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Carnegie Hall Voices: Clive Gillinson Reflects on Voices from Latin America

Carnegie Hall's Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson reflects on the recent Voices from Latin America festival and, in particular, the focus on Venezuela's El Sistema.

As 2012 comes to a close, we're grateful for the many amazing performances that we've heard at Carnegie Hall this year, performed by some of the finest musicians in the world.

In November and December, New York audiences had the chance to explore some of the most compelling musical stories emerging from Latin America today through Carnegie Hall's citywide Voices from Latin America festival. Following terrific Carnegie Hall performances by festival advisors Gilberto Gil and Chucho Valdés and a moving tribute to the late legendary Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, we capped our festival with concerts by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, led by Gustavo Dudamel, the renowned conductor who originally emerged out of El Sistema, the revolutionary musical social-action movement whose influence has galvanized people around the world.

The orchestra's music making was exuberant, passionate, and infectious. Its six day residency—including symphonic and chamber performances, free Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concerts, and a stimulating Discovery Day at Carnegie Hall with Gustavo and El Sistema's founder, Dr. José Antonio Abreu—gave all of us an opportunity to consider the impact of this visionary national system of youth orchestras and music education.

Over time, El Sistema has inspired the growth of similar programs in many countries around the world. It was therefore fitting that the orchestra's residency should have culminated with its musicians taking part in a day-long New York seminario, organized by Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute in partnership with Orchestra of St. Luke's. This musical retreat for more than 100 young students and teachers from local El Sistema programs—or nucleos—from the New York area was fascinating and fun, embodying El Sistema's ideals of sharing and learning. While it's now been a couple of weeks since we have all said farewell to these special musicians, their spirit and energy is still with us.

Considering El Sistema—particularly alongside other important international initiatives like Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, featured at Carnegie Hall later this season—it's hard not to appreciate the potential that music has to truly connect people and change lives. We see this on an almost daily basis through Carnegie Hall's own education and community programs, designed for people from all walks of life. We invite you to get involved, experiencing the many meaningful ways that music can make a difference in your own life.