Venezuela’s story is front page news at the moment. It is a long sad story of injustice, corruption and poverty. However, beneath the political headlines there is a remarkable story. A musical story. Journalist Ed Vulliamy writes about the youth orchestra in his 2018 book, When Words Fail,
“Of the two million graduates of the programme since its inception, many have gone on to become not just musicians, but lawyers, teachers, doctors and civil servants.”
THE FOUNDER WAS THE MINISTER OF CULTURE
Jose Antonio Abreu was the founder begining in 1975, giving children a system for musical education. Sir Simon Rattle says of him, “what he has done for the higher good in this world is immeasurable.”
Abreu died in March 2018, but had helped “thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to drugs and violence. ”
Sadly there are allegations of abuse within the orchestras coming from the Spectator magazine and from a book by Geoffrey Baker in 2014. I have not seen thorough rebuttals of these allegations.
However, from what I have read this orchestra has engaged and helped huge numbers of deprived children and has stimulated similar valuable projects all around the globe.
Many countries have tried to follow aspects of this model including in my home Scotland. However, some Scottish Councils are starting to move in another direction by beginning to charge for instrument tuition for school pupils from February 2019. Nicola Benedetti, our wonderful violinist and many others are disappointed and angry. Nicola has said,“There is a clear conflict between the national rhetoric and what councils feel they can implement. The ultimate goal would be to have funds ring fenced on a national level. You would be hard pushed to find people who don’t believe, within music education, that the situation is worse than it has been in many people’s lifetime.”
This short film of some teenage participants in the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra reveals some the benefits which cannot be quantified in monetary terms. However someone has to pay and finding the money for music for children around the world seems to me a healthy, worthwhile investment.