Jose Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema ("the system") in 1975 to help poor Venezuelan kids learn to play a musical instrument and be part of an orchestra. 30 years on, El Sistema has seeded 102 youth orchestras — and many happy lives.

Why you should listen

The gulf between the rich and the poor in Venezuela is one of the worst in the world. Jose Antonio Abreu, an economist, musician, and reformer, founded El Sistema ("the system") in 1975 to help Venezuelan kids take part in classical music. After 30 years (and 10 political administrations), El Sistema is a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children's orchestras, and 270 music centers -- and close to 250,000 young musicians.

El Sistema uses music education to help kids from impoverished circumstances achieve their full potential and learn values that favor their growth. The talented musicians have become a source of national pride. Several El Sistema students have gone on to major international careers, including Gustavo Dudamel, soon to be the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the bassist Edicson Ruiz, who at 17 became the youngest musician ever to join the Berlin Philharmonic.

There is a simple concept behind Abreu's work: for him an orchestra is first and foremost about together­ness, a place where children learn to listen to each other and to respect one another.

What others say

“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.” — José Antonio Abreu

Jose Antonio Abreu’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Jose Antonio Abreu

TED Prize

TED Prize Report: The Abreu Fellows graduate!

June 17, 2010

Yesterday, the inaugural Abreu Fellows attended a simple lunchtime ceremony in Boston to commemorate their graduation. A year has passed since 10 amazing young musicians began the El Sistema USA program at New England Conservatory, learning all the skills they needed to follow in the footsteps of TEDPrize winner Maestro Jose Abreu. Using the example […]

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TED Prize

The incredible El Sistema music program is coming to the US

May 5, 2009

Three months ago, the visionary Venezuelan musician Dr. José Antonio Abreu made his TED Prize wish — to create and document a special training program for at least 50 gifted young musicians, passionate for their art and for social justice, and dedicated to developing El Sistema in the US and in other countries. Today we […]

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