Wednesday 18 February 2009

El Sistema: The Music Miracle

Jose Abreu on kids transformed by music

The State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela (FESNOJIV - Fundaci??n del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela) is a government-funded organization, founded by maestro Jos?? Antonio Abreu, aimed at systematizing music education and promoting the collective practice of music through symphony orchestras and chorus as a means of social organization and communitarian development, a method Jose calls El Sistema:
Music is not only the product of the talent and virtuosity of its creators; it is the reflection of the soul of the peoples and, in this case, is the outgrowth of an education program that over the past 33 years has spread beyond our borders and has surpassed all expectations.

In the past, art was a matter of minorities for minorities; then it became a matter of minorities for majorities. Nowadays it is a matter of majorities for majorities and a key element to educating and allowing people to integrate successfully into society.

So why should a Stephen Harper opt to pay into a scheme such as this and at a scale such as this? The only sane question is rather to ask how any politician could dare to publically not support El Sistema. You could start with the total eradication of poverty, the revitalization of depressed communities, you could step it up a notch to call McLuhan's observation "When deprived of his identity, man becomes violent in diverse ways. Violence is the quest for identity.", or cite the simple unifying effects of synchronous behaviour, or the leadership maturing effects of large-group logistics and social responsibilities, the care and support to others and to one's instrument. We could talk about a great many things, all of them desirable. All of them doable.

If only we had the collective will to want it. Could be the advantage Venezuela has over Canada for social transformation on this scale is that, for them, the mass FAIL of an entire generation is simply not an option.