In some of the bleakest corners of the world, an unprecedented movement is taking root. From the favelas of Brazil to the Maori villages in New Zealand, from occupied Palestine to South Central Los Angeles, musicians with strong social consciences are founding intensive orchestra programs for children in need.
In this captivating and inspiring account, authors Tricia Tunstall and Eric Booth tell the remarkable story of the international El Sistema movement. A program that started over four decades ago with a handful of music students in a parking garage in Caracas, El Sistema has evolved into one of classical music’s most vibrant new expressions and one of the world’s most promising social initiatives. Now with more than 700,000 students in Venezuela, El Sistema’s central message—that music can be a powerful tool for social change—has burst borders to grow in 64 countries (and that number increases steadily) across the globe.
To discover what makes this movement successful across the radically different cultures that have embraced it, the authors traveled to 25 countries, where they discovered programs thriving even in communities ravaged by poverty, violence, or political unrest. At the heart of each program is a deep commitment to inclusivity. There are no auditions or entry costs, so El Sistema’s doors are open to any child who wants to learn music—or simply needs a place to belong.
While intensive music-making may seem an unlikely solution to intractable poverty, this book bears witness to a program that is producing tangible changes in the lives of children and their communities. The authors conclude with a compelling and practicable call to action, highlighting civic and corporate collaborations that have proven successful in communities around the world.