A Sistema England chief speaks out against Caracas

A Sistema England chief speaks out against Caracas


norman lebrecht

August 23, 2017

Marshall Marcus, chief executive of the European Union Youth Orchestra and a director of Sistema England, has written a piece in the Guardian newspaper calling for the world to support Gustavo Dudamel.

Among other things, he writes:

news piece yesterday in what is probably the world’s most read online music site called for “musicians who believe in justice and human rights … to make their voices heard”. And now is indeed the time. To lose El Sistema would be to lose one of the most precious commodities Venezuela has ever produced.

The slogan of El Sistema is tocar y luchar – “to play and to struggle”. In the US, where Dudamel is music and artistic director of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, the Take a Stand platform brings together a number of El Sistema-inspired partners. El Sistema has spread around the world and now has hundreds of imitation programmes, thousands of young musicians and millions of supporters and audience members in every continent of the globe. Now that Dudamel has put himself on the line, it is time for all of those people to voice their support.

No one should be deceived about the power of such voices. But as the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, making life for ordinary citizens impossible, it is simply too late to think about whether music and politics should be kept apart. Dudamel may have wanted that, but events have now taken over. And for everyone around the world who cares about Dudamel, his Sistema or the opportunity for young people to develop through music-making, it is now time to “take a stand”.


Marshall Marcus has stated that the Guardian article was edited without his consent and furnished with a misleading headline.


  • enemigopublico says:

    Deeply confused. Are we about to lose El Sistema? Has the Venezuelan government threatened to cut it? No, it has committed itself to expanding the program. So what are we supposed to be taking a stand for or against?

    Is Marshall Marcus calling for a global campaign in support of Dudamel? This could actually precipitate a reduction in government support for El Sistema.

    The reason there are no simple answers to these questions is that Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Venezuelan government are like three peas in a pod. Trying to turn this into a good guys vs. bad guys story requires some serious distortion of what’s really been going on since Chávez came into power.