For an overview of the project read the Wikipedia article. Here is a quote from the founder, José Abreu:
Abreu said, :"Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values - solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings"It is certainly my experience over twenty-five years of teaching music at all levels from beginners to university, that music can have nearly magical effects in people's lives. It teaches discipline, focus, gumption, sensitivity and how to work and relate to others. But now an English academic has leveled some serious criticisms at El Sistema. As reported in the Guardian:
This is the core of the critique as reported in the Guardian. But you should read the whole article as it gives a balanced account of both the critique and defences of El Sistema. One defender remarked that:
“I think that El Sistema in Venezuela has provided a route to social development for huge numbers of Venezuelan children and young people. I have personally seen this development in certain Venezuelans over a period of years with my own eyes.”My own personal experience, though having nothing whatsoever to do with El Sistema, is that music can indeed provide a path out of poverty and ignorance. I struck out on my own, but it was pursuing the study of music that changed my life and it can do the same for many others. If there is a system that maximizes the possibility of this happening, I am all for it. El Sistema certainly seems to have achieved a great deal.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the political context of Venezuela which has been impoverishing the country for decades, despite Venezuela's oil wealth. On the other hand, perhaps the existence of El Sistema demonstrates how music can flourish no matter what the political environment. Perhaps it is poverty itself that drives people to music where all you really need is a bit of devotion.