Tag Archives: El Sistema

Tavis Smiley Examines Gustavo Dudamel and the Role and State of Music Education

Tonight I watched the PBS Special Dudamel: Conducting a Life in which Tavis Smiley profiled the young, charismatic Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, a product of the very successful Venezuelan program “El Sistema” which exposes impoverished children to classical music. The program looked at the broader issue of music education and its role in education reform.

It’s always great to hear confirmation of the concepts and opinions expressed in this forum regarding the benefits of music and music education. Here are a few of the notable excerpts (paraphrasing) from the discussion that I found noteworthy:

  • “It’s not about creating musicians. It’s about creating the sensibilities of an artist that can be used in any vocation.” (Dudamel) 
  • “Sometimes we focus on physical poverty. There’s also a poverty of hope and of dreams. That’s what music involvement gives low-income children.” (Dudamel) 
  • “There are benefits of music education and of sports. In sports, however, a lot of kids sit on the bench. Music programs tend to be more inclusive and more participative.” (Berklee Fellow participating in the program designed to replicate El Sistema) 
  • “I feel like the doors of heaven have just opened up to me. I’ll let out all of my emotions in those drums.” (Young boy involved in a program in the U.S. modeled after the El Sistema program) 
  • “Kids are like a Polaroid. They just need exposure to develop. And they should be exposed to the best in order to develop into complete adults.” (Smiley) 
  • “It’s going to take something radical to reform education. Shouldn’t something so universally accepted as music be a part of that education reform equation.” (Educator)

Play on!

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OrchKids

We previously featured the program known as El Sistema, a classical music program in Venezuela transforming the lives of at-risk youth through classical music. This video features OrchKids, a program of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra modeled after El Sistema.

El Sistema (Video): Classical Music Saving 300,000 Children in Venezuela


This 60 Minutes segment with Bob Simon should be mandatory viewing for any school or jurisdiction considering budget cuts to music education. A program known as El Sistema (The System) and The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra are a model for turning around poverty-stricken children’s lives and giving them hope. It’s noteworthy that Bob mentions specifically “Confidence and Self-Esteem,” which we identified as one of the 9 common lessons of music education that translate into success in my research.

A leader of the program also notes the “irreversible transformation” that takes place in children. Also, a young man who went from a juvenile detention center to clarinet player says, “It’s completely different than when you hold a gun…Music taught me how to treat people without violence.”

60 Minutes Video link

OrchKids Program in Baltimore

An interesting program that introduces classical music to students in Baltimore schools.

“Classical music gives kids a skill set,” says music director Marin Alsop. “You have to have discipline, you have to motivate yourself to practice, you have to learn how to work with a team. Those skills can help you with any kind of achievement in society.”

Adds Dan Trahey, program manager of OrchKids: “When we started last year, most of the kids couldn’t tell us what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now, a lot of them say they want to be music teachers or musicians, as well as doctors. Their feeling of self-worth is a lot better.”

Read the entire article.