Daily Archives: 25 February 2012

Want a Sistema? Look to your leaders …

Dudamel security
Maestro Abreu and Dudamel on a recent walkabout in the Teresa Carreño complex in downtown Caracas.

In a recent LA Times article Mark Swed pretty well probes and also skirts around the issue which appears to be on many people’s mind in the music education business at the moment, in whatever country, culture or society they find themselves. And that is, ‘What is the version of El Sistema which will work best here in my country? How can we take El Sistema’s values, and ensure that they get the same traction here as Maestro Abreu did in Venezuela’. Of those that are not asking that question I also hear a lot of talk about Venezuela being different from other cultures and therefore El Sistema probably not being right for them. ‘Why do we need this in our country’ I was recently asked by a UK journalist. The question, I suspect, was not only rhetorical. Others – often those with both the power and the purse strings – say, ‘well perhaps we should wait to see the figures that show it works before beginning one ourselves’.

I hear less about a different – and for me – far more important challenge. Maybe it’s the biggest. Venezuela has Abreu. Everyone knows that without him this world wide movement would never have been born, let alone have remotely flourished in the way that it has. You can see that in the eyes of every Venezuelan young musician. Gustavo Dudamel included. Dudamel has one the greatest conducting careers and reputations in the world, but he never forgets to whom he owes his beginnings, and more. You know what? None of this works without the highest quality committed passionate 8 day a week leadership. Want a Sistema? Start by looking to the quality of your leaders …