Contact Us    
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela

Part 1 of a trip to Caracas which led to a world of discovery.

by Drew McManus
July 4, 2005

Bookmark and Share
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela
The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela_Drew McManus-Part 1 of a trip to Caracas which led to a world of discovery If you could create a culture of classical music from scratch, how would you do it? That’s precisely the sort of question Venezuelan José Antonio Abreu asked himself 30 years ago when he began his classical music course which would evolve into what is now the Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestras Juveniles e Infantiles (Foundation of the State for the National System of the Orchestras Youth and Children), which is commonly referred to in Venezuela as FESNOJIV.

Back in 1975 Abreu may not have realized that his program would become the classical music juggernaut it is today but he quickly discovered that its growth would be exponential. Within the first week of rehearsals for his youth orchestra, membership in the ensemble nearly tripled each day. Today, FESNOJIV has seen just over 400,000 children pass through its programs and now serves approximately a quarter of a million children each year.

I had the good fortune to spend four days between 6/16/05and 06/19/05 getting to know Maestro Abreu and immersing myself in the FESNOJIV programs. The trip was the result of advantageous timing as I had recently published an article here at Neo Classical about the disconnect between youth and professional orchestras in the United States and I received a note from Ben Zander, music director of the Boston Philharmonic and the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor. He invited me to follow the NECYPO’s upcoming tour through Caracas as they performed solo and joint concerts with FESNOJIV ensembles.

“You can't imagine what is going to hit you! It ought to be compulsory for every American politician to come down to Venezuela to see what music can do for a society. It's like what happened to the desert in Palestine when the Israelis started irrigating the land!”

I wasn’t entirely certain what would be waiting for me when I arrived in Caracas but I knew that the “sociological benefit” arguments for classical music are discussed to death in the United States. I’ve had those conversations with so many people that I can practically recite everyone's dialogue before they open their mouth. Fortunately, Ben’s prognostication would end up adding more than just new banter to the discussion. 

My first encounter with students of the FESNOJIV program was during a reception (which is a polite word for a really loud and swinging dinner party featuring Venezuelan music played on unique local instruments) attended by older students and administrators of the FESNOJIV program as well as their guests from the NECYPO. All in all there ended up being a few hundred people in attendance.

Unfortunately, the American students were detained due to some travel mishaps so I had ample time to interact with the Venezuelan musicians. I was immediately struck by how interested and interesting they all were. It was a simple matter to sit down next to any of them and strike up a conversation. Most spoke at least some English and I was fortunate enough to have a translator functioning as my permanent shadow. 

These musicians ranged in age from 16 through 24 and were members of Sinfonica de la Juventud Venezolana Simon Bolivar, one of the FESNOJIV program’s top orchestras. This orchestra is not only part of the FESNOJIV program but it is also an ensemble which pays the musicians for performances and to teach; think of it as something like the New World Symphony program on steroids.

I quickly discovered that the vast majority of these young musicians began studying around four years of age. When I asked one violinist how long he had studied his instrument he looked at me with a quizzical look and said, “I’ve been a violinist all my life”, as though there couldn’t possibly be any other answer. This was representative of how the vast majority of Venezuelan musicians talked about their music studies; it wasn’t a separate component of their existence, it was intertwined with their lives. 

The evening was alive with a palpable sense of camaraderie and association that is unique to any group of people who share a strong common bond of music. When the American students finally arrived they received a warm welcome and sat at large tables alongside the Venezuelans. Everyone enjoyed the music, food, and the spirit of the evening.

I left that evening with a great sense of who these people were and how they envisioned themselves but I still had no idea what they sounded like or how the FESNOJIV program functioned. Camaraderie and warm hearts are all fine and dandy but what about the real essence of the program; has this 30 year old course produced musicians capable of delivering an artistic product worth recognition? 

More importantly, even if the program warranted artistic merit I still had no idea about whether or not it would have any value outside of Venezuela. Could this program matter to the rest of the world of classical music?

Those questions and more will be answered in the next installment of Neo Classical; The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela, Part 2.

Comments (2)

Post a Comment

Michael H. Thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:
July 4, 2005
Proving, once again, that the good old USA is not the center of the Universe! Great article, Drew!

Gabriela Bohnett from Leesburg, Virginia writes:
July 21, 2005
Exactly what we are working to reproduce in Leesburg, Virginia. I'm going on to your second article, loving the fact that you captured my dear Venezuela so well.

Yours truly,

Gabriela Bohnett, Ed.D.




Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*

Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.

Please type the letters you see above.


Bookmark and Share

RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Drew McManus
Starting Next Month, Neo Classical Will Have A New Voice
After more than three years, it's time for a sabbatical.
by Drew McManus, 5/7/07
April Is Take A Friend To Orchestra Month - 2007
But can word of mouth programs really make a difference?
by Drew McManus, 4/2/07
Status Still Counts
It Still Takes A World-Class Ensemble To Get The Cultural Consciousness To Sit Up And Take Note.
by Drew McManus, 3/5/07
Rules To Live, Er, Listen By
Some straightforward advice on how to become a courteous listener.
by Drew McManus, 2/5/07
'The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!'
Changes in how classical recordings are created ushers in a new era.
by Drew McManus, 1/8/07
An Interview With Paul Scarbrough, Russell Todd, and Christopher Blair From Akustiks
The art of acoustic science succeeds best with a healthy dose of human input.
by Drew McManus, 12/3/06
But You Knew That Already, Of Course...
It's time for classical music to let go of pretentiousness.
by Drew McManus, 10/2/06
» Complete List (62)

RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus

Recently Published
View Article The Last Post
The Partial Observer is no more
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/15/21
The Challenges and Chances of Change
Announcing a coming change
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/8/21
On Each Continent We Worship
A new hymn for World Communion Sunday
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/1/21
Tending the Family Tree
A grandparent's charge
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/24/21
The Cross is Our Ground Zero
Why the cross is the crux of our faith
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/17/21
A Score Recalled
Remembering September 11th twenty years later
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/10/21
A Symphony Heard Around the World
Remembering September 2, 1945
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/3/21

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.

RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2021 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top