Culture for the Poor

Culture for the poor

“Culture for the poor must never be poor culture.  We must have the best instruments for the poorest children, the best teachers for the poorest children and the best buildings for the poorest children.”  Master José Antonio Abreu founder of El Sistema in Venezuela.

This quote is from Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema & the Transformative Power of Music by Tricia Tunstall.


In 1975 Dr. José Antonio Abreu had 50 music stands for 100 kids to start a music program in a garage in Caracas, Venezuela.  Only 11 children showed up.  He asked himself, “Do I close the program or multiply the kids?”  From those humble beginnings El Sistema—a national system of orchestral training was born.  It now more than 300,000 young people, most of them from the poorest strata of society.  Master Abreu believes that “art is no longer a monopoly of elites” and that musical education has enormous emotional and intellectual profits as well as benefits for society as a whole.

The most famous graduate of El Sistema is Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

 “Just ‘cause we poor, don’t mean we have to think poor, act poor or look poor.” Gladys Pippins, my grandmother, the matriarch of our family.  RIP.

"What if the arts were truly visible in the community?" - Candelaria Silva


José Abreu on Kids Transformed by Music – TED Talk.
Venerated High Priest and Humble Servant of Music Education

Good and plenty!


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