By now, Venezuela’s revolutionary youth music program “El Sistema” is well known abroad, but not so well known is the fact that “El Sistema has spread like wildfire throughout the U.S.,” as John M. Eger points out in a Huffington Post article on Monday entitled “There’s Something About El Sistema.”
Eger, a professor of communications and public policy at San Diego State University, writes that after 35 years of helping at-risk young people in Venezuela, El Sistema is now “a global phenomenon” that is providing more than just music education, but also “a new model for social change.”
“Programs inspired by El Sistema now exist in Boston, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego, and over 50 other cities across the country,” Eger writes.
Why is El Sistema so revolutionary? According to the data, it reaches 400,000 students a year in Venezuela, and among these children, “attendance in school is higher and the dropout rate significantly lower… students who participate in El Sistema are very active members of their community, and perhaps as result of all of the above, tend to have more success entering the workplace.”
The youth orchestras inspired by El Sistema that have popped up across the U.S. appear to be improving young people’s lives, as well.
Eger quotes the president of the San Diego Youth Symphony, Dalouge Smith, who says: “El Sistema is really a new way of thinking about music education. It is about building community and productive citizens through the group experience of ensemble and orchestra.”
In Baltimore, a program called OrchKid has been able to “involve not only the parents, guardians and participating children, but also the entire community through partnerships and community events.” Its goal is to help kids “become leaders that give back and strengthen their community.”
Eger points out that El Sistema has become popular in the U.S. partly because it is so inclusive.
He writes: “All the programs take place on school sites or nearby community centers in underserved communities; and are completely free. Even the instruments, usually new, are given to every child in the program to begin their musical journey.”
According to Eger and those he interviewed, the educational model of El Sistema is extremely effective, whether in Venezuela or abroad. He concludes that the program “changes young people’s lives and prepares them for a bold new future too.”
More information about the orchestras associated with El Sistema USA is available at: http://elsistemausa.org/
Press Office/Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S./ April 3, 2012