The other day I was reminded of this incredible phenomena, El Sistema, in which kids all over Venezuela receive a musical education outside their schools, with an emphasis on kids in the poorer sections of Venezuela such as slums and villages.
As you can see from this video, these kids are obviously having a total ball playing their music. Such energy and exuberance is so good to see.
Many years ago while I was Production Manager at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, we did a whole series of concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Pierre Boulez (a delightful man to work with by the way), but what struck me most forcibly about the musicians was their apparent boredom with what they were playing – it was obviously all a matter of rote for them. I found the same attitude with most of the other major orchestras I also worked with in those years.
So watching these kids playing, laughing their heads off, swaying and obviously truly enjoying what they are doing is so refreshing, and to my mind what playing music should be about.
Obviously if you are playing a solemn piece of music, such as a Mass for the dead or some similar, it isn’t appropriate to grin and dance about, but still perfectly possible to play with energy and obvious pleasure in the beauty of what is being created.
Which these kids do, as I have seen in other recordings they have made.
If you can get hold of a copy of Tocar y Luchar (Play and Fight), a documentary film produced in 2004 on the subject of El Sistema you will see exactly what I mean about this whole phenomena. For example, the girl who is the lead violinist in the video above, is about 15, lives in a slum, but obviously has become a superb violinist, and is set to go on to a life that should give her fulfilment in so many ways.
Obviously most of the tens of thousands (102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras, and 270 music centers—and close to 250,000 young musicians.) of kids who go through this system do not go on to become professional musicians, but they do go on to lead lives that were enriched enormously while they were kids by being given the chance to be part of such an environment as the system offers, and to have had the joy of music shown to them – Has to be a good basis for their later lives. And certainly better than hanging out on street corners and becoming involved in the rampant drug and gang life of Venezuela.
So check out El Sistema and whenever you get the chance, go to any concerts that any of their various youth orchestras are giving in your cities – they do a lot of touring I am glad to say.
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