APRIL 2018 | José Abreu, Founder of Venezuelan El Sistema Youth Orchestras, DiesAPRIL 2018 | José Abreu, Founder of Venezuelan El Sistema Youth Orchestras, Dies
Globally acclaimed project has saved thousands of Venezuelan children from crime and poverty
José Abreu, the award-winning founder of a project that saved thousands of Venezuelan children from crime and poverty through music, has died aged 78.
Abreu founded the globally acclaimed El Sistema, or The System, in 1975 in a garage with nine musicians. From that, the network expanded to 300 choirs and orchestras that received awards from the Royal Swedish Academy and Unesco.
“With devoted love and eternal gratitude to my mentor and father of El Sistema,” tweeted Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan conductor and director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, alongside a photo of himself with Abreu, who died on Saturday.
Abreu was born on 7 May 1939 in the small Andean city of Valera. He began his musical studies aged nine and moved to Caracas to study composition.
“Abreu has given life to a musical system with which young people can be safe from the dangers of the street, of crime, of drugs,” said Simon Rattle, the director of the Berlin Philharmonic, according to the El Sistema website.
Abreu’s model has been followed by other Latin American countries as well as some in Europe.
Dudamel has become the public face of El Sistema in recent years, often conducting free concerts in the grimy downtown area of Caracas.
He has spoken out strongly in support of anti-government protests that last year rocked Venezuela for four months, leaving more than 120 people dead, including an 18-year-old musician from the Venezuela National Youth Orchestra.
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, said on state television: “We are deeply moved by the physical departure of maestro Abreu.”
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