Performance Saturday, December 8, 2012 | 1 PM

Discovery Day: El Sistema

Zankel Hall
Explore Venezuela’s spectacularly successful El Sistema educational program and its influence on educational thinking in the United States. The afternoon features a keynote lecture by Dr. Leon Botstein, a panel discussion with Dr. José Antonio Abreu, and a screening of the documentary Dudamel: Let the Children Play.

Explore el éxito espectacular del programa educativo venezolano llamado El Sistema y su influencia en el pensamiento educativo en Estados Unidos. El evento esta tarde contará como orador principal a el Dr. Leon Botstein, y como panelista a el Dr. José Antonio Abreu, y una proyección del documental titulado Dudamel: Dejen que los niños toquen.

Explore o sucesso espetacular do programa educacional El Sistema da Venezuela e sua influência no pensamento educacional nos Estados Unidos. Esta tarde apresentará uma palestra de abertura pelo Dr. Leon Botstein, um painel de discussão com o Dr. José Antonio Abreu e uma exibição do documentário Dudamel: Deixem as crianças brincarem.


  • Dr. Leon Botstein, Keynote Speaker
    Dr. José Antonio Abreu, Panelist
  • Gustavo Dudamel, Panelist
    Jeremy Geffen, Moderator


    1:00-1:50 Keynote Lecture
    Dr. Leon Botstein

    2:00-3:30 Documentary, Dudamel: Let the Children Play

    3:45-4:30 Panel Discussion
    Dr. José Antonio Abreu
    Gustavo Dudamel,
    Jeremy Geffen, Moderator


  • Dr. Leon Botstein

    Leon Botstein has been president of Bard College since 1975, where he is also Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. Under his leadership, Bard College has become a premiere American educational institution with a successful network of innovative public early college high schools and an acclaimed college-degree program for maximum-security prisons, as well as a global presence with joint-degree programs across the globe. Dr. Botstein is also chairman of the board of the Central European University and a board member of the Open Society Foundations.

    Dr. Botstein has been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra since 1992 and a conductor of international renown. He is co-artistic director of the acclaimed Summerscape and Bard music festivals at Bard College, and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as music director from 2003 to 2010.

    Forthcoming is a sequel to his earlier book, Jefferson's Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture (1997). His essays for the Bard Music Festival, published by Princeton, are soon to be anthologized. For Norton, he edited The Compleat Brahms (1999). His Judentum und Modernität: Essays zur Rolle der Juden in der Deutschen und Österreichischen Kultur, 1848-1938 (1991) was translated into Russian in 2003. He is editor of The Musical Quarterly and co-editor of Jews and the City of Music, 1870-1938 (2004). In 2011, Dr. Botstein gave the esteemed Tanner lectures at UC-Berkeley on The History of Listening, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. A German-language anthology of his essays on music will be available from Szolnay Verlag in Vienna in 2013.

    Additional honors include the National Arts Club Gold Medal, the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009, Dr. Botstein received the Carnegie Corporation's Academic Leadership Award and was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2010. He is also the 2012 recipient of both Longy Conservatory's Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society and the University of Chicago's Alumni Medal.

    Dr. José Antonio Abreu

    Musician, composer, conductor, cultural manager, public worker, and educator of several generations of Venezuelan musicians, José Antonio Abreu was born in Valera, a city in the northwestern Venezuelan state of Trujillo. He spent his childhood and adolescence in the city of Barquisimeto, state of Lara, where he began his musical studies at the age of nine with Venezuelan pianist Doralisa de Medina.

    In 1957, at the age of 18, he moved to Caracas and entered the José Ángel Lamas School of Music, where he studied with renowned Venezuelan musicians such as Vicente Emilio Sojo, Moisés Moleiro, and Evencio Castellanos. Later, he studied orchestral conducting with Gonzalo Castellanos Yumar, and began to perform as guest conductor and organ soloist with the top Venezuelan orchestras of the time, including the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

    His enterprising nature led him to found the Juan José Landaeta National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 1975, which would later become the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, and then the successful and world-renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. This innovative and ambitious project became the biggest challenge of his life, as well as the most inspiring and impressive music education and social responsibility program in the world: El Sistema.

    Dr. Abreu's successful program-aimed at rescuing and educating disadvantaged children-has earned him many awards and distinctions all over the world, among them the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Polar Music Prize, Frederick Stock Award, Latin Recording Academy's Trustees Award, France's Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, TED Prize, Prince of Asturias Award, Erasmus Prize, Yehudi Menuhin Prize, Don Juan de Borbón Award for Music, UNICEF Prize, and Gabriela Mistral Inter-American Prize for Culture.

    The El Sistema program launched by Dr. Abreu shattered the paradigms of music education in Venezuela, and continues to provide thousands of children and young people with access to art and music. The network of orchestras and choirs is an educational, social, and cultural program that for 37 years has benefited more than 400,000 Venezuelan children per year. They have become all-around citizens and have acquired values that favor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society.

    More Info

  • Gustavo Dudamel

    Dynamic conductor Gustavo Dudamel's passionate music-making invigorates audiences of all ages worldwide. Concurrently serving as music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the impact of his musical leadership is felt on several continents.

    While his commitment to his music director posts in the United States and Venezuela accounts for the major portion of his yearly schedule, Mr. Dudamel also guest conducts with some of the world's greatest musical institutions. This season, he returns to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, and La Scala in both opera and concert, along with appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin, Israel Philharmonic, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and Gothenburg Symphony. Mr. Dudamel is in his fourth season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he has extended the orchestra's reach to an unprecedented extent through LA Phil LIVE, experimental theater-casts of concerts, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), influenced by Venezuela's widely successful El Sistema. With YOLA, Mr. Dudamel brings music to children in the underserved communities of Los Angeles, and also serves as an inspiration for similar efforts throughout the United States, as well as for programs in Sweden and Scotland.

    Named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in 2009, Gustavo Dudamel was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He began violin lessons as a child with José Luis Jiménez and Francisco Díaz at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory. He continued his violin studies with Rubén Cova and José Francisco del Castillo at the Latin American Academy of Violin. His conducting studies began in 1996 with Rodolfo Saglimbeni and, the same year, he was given his first conducting position: music director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, he was appointed music director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra and began conducting studies with the orchestra's founder, Dr. José Antonio Abreu; a few years later in 2004, Mr. Dudamel was brought to international attention by winning the inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition. These early musical and mentoring experiences molded his commitment to music as an engine for social change-a lifelong passion.

    In 2012, Gustavo and Eloisa Dudamel launched a foundation that carries their name and is dedicated to furthering music education and social justice around the world.

    Jeremy Geffen

    Jeremy Geffen has served as director of artistic planning at Carnegie Hall since March 2007. In this position, his responsibilities include program planning and development, as well as the creation of a wide range of audience education programs. Prior to his appointment at Carnegie Hall, Jeremy served as vice president of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (2005-2007) and artistic administrator of the New York Philharmonic (2000-2005). In addition, he worked for the Aspen Music Festival and School as associate artistic administrator from 1998 to 2000. During that time, he also taught courses in music at Colorado Mountain College, hosted a weekly classical music radio show on KAJX, and became the Aspen Institute's youngest-ever moderator, creating and leading the seminar The Marriage of Music and Ideas with Dr. Alberta Arthurs in February and March 2000.

    Jeremy currently serves on the advisory entities for both the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's CMS Two and the Avery Fisher Career Grant. He has also served as an adjudicator for numerous auditions and competitions, including the jury of the 2011 Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundation International Song Competition, the nominating jury for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

    A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Jeremy was raised in Newport Beach, California. While pursuing a bachelor of music degree in viola performance at the University of Southern California, Jeremy developed problems with his right hand that led him away from performance and into artistic programming, which combines his curiosity for and love of the breadth of the classical repertoire, as well as the artists who bring that repertoire to life.

    More Info

About El Sistema

"Physical poverty is overcome by the spiritual richness that music provides." —José Antonio Abreu

El Sistema—Venezuela's national system of youth orchestras—is a state-funded organization that was created in 1975 by Venezuelan maestro José Antonio Abreu. The goal of El Sistema is to systemize music education, and promote the collective practice of music through symphony orchestras and choruses as a means of social organization and community development. El Sistema has become the most comprehensive social-responsibility program ever developed in Venezuela and has made an unparalleled impact worldwide.

El Sistema achieves its objectives through community-based centers located throughout Venezuela. These centers, known as Núcleos, provide underprivileged young people with music education, while also teaching the craft of making and repairing musical instruments.

Orchestras and choirs provide an opportunity to learn social skills, where qualities like self-esteem, self-confidence, discipline, patience, commitment, solidarity, and fraternity—as well as ethical and aesthetic values—are fostered.

For 37 years, El Sistema has promoted social integration, as well as personal and professional realization, by launching innovative programs aimed at children and young people with special needs, and the penitentiary population of Venezuela (Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras).

In Venezuela, El Sistema serves more than 400,000 people through 90 preschool orchestras (ages 4-6), 130 children's orchestras (ages 7-16), 288 youth orchestras (ages 16-25), 30 professional orchestras, over 400 choral ensembles, 12 lutherie centers (where string instruments are made), and a conservatory of music.

The worldwide social and artistic impact of El Sistema has propelled Venezuelan orchestras onto the world's musical stages. It has been recognized with many awards, including the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts and the UNESCO International Music Prize. El Sistema has now inspired the development of music education programs and orchestras in more than 25 countries worldwide.

The Simón Bolívar Music Foundation—attached to the Ministry of People's Power for the President's Office of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela—is the governing body of El Sistema. Its purpose is to promote a real and sustainable alternative to providing children of today and tomorrow with education, peace, and progress.


Gustavo Dudamel on El Sistema

A 2008 CBS News 60 Minutes segment about El Sistema.

El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu shares his amazing story and reveals a wish that could have a big impact in the US and beyond.

Gustavo Dudamel on El Sistema from Dudamel: Let the Children Play.

Lead funding for Voices from Latin America is provided by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sponsored, in part, by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mercantil Servicios Financieros.

Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.
This performance is part of Non-Subscription Events.

Part of