as well as paying atten-tion to all the proposals he makes has given me a broader and more comprehensive vision of cultural and social management. He surprises us every day, at every meeting, with the capacity he has for putting together functional strategies. J.A.A. always accepts suggestions, listens, and evaluates, but he encourages us to think big and to act with a broad vision.”

In permanent contact with the Maestro, Liliana, who was also the Coordinator of the Carabobo Nucleus, thinks a moment when we ask her what it is that she most admires about her boss. “I marvel at his grasp and his response capacity and his equilibrium. For the Maestro, every situa-tion is important and needs attention, whether it’s

Yolanda Baroni

Liliana Arvelo

222

Page 223: Venezuela the miracle of music

a request from a minister or one from a child who needs social, artistic or family assistance. And, naturally, his feeling for the problems of children and young people impresses me,” she says.

The children are the miracle

“When we started everything, there were just a few of us and we didn’t have material resources. The only resource we had was our love for what we were doing, mystique, and energy,” recalls Ana Cecilia Abreu, who, since the System was born, has been involved, essentially, in deal-ing with logistics, a job she still holds today in Maestro Abreu’s Office. She is no stranger to the rushing around involved in putting together a tour, organizing a concert, setting up a rehearsal or dealing with anything that might come up at Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation.

“When the System was created, we started to grow, organizationally speaking, with a platform that was perfectly planned by José Antonio Abreu and, while the way of working has changed and despite the growth in resources, we learned to always work under pressure. We often spend more time with the children of the orchestras than with our own children. Some seasons we see the sun come up planning activities, not having slept all night; but then it’s time for the concert and, when the orchestra goes out onto the stage, we forget about the bad times, the tiredness, and the late nights, and we see the sense of it all. What fuels our efforts are the children. They are the miracle of the System, because many of them have absolutely nothing that will give them a chance in life, they only have their orchestra.”

The State Foundation for the

National System of Youth and

Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela

– FESNOJIV– was created by

Ministry of Youth Decree No. 3,093

on February 20, 1979. By means of

this decree, the Venezuelan State

gave its unrestricted backing to the

music project that had started to bear

fruit on February 12, 1975, when the

first youth orchestra was founded.

And over a period of thirty-five years,

this Foundation has become a dy-

namic operational and administrative

platform, whose first mission is the

pedagogical, occupational, cultural,

and ethical rescue of Venezuelan

children and young people by teach-

ing them music and getting them to

play music together.

Legally speaking, since March 1st

2011, FESNOJIV -through Presi-

dential Decree Nº 8.078- became

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation

and now is currently attached to

the Presidency of the Bolivarian

Republic of Venezuela. It is an institu-

tion that is open to society in general

and has a flexible, novel, and dynamic

structure that is perfectly designed

and adapted to the System’s philoso-

phy and objectives. This makes it

the ideal scenario for musicians and

professionals to personify the motto

“Play and Fight” that has led them to

approach music as a constant quest

for excellence and to persevere to

make their dreams come true.

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation

is the organization through which

all the programs, arrangements,

exchanges, and agreements with

central, state, and municipal govern-

ment agencies in Venezuela, foreign

government agencies, and private

companies are carried out and

funding from the Venezuelan State

and from national and international

bodies is obtained. Moreover, the

foundation has set up a managerial-

administrative model throughout

the country that governs the huge

network of youth and children’s

orchestras and choirs, all the nuclei

and teaching centers, and a team

of teachers and administrators, res-

pecting the idiosyncrasies of

each region.

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s

Personnel Director, Lope Valles, a

founder of the System, a member

of the first orchestra, and today still

an oboe teacher, explains: “Four

years after the first orchestra started

to function, it became necessary to

create this institutional platform to

provide a service to the orchestras

and to the constantly growing popu-

lation of children and adolescents

who were joining and continue to

join, because here our slogan is: not

to discriminate against anyone; our

loadstar is to make music available to

the masses. That means that Simón

Bolívar Musical Foundation’s staff

grows every year, and to date we

generate 7,000 direct jobs.”

The platform for “Playing and Fighting”

Ana Cecilia Abreu

223

Page 224: Venezuela the miracle of music

Managing information

One might think that Communications Coor-dinator Norma Méndez’s task has been made easier because, in the past decade, the successes of the System and, in particular, of our SJVSB “sell” news on their own. However, the ava-lanche of activities generated by the orchestras, as well as the tremendous interest that they awaken in the media at home and abroad is such that the work has tripled.

Méndez, who has been with FESNOJIV and now Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation for 15 years and has an associate degree in adver-tising, skillfully multiplies the hours in order to cope with all her responsibilities. “The media’s support of and receptivity to the System have always been excellent and grow as we gain more recognition; they always look for a way to report on our activities, even though they don’t have enough room. I’ve found my work here to be very enjoyable, despite all the stress we work under, because no sooner have we finished one program than there are five more that need to be promoted. That’s why, every day, I’m more surprised at all that can be achieved through music. When we think we’ve reached the limit and that it’ll be a good long time before we launch another program, then the Office for Social Development comes along with its program for making inroads in the barrios, for example. It’s hard work but extremely satisfying.”

The orchestra’s mum

No one can take away her well-earned title of the “orchestra’s mum” from Liddye Faustinelli de Pérez (Madame Pérez). The reason is that this very loving woman, who is always ready to solve any problem at any time, has accompa-nied José Antonio Abreu and the System since 1975. Since then, she has performed a variety of functions: assisting the director-founder, being in charge of public relations, acting as promoter, passport agent, and tour coordinator, being in charge of receiving international guests, settling them in their hotel, and even reassuring them and offering them kindness when they most need it.

Liddye recalls that, at first, she thought that Abreu’s whole dream was crazy and that it would come to nothing. “It was very hard work, but I learned to love this job and working with the System has been a fabulous experience. Maestro Abreu is a unique human being and I think he must have five brains. He never tires; he invents something new every day and makes it happen. I adore my musicians. I’ve seen them grow up, I’ve attended their weddings, and now I’m watching their children grow. I’ve not only heard them play; I’ve also listened to their problems, needs, anxieties, sorrows, and joys. I want to carry on working here until I’m no longer able to. If God gives me 80 years of good health, I’ll still be here, because this is the best thing that has happened to me in my life, apart from my children and my husband.”

Norma Méndez Liddye Faustinelli de Pérez

Méndez and Alfredo Delgado with their team from the Center for Social Action

224

Page 225: Venezuela the miracle of music

From left to right: Lope Valles, Yolanda Baroni, Susan Simon, René Pirotte, and Dr. Rafi Kiledjan

Luis VelásquezMaría Angelina Celis

Musical diplomacy

At FESNOJIV’s Production, Promotion, and Development Office was headed during the early years by a most valuable person and a highly competent cultural manager, María Angelina Celis. A great deal of the organization and image of the concerts, tours and other artistic and educational programs carried out by FESNOJIV fell on the shoulders of María Angelina Celis. She is a woman who has not only handled her difficult job for many years, but has gained a lot of experience in public relations and diplomacy. Precisely this last area is fundamental in the work carried out by the Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, which has, among other duties, the mission of serving as cultural ambassador of our country.

The friendship between María Angelina Celis and José Antonio Abreu started in 1966. However, she did not join the System until 1988, after having wide-ranging experience as diplomatic adviser, a position she had in the Venezuelan embassies in Belgium, France, Holland and Luxembourg.

“Before I went abroad,” she explains, “I had a company called María Angelina Celis and Associates which organized many events, some of them with the System, for example an inter-esting recording productions at the beginning of the ’80s. When I returned to Venezuela, maestro Abreu asked me to work for the orchestras, and that’s how I created the Promotion, Produc-tion and Development Department. Our work was to provide support for all the events of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra and of the youth and children’s groups. We set up festivals and programs for the orchestras from the interior of the country. We prepared everything that had to do with promotional materials. Today I am still support and believe in the System.”

The officiator of the concerts

The musician who does not know Luis Velásquez is a musician who has never appeared at the José Félix Ribas and the Ríos Reyna concert halls in the Teresa Carreño Theater Cultural Complex or at the new Simón Bolívar Concert Hall at the Center for Social Action through Music, because without him and the work he does, there would be no seats or music stands or music scores nor would the basic technical requirements be covered in time to put on the concerts. He has been the head of General Services since 1977 and has a skilled, dynamic team made up of Joel Betancourt, César Marval, Ramón Vega, José Campuzano, Edgar Camacho, Richard Santafé, Leonardo Torres, and Alexis Velásquez.

His loyalty to this grand undertaking has allowed Velásquez to learn all the secrets of the ritual that has to be performed before any concert, besides earning him the privilege of being entrusted with the SJVSB’s Music Archives where the original music scores and the copies are kept. He also has two sons who are musicians in the System and has watched how they have progressed since they were tiny and comments: “In this job, you have to have a good memory and pay close attention, because, as a general rule, precisely on the day of the concert, the kids forget or lose their scores, and then I have to rush to the music archives to get the scores that are missing. But I’m happy and proud to do it. I do everything I possibly can so that they triumph, as they’re doing now all round the world.”

225

Page 226: Venezuela the miracle of music

duardo Méndez is not an atypical manager at Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation. What

makes him one of the most remarkable among the new generations who are taking the reins of the institution, however, is that he joined the System with a very clear goal in mind: to become a musician and a lawyer without sacrificing either of his dreams. And he managed to do just that: today he is a violinist with considerable manage-rial ability who today has an excellent track record

without sacrificing qualityWe’ll continue to grow

as a result of having taken on a variety of respon-sibilities, among them, the Nuclei Management Office, heading up the Academic Office and the Executive Office, of which he is currently acting.

Méndez started his music studies when he was six, in Mérida, his home town. Later he went to the Latin American Violin Academy and studied under the guidance of José Francisco del Castillo, and, in 1997, he joined the Simón Bolívar Sym-phony Orchestra. Parallel to his music activities, he was studying law and, in 2000, he graduated in law at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello.

How did music help you do your job as cultural manager at Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation?Only a musician can really identify all the needs of other musicians and of the orchestras. I’d say it was the very philosophy of the System that helped to form me as a manager. I and other colleagues have been educated in the System since we were chil-dren, so now we have a very good idea of what’s needed, what’s good, what’s bad, and what things we can improve on and visualize for the future. And there is definitely a new institution with a group of managers who have to respond to all the projects that are emerging as a result of the tre-mendous growth in the orchestras and, mainly, of the solid internationaliza tion of the SJVSB. There are a lot of musicians with evident leadership skills who are emerging and joining the ranks of the managerial and teaching staff. A fair number are taking part in new programs to promote other genres of music and create orchestras that will give an opportunity to musicians who want to tackle other styles, while others are determined to become leaders in their community and devote their efforts to the System’s social programs in the country’s poorest shanty districts. In line with Maestro Abreu’s vision, many musician-managers are bringing to fruition new projects that are responding to the growing demand we have at home and abroad.

How have things evolved within Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation bearing in mind the enormous number of children and young people who want to join the System?

226

Page 227: Venezuela the miracle of music

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation has grown without sacrificing quality and excellence in terms of music, teaching or our social function, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve had to expand our sphere of action, and by that I mean on the academic level, where we’ve grown based on clear ideas, skill, and planning. We have teaching staff with considerable teaching experience and who are impeccably trained; we have teachers of the stature of Valdemar Rodríguez who is both our deputy executive director and the director of the Simón Bolívar Conservatory, and others such as Ulyses Ascanio, William Molina, and Francisco Flores. Moreover, we’re putting emphasis on creating more children’s orchestras, and now the preparatory course for the tiny tots only is for one year and we immediately give them their instrument. The quality of education is becoming increasingly important for the Sys-tem, because it makes it possible for increasingly younger and better trained youngsters to spur on the new generations throughout the country. This progress on the generational front has been occurring at the same time as the transforma-tions and changes that the System has been experiencing in both its internal and external structure.

How has the international boom of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra affected the System’s management and its growth as an organization?It’s had a big impact in many ways, first because we’ve had to prepare ourselves to meet interna-tional demand and the avalanche of commit-ments the SJVSB is called upon to attend, and that means increasing Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s staff, for example. We’ve worked very hard to cope with everything that those ova-tions of more than 30 minutes generate, which, in turn, has had repercussions and a huge media impact in the countries where we’ve appeared; that madness in the streets of the cities where the orchestra appears, the tickets sold out months before, all this has had a tremendous impact on the organization, as it brings with it a commit-ment to Venezuela and to all those children the System it takes in.

How do you visualize this process of growth and how it’s going impact the quality of the artistic and musical product?We are actors and witnesses of a dynamic of change towards excellence. This boom of the Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra has allowed us to reach higher, to set our sights on more demanding challenges. All this has developed very fast. I’d say that the corpus ex-ceeded the operational capacity of the System’s management. For that reason our responsibility is greater now; every day the social commitment, not only to Venezuela but also to the world, is greater. And in order to keep up with the demand that the System itself has generated, we have methods and new initiatives, because the sin is not to grow. Many more orchestras will spring up in Venezuela, with a life of their own, particu-larly regional orchestras that will be as important as the Simón Bolívar, and other orchestras that become part of all the new urban movements, which is why we are promoting the creation of popular music nuclei throughout the country specializing in jazz, salsa, reggae, Venezuelan popular music, in short to expand our network and make room for all the talent in the country and in the System.

What’s the biggest challenge in the organization and what’s the biggest satisfaction that being part of it has brought you?The challenge is to continue supporting the exemplary work of Maestro José Antonio Abreu and to help consolidate the success we have obtained thus far, which is nothing to what it will be. And I can say that, apart from my career as a musician, the greatest satisfaction is the wonder-ful feeling I get when I see a child who has the opportunity to do something and be someone through music and that he takes advantage of it, feels proud, and sees himself as an active, participative, useful citizen for our society. That is something that is priceless and that we owe to a sterling Venezuelan, Maestro Abreu.

Frank Di Polo and Eduardo Méndez

Igor Lanz, Valdemar Rodríguez, and Eduardo Méndez

227

Page 228: Venezuela the miracle of music

f Maestro José Antonio Abreu did not have in-tuition and a gift of vision, he would not have

been able to discover the places where the talent was; and, as a consequence, very few of the Sys-tem’s musicians would have also become mag-nificent cultural entrepreneurs and managers. A good example of what we are talking about is the Venezuelan flautist Víctor Rojas, who, in 1977, only two years after the National Youth Orches-tra was founded, joined its flute section not only to contribute his best musical interpretations, but also to become a tireless and enthusiastic promoter of Simón Bolívar Musical Founda-tion’s artistic production.

Víctor Rojas started his music studies with Luis Ochoa in Valencia, Carabobo state, where he was born. However, it was Glenn Egner from whom he received most of his instrumental instruction and training, which were later strengthened by Pedro Eustache, Raymond

Guiot, Ida Nels Lindeblad, Jean Pierre Rampal, and Auréle Nicolet, the last two in Paris, as well as his tutors Alain Marión, Raymond Guiot, and Peter Lukas Graf, with whom he took advanced classes.

In 1980, he joined the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra and obtained the position of soloist in 1982. Wasting no time, in 1995, together with a group of outstanding flau-tists, Rojas created the National Flute Orchestra, the first ensemble of its kind in Venezuela, with which he has organized several festivals and con-certs and also recorded CDs. He has also carried on teaching. He was the coordinator of the University Music Education Institute and today continues at the head of the Latin American Flute Academy.

Despite his numerous artistic commitments, quite some time ago Víctor Rojas took on the

artistic promoterA tireless and enthusiastic

228

Page 229: Venezuela the miracle of music

General Management Office of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and, thanks to his magnificent achievements in artistic produc-tion, he is also in charge of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Production, Promotion, and Development Office, where he is respon-sible for the enormous task of advertising the activities of SJVSB “A” and “B,” as well as of all the other groups that emerge from the System: ensembles, chamber orchestras, trios, quartets, the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, and the newly-formed Children’s National Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, to name but a few.

How have you approached your managerial and artistic production duties?I knew very little about management and artistic production. But right from the start, Maestro Abreu encouraged us –the founding musicians who were dealing with the work behind the scenes- to be ourselves. So, by being tolerant and patient and with a lot of dedication, we gradually learned how to organize. I discov-ered that the key thing in this job is to preserve one’s calling to serve intact; without that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the successes we have. Besides, we have a duty to give other kids the opportunity to experience and achieve the goals that we did. That’s why, from the start, we have to understand that everything we do in the System must have a social element, and that what we are doing is the key to opening up paths to personal and professional advancement for many Venezuelan children and adolescents. It’s what we’ve called “music for salvation.”

What is the next challenge after all these years of success with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra?We have to continue getting our musical groups to dream big. Of course, we’re ready and on the alert for the challenges that are coming, that are already here, because the System is already a pro-gram that is being implemented throughout the world. Apart from that, more and more musically talented youngsters are joining our orchestras every day, and we have a duty to channel, guide, and promote them so that they shine beyond our borders. So, the work we are doing, day and night,

at Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Produc-tion, Promotion, and Development Office is on a large scale and, as the years go by, it will become even more consolidated. But neither tiredness nor the late nights are important here, much less when we proudly watch those jackets sporting the national flag held triumphantly aloft in the world’s great theaters and before widely different and discerning audiences that give our youngsters standing ovations. That feel-ing and having Venezuela’s name held in such high esteem makes everything worthwhile.

A solid team behind the ovations

The person responsible for drawing up the entire musical program for the orchestras in the Capital District and other ensembles, together with Rojas, is Carolina Márquez de Massiani, the Programming Coordinator, who has exten-sive experience in cultural management and has been a very important acquisition for Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation. She also coordi-nates the appearances of Venezuelan soloists and foreign conductors who come to work with the System.

Pedro Núñez, Division Chief, who has been working at Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation for more than ten years, is in charge of every-thing having to do with contracting internation-al artists, once it has been decided to include them in the artistic program. Núñez’s respon-sibilities include covering everything involved in their stay in the country, in other words, the logistics of air travel, accommodation, per diem, fees, protocol, and liaison.

Mirley Sánchez and René Pirotte are the deputy managers of the Simón Bolívar Sym-phony Orchestras “A” and “B,” respectively, and between them they coordinate all the orchestras’ programming, activities, seminars, and rehears-als. They are both musicians from nuclei in the provinces and have been totally trained inside the System. Sánchez is a flautist, a pupil of Víctor Rojas, has a degree in music and an associate de-gree in administration; she is in charge of, among other things, the tickets for the concerts given

229

Page 230: Venezuela the miracle of music

at the Center for Social Action through Music, the Teresa Carreño Theater Complex, and in any other concert hall or stage in Caracas or Miranda where these orchestras make an appearance. Pirotte is a violinist and former member of the Chacao Youth Orchestra; she is largely to thank for the impeccable organization and logistics of the SJVSB’s international tours.

Norma Núñez performs the indispensable task of liaising with all areas of the Production, Promo-tion, and Development Office. She works directly with Pedro Núñez in contracting the soloists and conductors who come to Venezuela. She is also in charge of the pre-production, production, and post-production of the orchestras’ concerts in Venezuela and helps with simultaneous transla-tion, legal documents, and monitoring the artists.

Jioeyan Adreda does an extremely important job. She is the producer of the social programs for the Capital District’s orchestras and she also coordinates the appearances and activities of the chamber ensembles and orchestras in schools and nuclei throughout the country. Besides that, she schedules the artistic activities of the orchestras’ soloists and conductors when they are invited to play with other orchestras or ensembles that do not belong to the System, at nuclei in the provinces or abroad.

Clarimar Herrera is the person responsible for writing up the information and contents of the programs handed out to people who attend the concerts given by the Caracas orchestras, whereas Mildred Pérez is the Public Relations Assistant who sends out the special invitations and keeps track of correspondence.

How is a tour organized?

A woman of firm character carries out the complex task of organizing the SJVSB’s national and international tours with the support of all the offices and areas of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation. She is Arlette Dávila, the Deputy Director of Production, Promo-tion and Development, who, besides having a degree in psychology, possesses considerable experience in managing artistic institutions and groups as she has been the General Manager of the National Flute Orchestra, the University Institute for Music Studies (IUDEM) –now National Experimental University of the Arts (UNEARTE)-, and the Chacao Youth and Children’s Orchestra. She has also been the Head of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Nuclei Events and Academic Training Office.

Dávila gives an overview of the sequence she follows when organizing a tour. “Now we are

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Production, Promotion, and Development Team

230

Page 231: Venezuela the miracle of music

getting more frequent invitations for our SJVSB to appear from different international festivals and foreign theaters and cultural institutions. We immediately forward these invitations to Askonas Holt, the agency that represents our orchestra abroad and takes charge of putting together the tour schedule, fitting in each of the invitations that have already been approved by Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation, the venues, countries, etc. At that point, we start to work here on organizing the trip: selecting flights and overland transportation, organizing hotels, meals, shipment of cargo (in musical instru-ments, music scores, and other technical equip-ment alone, we have about four tons of cargo), and scheduling rehearsals, activities for the chamber ensembles, forums, and press confer-ences. As each of the logistical aspects is defined, we start to draw up the detailed itinerary of activities.”

Dávila explains that one of the most difficult parts of putting together a tour is coordi-nating the work of each of the areas involved: technical production (which is in charge of the scenery, technical requirements, instruments the orchestra will be taking, and instruments that will have to be hired at each of the venues); logistics (which deals with drawing up lists of orchestra members and travelers, passports, visas, accom-modation, meals, travel); audiovisual (ship-ment of video equipment, recording permits); property (responsible for the temporary export of musical instruments, customs permits); press and communications (coverage of the tour, press conferences, and interviews); and international relations (in charge of the signing of agreements, encounters, conferences, and forums); and we mustn’t forget the area of medical care and other offices of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation that cover other requirements.

Despite the experience in organization acquired from the numerous trips made by our SJVSB over the last thirty years and more, the tours in 2007, 2008, and 2009 were practically a master’s course in the subject, mainly because of the large number of people that had to be mobilized (more than 350, including musicians, teachers,

Above: Arlette Dávila and Francisco Ces during a national tour. Dávila surrounded by piles of passports on his desk. Below: René Pirotte giving instructions to the young musicians

journalists, and staff ) and the fact that the destinations were so far away, China or Japan, for example, and finally because of the length of time the tours lasted. On this last aspect Dávila comments: “The 2009 USA-Europe Tour was extraordinary and also very complex owing to the length of time it took (26 days) and because it involved traveling across two continents. We had concerts in Houston, Washington D.C., and Chicago, and then we traveled to London and from there on to several cities in Spain and to Lisbon, appearances that required very careful logistics. Then again, the first stage of the National Tour ‘Al Encuentro con Venezuela’ (Going to Meet Venezuela) this year (2010) was our first experience with mass audiences (in Barquisimeto we had 14,000 people and 10,000 in Mérida); but it was most stimulating, both for the musicians and for everyone one of us involved in this difficult challenge, which demanded much dedication and a lot of effort for it to go off as successfully as it did.”

231

Page 232: Venezuela the miracle of music

t the entrance to the most traditional and emblematic hotel of the flourishing city

of Maracaibo, the erstwhile Hotel del Lago, there is a far from customary to-ing and fro-ing. They are expecting someone to arrive, someone famous or a reguetón or rock group, if the crowd of youngsters, the fans, who’ve been there for hours dodging the National Guardsmen on security detail is anything to go by. There is an infectious nervousness in the air, the kind that doesn’t let anyone work, not the receptionists or the cleaners, much less the shop attendants who, despite the late hour, have kept their stores open.

“This is just great! Do you know who’s getting out of the SUV? If you don’t, you’re not into anything… it’s Gustavo Dudamel with his Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.”

“Of course I do! What’s wrong with you? What makes you think I haven’t seen them on the telly? Besides, look at the poster I brought for them to sign it for me, because they’re my idols… they play music they call classical, no vallenato or reggaeton, but they do put in the mambo

because I saw them in a video on YouTube when they were in London.”

That conversation between two of the hotel’s security guards not only impressed me but it was the first sign of what was to come later during the SJVSB’s and Dudamel’s 36-hour stay in Maracaibo to bring to the national tour to a close at the Luis Aparicio Stadium, on January 28 and 29, 2010.

“Hey, stand here. You’ve got to have your ’cell phone ready to take a photo of you with Dudamel and the musicians,” a mother told her beautiful daughter, all decked out in her finest clothes to look stunning for her favorite artists and who was pushing and shoving along with other young girls who had the same idea. Inside, in the rehearsal room, there was no containing the large number of people who wanted to pay their respects and express their affection. One of the hotel’s chambermaids fought tooth and nail with the security guards so as to be able to take proof back to her sick son that she had, indeed, met Dudamel. “Gustavo… Gustavo… Gustavo,

to showIt just goes

232

Page 233: Venezuela the miracle of music

give me a minute, take a photo with me… The thing is, if I don’t take it to my boy, he’s not going to get better, because you don’t know how much my son loves you; I’m certain that he’ll just get up out of that bed out of pure excitement…” And Gustavo, with his characteristically sweet disposition, shared a smile and his face with the hundreds of admirers who wanted to take a picture with him.

The next day was a glorious Friday. As early as three in the afternoon, neither the blazing sun, nor the problems with transport nor the fact that it was payday prevented the areas around the stadium from filling up with endless lines of people who, for weeks, had dreamt of attending the concert widely promoted by the regional media and announced on huge banners put up all over the city.

Dudamel posing for a photo with a fan in Maracaibo

Above: Putting on the concert in Maracaibo. Below: two takes of the musicians as they make their way to the dais

233

Page 234: Venezuela the miracle of music

After enjoying some typical local dishes with his grandmother Engracia, who accompanies him on many of his national and international tours, Gustavo Dudamel arrived at the Luis Aparicio Stadium bursting with happiness and with the energy of a bullfighter sure of his triumph. He knew that this concert would be a milestone in the history of performances in Venezuela: a true phenomenon of the masses, with more than 20,000 people (an even bigger audience than at the Barquisimeto concert a few weeks earlier, when 14,000 people turned up), among them lots of children, entire families, personalities from all walks of life, and a large number of local musical groups; an experience only comparable to a playoff between the local baseball team Águilas del Zulia and their long-time rivals Leones del Caracas.

A standing ovation lasting for more than five minutes was the welcome given by the people of Maracaibo. Multicolored confetti rained down on the orchestra’s 220 souls, as Dudamel raised his baton. Then, a silence that seem impossible to achieve with such a multitude, was the miracu-lous opening for a select repertoire destined

to reach the hearts of the masses: Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Santa Cruz de Pacairigua by the Venezuelan Evencio Castellanos emerged from the very soul of the orchestra with decanted sounds and nuances and utterly sublime mo-ments, such as that offered us by the young local cellist, Enmanuelle Acurero during his perfor-mance of Dvorak’s Concerto for cello and orchestra.

At the end, everyone exploded in a burst of euphoria… Dudamel gave free rein to his pas-sion for Venezuelan and Latin popular music… the musicians danced with their instruments. A potpourri of jazz and fun-packed mambo set us all dancing for joy, and tears of thanks flowed for our moving Alma Llanera. There was nothing superfluous and nothing lacking in that unprecedented finale to the fiesta in the Luis Aparicio Stadium: the replica of La Chinita was there from the start, facing the huge stage where a choir of mothers and children from the Wayu tribe crowned Gustavo with a beautiful tiara of feathers from blue-headed parrots of the High Guajira, as is fitting for kings and prophets in the land where they were born.

One of the two screens decorating the stage at Luis Aparicio Stadium in Maracaibo Members of the Wayú tribe crowning Dudamel after the concert

234

Page 235: Venezuela the miracle of music

The triumphal shower of tricolor rain that always accompanies Venezuela’s young musicians

235

Page 236: Venezuela the miracle of music

The futureof music is here

X

Cha

pter

Page 237: Venezuela the miracle of music

I couldn’t believe I was in the Teresa Carreño Theater. I thought I’d gone to heaven when I heard those celestial choirs and orchestras. I’d never experienced such intense, such overwhelming emotion. I cried because I couldn’t help but be moved watching those children and young people make music. That’s something great anywhere in the world.

Placido Domingo

The jubilation of the musicians of the Zulia Children’s Symphony Orchestra is totally in keeping with their temperament

Page 238: Venezuela the miracle of music

of musiciansThe dawning of a new generation

o more appropriate time than the summer solstice –when, in traditional cultures, men pray

for a good harvest- to baptize the new generation of Venezuelan musicians, who, with their training and talent, have been the driving force behind the future of the our continent’s music movement. And nothing more appropriate for the debut of this new National Children’s Orchestra than the celebration of the bicentennial of Venezuela’s Declaration of Independence as an expression of the libertarian spirit that music bestows on thousands of children and adolescents who are being educated and cultivated within the System as well-rounded citizens.

In July 2010, J.A. Abreu’s futuristic vision was confirmed yet again, when he presented a selection of the children who had worked hard, almost from the cradle, in all of Venezuela’s orchestral centers to acquire the discipline that studying music demands. Once again, we see how the Venezuelan maestro undertakes another cultural feat by launching onto stages at home and abroad an orchestra that will be the best compost for plowing back into the ranks of the constantly renewed Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra.

The boys and girls who are part of the new wave of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela enter the artistic world with all found: a practical and theoreti-cal training that is three times better than that

received by preceding generations; training and permanent support from their demanding Venezuelan teachers; having been the stars and pioneer pupils of the modern music teaching methods from a very early age –practically from the cradle-, as many of them joined the System at the preparatory or pre-school orchestra levels, between three and five years of age; enjoying the best that the SJVSB’s successes have brought; traveling around the world and all over Venezuela; national tours; seminars with major international maestros; attending the best concerts and events; taking part in competitions and festivals; being fitted out with instruments; provided with transport to their homes; and, besides all that, the support and help of their families. All of this thanks to the tremendous organizational strides made by the System.

Competing for a music stand

Today, being a musician in Venezuela, belonging to one of the country’s 250 youth and children’s orchestras, in any of its towns or villages, is a mark of distinction. For a child to be identified as a member of the new National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela is already synonymous with having a qualification, a certain level of culture, and a magnificent reputation and image. The thing is that, for a child or adolescent to be able to get to the point where he shares a music stand in that orchestra, he has to be an exemplary student, both in his nucleus-orches-

238

Page 239: Venezuela the miracle of music

tra and at school. But not only that, that child or adolescent harbors the aspiration of flying as high or higher than his predecessors, of attaining the stature, no less, of a Gustavo Dudamel, an Edicson Ruíz or one of the many others who are covering with glory the artistic name of Venezuela.

When it is time for the auditions, competition among the orchestras’s children and adolescents throughout the country gets extremely fierce. That is what happened in February and March 2010, when more than 4,000 children between the ages of 7 and 15 responded to the System’s call to audition for a place in the latest National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela, which has already been in existence for fifteen years and enjoys well earned international prestige.

Rubén Cova, a musician from the second generation of the SJVSB and a pioneer in methods for teaching music at an early age, be-sides being the director of the Zulia Nucleus, was the coordinator of the recent auditions to select 350 musicians for the new orchestra. During the course of his career he has participated in more than 14,000 auditions and has been responsible for selecting the boys and girls who today are members of the Simón Bolívar “B” Orchestra, from which Dudamel and many others, such as the concertino Alejandro Carreño, came.

“The level of the young musicians has risen with the passing of the years,” he explains, “and now the expectations are much higher, a result of the generational dynamic and the musical aptitude cultivated in the System from an early age. What was a challenge in 1995 today is the norm. In fact, the works set for the auditions are much more complex than those required in previous auditions, Francesca de Rímini by Tchaikovsky for all the instruments of the orchestra, for example, which means that, later, each young musician is able to play his instrument’s part in works such as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture or Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

Starting out under the big league

For six days in April 2010, at Montalbán Chil-dren’s Center, the 357 children and adolescents selected to become members of the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela had their first encounter and seminar with the System’s maestros and leaders to work eight hours a day on a technically highly demanding repertoire that was to be included in the first music pro-grams of the System’s new pampered ensemble.

Always under the guidance of Maestro Abreu, the twenty-seven teachers and Gustavo Dudamel arrived at Montalbán Academic Center. Dudamel, as a former member of this orchestra and today as the principal conduc-tor of the Simón Bolívar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra and world leader of the System, invited this contingent of young musi-cians, who applauded him euphorically, to con-tinue “playing and fighting,” the motto that has accompanied this social initiative for 35 years.

During the rehearsals, the boys and girls who had been selected went over a repertoire consisting of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and the symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini, under the daily guidance of Maestro Abreu.

Moved by the expressions of respect and affection from the debutants, Dudamel commented during the seminar: “This reper-toire you are rehearsing today is nothing like the one we worked on in 1994, when I, 12 at the time, was a member of the National Children’s Orchestra. You, whom I’ve had the fortune to conduct today, are truly bright young hopes of music. It’s already possible to gage the high level you’ve reached by the fact that you’re playing these pieces, which, when we were in the orches-tra, we played four years after we’d joined, and you are doing it well from the start,” enthused the young conductor, the idol of the world’s new generations of musicians.

Under the guidance of Maestro Abreu and the teacher and percussionist Iván Hernández, the new orchestra is born with great expectations

Enmanuelle Acurero, a talented cellist from Zulia and a member of the Children’s Orchestra

239

Page 240: Venezuela the miracle of music

e took a few sips of aromatic Venezuelan coffee and immediately launched into the

usual greetings, directed at his Venezuelan hosts. Only a few minutes after getting off the plane that brought him to Caracas from Berlin, accompanied by his two children, he heard the joyful performance of a choir of children’s and adolescents’ voices and the SJVSB’s Brass Ensemble. The impromptu musical festival during his event-packed week in our country had started with applause.

It was on July 18, 2004, when the sixth conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic kept the promise he had made the boys and girls of the Youth Sym-phony Orchestra of Venezuela, after listening to them in amazement, in Germany in 2000. Then and there, the famous British conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, suspected that something very important music-wise must be happening in Venezuela. And he not only confirmed it with his own eyes and ears, but he was also present and played an important role at a very important mo-ment for the System: the start of the celebrations marking its 30th anniversary.

Simon Rattle took a ten-day break from his packed artistic agenda to learn firsthand about the “secret” of the Venezuelan music model about which he had heard so much from colleagues in several European cities. But he never imagined the intense program of activities that FESNOJIV had organized for him, which was to enable him to become thoroughly familiar with the enormous musical and artistic potential harbored within the System, as well as its benefits as a social program and as a program for rescuing children and adolescents.

A mountain of sounds

Simon Rattle’s first day in Caracas was a real “marathon.” He arrived bright and early at the Teresa Carreño Theater, where a large orchestra made up of dozens and dozens of musicians from the youth orchestras of Lara, Aragua, and Carabobo, under the baton of Maestro Ulyses Ascanio was waiting for him; just a step away, in the José Félix Ribas concert hall, he found the energetic Gustavo Dudamel and his Mahler Orchestra; and to round off this “mountain of

are happening in Venezuela”“The most important developments in symphonic music

240

Page 241: Venezuela the miracle of music

sounds,” musicians from the Caracas and Los Teques youth orchestras bestowed on him the lively Popurrí by Pérez Prado, which was to be the prelude to an exquisite evening performance where everyone was carried away by the energy of Estévez’s Cantata Criolla, matchlessly interpreted by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and its founding musicians under the baton of Dudamel.

Rattle’s visit was in crescendo. A culminating mo-ment was, undoubtedly, the musical offering the British maestro received at Montalbán Children’s Academic Center. In my opinion, that afternoon was as memorable as it was instructive for every-one who witnessed that “madness” of orchestras and more orchestras, boys, girls, and adolescents making music. No sooner had he alighted from the minibus, than Rattle settled down in a corner at the entrance to the building to listen to the first offering, given by the Brass Ensemble and which elicited the first “Bravo!” of the afternoon, putting a smile of illuminated joy on Rattle’s face that did not leave it until the performances were over.

Next, we heard the Deaf Children’s Percussion Ensemble, which includes the Coro de Manos Blancas (White Hands Choir). Visibly moved, Rattle seemed to be holding back tears, because other marvels were still in store, such as the immense Metropolitan Pre-school Orchestra conducted by Susan Siman and made up of 300 children of between 5 and 10 years of age, to which the distinguished visitor only managed to murmur “I’m so impressed.” The Montalbán Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Dietrich Paredes, gave way to the closing piece: Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March and Arturo Márquez’s Danzón, played by the 800 precocious musicians of the Chil-dren’s Symphonic Orchestra under the baton of Dudamel, “staggering” both Rattle and his entire international entourage with their performance.

Fifteen minutes after the end of the program at Montalbán Academic Center, the Ríos Reyna concert hall was also swarming with anxious musicians waiting for Rattle: the musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, who were about to have their second rehearsal of Mahler’s

Symphony No. 2, a huge mise en scène with some 350 musicians plus a large choir of more than 400 voices conducted by María Guinand.

Rattle arrived, somewhat circumspect, placed the score on his chair, the baton on the music stand, and addressed the orchestra: “Boys and girls –he said- I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” Immediately, all the musicians were on guard; they thought some mistake had annoyed the maestro. However, their excite-ment and happiness returned when Simon Rattle continued: “Forgive the delay, but they’ve been showing me more and more music. I was in Montalbán, and there I wanted to cry like a baby in front of that great children’s orchestra of

Simon Rattle conducted in Venezuela for the first time in 2004

241

Page 242: Venezuela the miracle of music

800 kids, but there were too many cameras and I thought it would look very bad. But I have to tell you that there is nothing more important in the world of music today than what is happening here in Venezuela.”

Confessing out loud

Rattle set aside the day before he was to conduct his first work in Venezuela, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “The Resurrection,” for a press conference with the Venezuelan media. There was no reason to think that he would be prolific in his state-ments, but neither was there anything to lead one to assume that he would be so careful not to offer opinions off the top of his head, without first having personally formed an idea of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. The questions from a large audience of journalists were not long in coming.

Why did you choose Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection to conduct for the first time in Venezuela?Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 is the piece that made me want to be a conductor. It’s the piece that changed my life. And when I first hear the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Berlin, it was very clear to me that this was also a resurrec-tion. What’s happening here in Venezuela is so important that, perhaps, it should be identified with this piece. If anyone were to ask me, where is something really important going on for the future of classical music? I’d simply have to say that the future is here in Venezuela. You have been watching this happen for nearly thirty years, and you are most likely used to it; but for someone from outside it’s an emotional force of such power that it may take us some time to believe what we’re hearing. And I would have liked Mahler to have been alive to see it and to listen to it.

Without pausing, Simon Rattle told the Venezuelan and foreign journalists what he’d experienced the previous day at Montalbán Academic Center: “Yesterday I went with my family to Montalbán and we saw an orchestra in which none of its members’ feet touched the

floor, literally speaking. We saw a marvelous choir of blind children accompanied by a beautiful choir of white hands. I heard the smallest orches-tra in the world conducted by one of the world’s greatest conductors, Gustavo Dudamel, playing the Slavonic March. We British are supposed to be very controlled, so I was very proud I didn’t cry like a baby in front of the orchestra. But I have to tell you that, when we all got back into the minibus that was taking us around, we were moved to tears; my teenage children had to ask for handkerchiefs because we were extremely moved. Those orchestras have been marvelously prepared, like a dream. Listening to 800 musicians as I heard them, not only playing Tchaikovsky, but all phrasing the same way, communicating with one another backwards and forwards, was a rare experience. I saw in the faces of those little children what I have always believed the purpose of music to be: communication and pure joy.”

A priceless gift

What can young Venezuelan musicians teach the world?I’ve always thought that music is not a luxury but a necessity for the lives of everyone. For many of us, it’s the air we breathe. But I see that, here, it’s not just a question of music as art, but that, in the deepest way, it’s a social program. And I know that it has saved many lives and will continue to save many more. But it also offers people another way of communicating, another way of understanding the world, and another form of happiness. Nowa-days we need art, all the arts, to save ourselves. The System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras is a great structure where everyone helps everyone else: the older ones teach the little ones; the 14-year-olds teach the 11-year-olds, the 11-year-olds teach the little 8-year-olds. It’s a miracle; it’s like a blood system that will bring about many generations of musicians.

What made you decide to come to Caracas? I didn’t care for Wagner’s Rienzi Overture; I’ve always had problems with it. But when the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela interpreted it in Berlin, I said to myself, “Ah, here’s something miraculous.” When the piece ended, one of the

242

Page 243: Venezuela the miracle of music

principal violins of the Berlin Philharmonic came up to me and said that we had a lot to learn from these children. So I felt that one day I ought to come to Venezuela to conduct them. The chance came sooner than I expected. On the first day of rehearsals with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, some of the players of the Berlin Philharmonic who’ve been here for a couple of years giving intensive seminars and who are accompanying me on this visit, told me several things. One said: “Actually, I haven’t taught; I’ve only helped.”

Based on your experience in orchestral con-ducting, how would you describe the level of the players of the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela you’ve been working with in Caracas for a week?I have to say –particularly with regard to the string section of the Youth Orchestra- that, musically, there are many things I would be capable of achieving here that I haven’t been able to do with professional British orchestras. Naturally, there are some details that have to do with dexterity, experience or with the instruments, but many of the difficult things we have overcome with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra are easy to achieve with these young Venezuelan musicians. The boys and girls of the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela are incredibly disciplined and pick up what is asked of them very quickly. Here you don’t have to motivate anyone, because if there is something that prevails, it’s the culture of motivation and not of criticism. If they don’t get something right or someone makes a mistake, they all laugh and say: “OK, that sounded terrible, but we’ll get it better next time.” This attitude took me back to when I was young and reminded me of what I always believed and dreamt with regard to music: joy. And what one can see in the people in this country is, quite simply, joy.

What do these youngsters need to learn in order to improve?I’d like to use my favorite quote of Brahms to answer that. Once, a group of music students asked the composer how they could play their music better, and he replied. “Practice one hour less every day and read a good book instead”. The important thing for these young musicians is to

learn just how much meaning can be given to each note. That’s a never-ending field of study, enough for a lifetime. In Venezuela, you have the most extraordinary infrastructure for just that and I believe you’re giving people a gift that is priceless. In Europe we have the benefit of a long musical tradition. But that benefit carries a risk: we rely on that tradition and we don’t see what’s happening in other parts of the world. That’s why we have to look at what’s going on in Venezuela. We came here initially with the idea of teaching and helping, but I would now say that 70% of our mission here is to learn how these young musi-cians assume their artistic work.

Do you know anything about the Venezuelan musical repertoire?I’ve just been introduced to the music of Estévez in a wonderful way, but I know there’s much to explore. The world is changing and the marvelous thing about this is that we’re able to realize that there are important musicians and composers in other continents. If anybody still holds to the old ideas, I’d tell him to come to Venezuela. It will be a great joy to see how Venezuelan musicians are going to develop and how, bit by bit, they take over the world of international music.

Author’s note: This interview and the report of events that occurred over a period of a week were done entirely by the author in 2004. In this book, we offer a new version of that interview.

Rattle astonished by the energy of the young musicians

243

Page 244: Venezuela the miracle of music

ust as he marked a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the history of orchestral teaching and

practice, José Antonio Abreu also dreamed of transforming the concept of the conservatory, not only from the theoretical and organizational viewpoints, but also with regard to its mission and function. That is why planning and building spaces and infrastructures where children and young people can feel they are surrounded by the magic and joy of music, where all national and international musical flavors and talents converge, and where all artistic manifestations throng like a great cultural choir is fundamental for the System.

With the leafy greenness of Parque Los Caobos as a backdrop, near the Caracas Mosque and opposite Casa del Artista in the Caracas neigh-borhood of Santa Rosa de Quebrada Honda, this other dream has come true. This is the setting of the System’s new home: a luminous building designed as a unique, modern, and dynamic music and cultural center and that was built patiently, floor by floor, brick by brick, to raise and develop to the maximum all the poten-tial and teaching, artistic, and social experience of Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation.

José Antonio Abreu baptized it “Center for Social Action through Music” and two highly talented and experienced Venezuelan architects gave life to Abreu’s idea: Tomás Lugo, the man who designed it and made sure of its quality –and who also has experience in successfully designing cultural spaces, including being the co-designer of the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex-, and Marco Pitrelli, who, among

The 21st centuryconservatory

244

Page 245: Venezuela the miracle of music

other things, monitored all phases of the center’s construction until its successful completion.

A home for innovations in teaching

Through a project called “The Center for Social Action through Music Support Program,” the Inter-American Development Bank sought (from 2001 to 2002, approximately) to support the consolidation of the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela’s academic program by granting it financial assistance, and it was joined in this effort by the National Housing Institute, which made an important contribution by donating the land. Between them, the IDB and FESNOJIV designed this first space as great open university for special-ized music teaching, where the biggest musical and artistic exchange in Latin America has started to take place and will be stepped up in the next few years; but there is no one better than José Antonio Abreu himself, the heart and mind behind this new goal, to explain the essence and contents of this innovative center.

“The Center for Social Action through Music is a project through which the System’s social dimension takes on priority. Everything that has to do with the use of music in education and the rescue and rehabilitation of children, particularly those with some kind of handicap, will be dealt with here. Music therapy will be another area of action at this center, as well as the training of teachers who attend to children at risk. Along the same lines, there is the project for introducing the System of Children’s Or-chestras into the regular school system, and that is a short-term priority: training teachers who can teach the children music, both instruments and choral singing, from pre-school.”

“The other aspect that we’ll encourage at the Center for Social Action through Music, and that will become an increasingly important part of its programming, is artistic integration so that children and adolescents can learn to relate to one another in the arts, through dance, theater, opera, singing, photography, and video, as though it were a melting pot where all the

creative tendencies meet and merge, with music as the common element,” explains Abreu. Of course, from the time it started to operate, its main function has been to win a name internationally for music, our orches-tras, and our virtuoso musicians, and to be a place where leaders of chil-dren’s and youth orchestra and choir systems throughout the continent should come together, permanently. “Put briefly, it’s a platform for Latin American cultural integration.”

A magic building

The Center for Social Action through Music, which started functioning in 2009, has an area of 14,750 square meters and is a functional and aus-tere building, but built using high technology that, according to Tomás Lugo, synthesizes –from the conceptual and physical viewpoints– the many positive experiences that the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela has accumulated over the past thirty-five years. “To some extent,” comments Lugo, “the building pays tribute to the efforts of

A unique architectural structure for a music teaching center

245

Page 246: Venezuela the miracle of music

thousands of people throughout Venezuela who have worked at FESNOJIV and Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation over many years, but, at the same time, it will provide support for the needs and requirements of the new generations of musicians and teachers who are being trained and will continue to be trained in the System.”

Obviously, as it is building given over mainly to music activities and to the activities of musi-cians, the structure (and even the materials used) was designed bearing in mind special acoustic requirements. It has several spaces (more than a hundred defined locations) broken down into areas for music teaching, rooms for instrumental rehearsal and choir practice, a library, concert halls and a theater, chamber music rooms, and an open-air acoustic shell on the south side of the building, which will gradually be integrated into Parque Los Caobos; it also has areas for musical instrument fabrication workshops, the headquarters of the National Audiovisual Cen-ter, recording booths, dressing rooms, cafeterias, administrative services, and toilets. It has special equipment, such as a mechanical theater system, professional lighting, sound and video systems, and servers and networks with national and international connections.

The architect considers that the main challenge posed by the project was putting together and training a work team that understood the essence of a project of this type. “Techniques not normally used were employed in this building, which meant I had to convince many professionals of the need to use special supports for different technical requirements. The Center for Social Action through Music is a building that tends to procure silence. Its acoustical needs and its enormous diversity of environments prompted us to employ different insulating materials, such as rubber flooring and fiberglass practically throughout the entire structure, which has ten floors: seven above ground, including the ground floor, and three basement floors,” explains Lugo.

Of course, the building’s complexity stems from the special noise and sound treatment, as each

area has to be independent, sound-wise, from the next so as to offer different environments where it is possible to concentrate, which is one of the indispensable requirements so that musi-cians can do their work. So, the walls, floors, and ceilings of most of the floors were worked with a special acoustic system to avoid vibrations in the structure and to ensure that noise in the rooms does not contaminate the building’s outdoor areas, and vice versa.

“The large number of rooms that the Center has and where studying, montages, rehearsals or performances are carried out simultaneously obliged us to treat the walls, floors, and ceilings with insulating materials. Besides that, all the installations throughout the building for water, electricity, air conditioning, and so on are also insulated, and all the floors, with the exception of the sixth floor, which is exclusively for ad-

246

Page 247: Venezuela the miracle of music

ministrative offices, were worked with a special acoustic system.”

Owing to the diversity of techniques used and from the engineering viewpoint, this building is unique in Venezuela, so far. “I would dare to say that this infrastructure is unique in Latin America, just as the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela is unique. It is, undoubtedly, a building constructed in accordance with the social and collective criterion that inspires the Venezuelan orchestral movement, in its own image and reflecting its futuristic potential,” adds Lugo.

Soto, Cruz-Diez and the Simón Bolívar concert hall

Aesthetics are also important in this new “model conservatory,” however. When you

go up the steps to the main entrance, what first impacts you are the contributions by two world maestros of kinetic and virtual art, the Venezuelan Jesús Soto, who donated a white and yellow sphere (an example of his well-known Lloviznas and Penetrables) suspended in the air from the building’s façade, whereas the foyer is given over to “physio-chromatics” in red, yellow, green, and white by another Venezuelan, Maestro Carlos Cruz-Diez, who also donated the design for the material used to upholster the seats in the Simón Bolívar concert hall. The fluid, free, daring, and always evolving creativity of these two artists could have found no better home or use than this center for up-and-coming youth.

Once past the foyer, the building divides up into two large areas: the north section, which is given over to teaching and academic activities; and the south section, which consists of the Simón

A work specially created and donated by the maestro of kinetic art, the Venezuelan Jesús Soto, gives an air of freshness and modernity to the building that houses the Center for Social Action through Music

247

Page 248: Venezuela the miracle of music

Bolívar concert hall (with seating for 1.100), concert hall 2 (with seating for 400), and the rehearsal rooms associated with each of these concert halls.

Designed by Tomás Lugo, the immense Simón Bolívar concert hall offers the ambience and beauty of a vanguard theater but very much in the Latin American spirit. It is warm yet elegant. It also houses an instrumental jewel: the pipe organ (a gift from Fundación Polar), which measures 11 meters high by 13 meters wide and was built specially for the Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela and for this concert hall by the German company Orgelbau Klais. Another point of interest is that the main concert hall, with its stage, orchestra pit, and seating, has been designed using acoustic technology that will offer better sound for musicians and the general public alike and where all types of musical, operatic, dance, and theatrical performances can be staged.

As for the rehearsal rooms, they come in all sizes: individual rehearsal rooms for a musi-cian and a teacher; double rehearsal rooms for two or three musicians and a teacher; section rehearsal rooms for wood, wind, and string instruments; and a general rehearsal room that can accommodate an orchestra of 300 or more musicians. So, each row of instruments in a symphony orchestra has a space that has been specially designed to meet its needs.

Replicas throughout the country

Success multiplies in the System; and the same is going to happen with the buildings the System needs throughout the country: six more regional centers emulating the Central for Social Action in Caracas are to be built. The new academic buildings, which will be comple-mented by areas for teacher training, are to be built over the next few years, the goal being to complete them by 2015. The states that are to benefit are Lara, Aragua, Anzoátegui, Bolívar, Mérida, and Zulia, and another center is being built in Caracas, on the city’s west side.

The beautiful Simón Bolívar concert hall, the new artistic home of the Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra

Detail of the seats, which carry a design by Maestro Cruz-Diez

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Projects Unit, whose main responsibility is to coordinate, strengthen, and plan infrastructure, is run by Valentina Herz (the Unit’s Coordinator) and Gladys Melo (architect). Both work on the strategic development and strengthening of the System of Orchestras in everything having to do with the physical facilities.

“The way the System has grown in recent years, both nationally and internationally, the number of nuclei that have been set up throughout the country, and the demands made by children who come to us and who are increasingly younger are making extremely heavy demands in terms of suitable infrastructure. So what this unit does is to underpin Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation`s academic efforts by designing and creating the Teacher Training Centers, so that places exist where the System’s teachers can pre-pare themselves and have the capacity to meet the demands of the new generations of students who are joining,” explained Valentina Herz.

248

Page 249: Venezuela the miracle of music

249

Page 250: Venezuela the miracle of music

Editorial Concept and Texts

Chefi Borzacchini

Editorial Coordination

Santos López

Translator

Ronald Karjala

Proofreader

Santos López

Journalistic research and documentation

Chefi Borzacchini and Carmen Verde

Administrative Assistant

Luzbeydi Balza

Graphic Design and Electronic Montage

Equis Creadores de Imagen CA

Editorial research support

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s archives and Marjorie Delgado Aguirre

Photographers

Beto Gutiérrez, Guillermo Suárez, Gustavo Marcano,

Reynaldo Trombetta, Sandra Bracho

Infography

Franklin Durán

Photographic archives

Chefi Borzacchini

Photographic Support

Nohely Oliveros

Sandra Bracho

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s

Communications Office

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s

Production, Promotions, and Development Office

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Audiovisual Center

Amilciar Gualdrón (Prisons Academic Program)

Iván González

Juan Francisco Toro

Frank Di Polo

Larry Parra (Universidad del Zulia)

Dudamel Rodríguez family’s photograph collection

Abreu Anselmi family’s photograph collection

Archives consulted

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Production, Promotions,

and Development Office

Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation’s Communications Office

Acknowledgements and special collaborators

Eduardo Méndez, Valdemar Rodríguez, Víctor Rojas, Liliana Arvelo,

Norma Méndez, Ana Cecilia Abreu (Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation),

Gary Núñez, Alfredo D’Adonna (Barquisimeto Nucleus), Carlos Hernández

Delfino, Alys de Marrero, Elba Monterola, Erika Schmid, Ana Teresa Arriaga,

Elide Silva (Fundación Bancaribe), Erick Zabaco, Patricia Rodríguez, and

Victoria Helena López

ISBN: 978-980-7125-05-5

Legal Deposit: if78320114283758

© Fundación Bancaribe

RIF: J-29439649-6

(All rights reserved)

This book or any part there of may not be reproduced, stored or

transmitted in any form or by any means -electronic, chemical, me-

chanical or optical, including recording or photocopying- without

the prior permission of Fundación Bancaribe.

Printed in Caracas, Venezuela, 2011.

A production of Representaciones Com.Poetas C.A.

for Fundación Bancaribe

+58.212.2381701 / +58.212.2373651/ +58.412.2857468 /

[email protected] / [email protected]

Fundación Bancaribe

+58.212.954.57.85 / +58.212.954.51.28

Venezuela, the miracle of music

250

Page 251: Venezuela the miracle of music

251

Page 252: Venezuela the miracle of music