Culture for the poor

“Culture for the poor must never be poor culture.  We must have the best instruments for the poorest children, the best teachers for the poorest children and the best buildings for the poorest children.”  Master José Antonio Abreu founder of El Sistema in Venezuela.

This quote is from Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema & the Transformative Power of Music by Tricia Tunstall.

In 1975 Dr. José Antonio Abreu had 50 music stands for 100 kids to start a music program in a garage in Caracas, Venezuela.  Only 11 children showed up.  He asked himself, “Do I close the program or multiply the kids?”  From those humble beginnings El Sistema—a national system of orchestral training was born.  It now more than 300,000 young people, most of them from the poorest strata of society.  Master Abreu believes that “art is no longer a monopoly of elites” and that musical education has enormous emotional and intellectual profits as well as benefits for society as a whole.

The most famous graduate of El Sistema is Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“Just ‘cause we poor, don’t mean we have to think poor, act poor or look poor.” Gladys Pippins, my grandmother, the matriarch of our family.  RIP.

“What if the arts were truly visible in the community?” – Candelaria Silva


José Abreu on Kids Transformed by Music – TED Talk.
Venerated High Priest and Humble Servant of Music Education 

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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