Dudamel believes El Sistema can save Venezuela

Dudamel believes El Sistema can save Venezuela


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2016

In the full text of his speech on receiving the National Medal of Arts, the Los Angeles music director takes the opposite point of view from one that I raised in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Here’s Gustavo’s take:
dudamel yola halftime

Some people think that art is a luxury and must be cut back in times of crisis. These people must understand that precisely during times of crisis the unforgivable sin is to cut access to art.

In my beloved home of Venezuela such a crisis is happening right now. People are spending their days looking for food, medicine and the necessities of life.

The same arguments exist — how can we fund music — the arts — when basic needs are not being met? A recent article posed the question: “Can El Sistema save Venezuela?” To me, the more appropriate question is, “Can Venezuela save El Sistema?” – which is now more important than ever to the people of Venezuela and to their hope. I work every day to ensure that once Venezuela moves beyond this current crisis, El Sistema will continue to rise and empower those who otherwise would have no dreams.

Read the full speech here.


  • Milka says:

    So why isn’t he working in the artistic fields of his beloved Venezuela ?
    Hate to think it has to do with how well his musical soul is nourished in the US .

  • enemigopublico says:

    Fewer and fewer Venezuelans are buying his mawkish and simpleminded shtick. The Dudamel brand is in decline.

  • It is very sad that you in concert with the neo cons in Washington and the Venezuelan oligarchy who wants the demise of the Bolivarian Revolution which Maestro Dudamel is a product. The government of Venezuela pays for the classical music education of 800,000 children, giving them free instruments and highly qualified music teachers. This has been accomplished in no small part due to the loss of power of the oligarchic elites who no longer can steal the wealth from petroleum exports. That party is over, and Maestro Dudamel know this.

  • Trautwein says:

    Mr.Lebrecht, I don’t understand the title of your article. In his speech, Dudamel says he believes, that the more appropriate question is “whether Venezuela can save El Sistema?”.
    Why are you so consistently so negative and nearly cynical about El Sistema? It has good and bad aspects, just like everything else humans create. I would very much appreciate more objective reporting on this vast, complex and free music education program in a struggling country. If people here could understand better how it works from the few who have been able to travel there and study it, our discussions surrounding its’ value would be more informed.
    I live in Cleveland and there is much searching for programs to successfully lift youth from poverty and it’s horrendous consequences. My experience as a teacher is that some children will find a voice and a path to confidence in music, some, like you perhaps, in writing, some in acting and some in sports. And for most, these activities are either entirely unavailable or too expensive. The charter schoo I visit does not even have a gym and alternates semesters between music and art classes of low value. There is zero instrumental education available for any of the many children that attend.
    To me, that is a situation very much in need of change. Venezuela has created free access to Instrumental education for thousands of children that come every day to join an orchestra team, much like Little League here in the US. That fact alone is worth reporting on objectively.
    Thank you.

  • Isabel Trautwein says:

    Please tell me, how you came up with the title of this article? It is the opposite of what Dudamel asks in his speech. He asks “whether Venezuela can save El Sistema?”.
    I am interested in the ability of a music program to attract hundreds of thousands of youth to play in orchestras every day over many years. I have been there. The kids are not lured by food or wonderful facilities or better resumes or college scholarships. They are lured by their enthusiasm to join the orchestra team, which is built hierarchically, much like much like Little League baseball in the US. Sure, every kid dreams of making it to the major league, but it is the team feeling that creates the steady energy. Venezuela has created this team energy around the serious study of Classical music, even in poor and remote villages. That is the interesting part that could easily be translated to other countries. There are now programs in many cities doing fantastic work to give children this sense team spirit with Classical music and they need to be supported with financial aid so that the real strivers in these programs can attend travel to national events (like the new National Youth Orchestra or Take a Stand in LA). These opportunities serve to give steam and more excitement to local programs. I can see nothing controversial in the idea of inspiring children to work hard so that they may one day be allowed to travel to exciting new places and make music with new friends.

    • Milka says:

      What is deplorable ? that kids are fed a false dream .
      That others build careers on the false dream .To compare the US little league
      with what is going on in Venezuela is a bit disingenuous.
      It is so easy to bemoan the plight of the dispossessed from the comforts of
      a million dollar home .

      • M2N2K says:

        The dream is not false.
        The proof — SBSOV (as easy as making fun of that abbreviation may be).

        • Milka says:

          What happens to the thousands of kids who are not so lucky as these180 or so .
          What dreams do they entertain in putting food on the table.

          • Isabel Trautwein says:

            Milka, have you seen El Sistema in Venezuela?

          • M2N2K says:

            That is absolutely true, milka. However, helping a few hundreds realize their dreams, while improving the quality of life for a few hundreds of thousands more, is certainly better than criticizing the person who is actually doing something about it.

  • Doug says:

    Hey “dud” er um, “dude” just a tiny fraction of your Hollywood million$ would feed some starving children back at home. Either that or you could sell some Che T-shirts to brainwashed university students in California alone that might score six Gs.