Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 18: The Abreu Fellows Meet Their Namesake

As we travel to different nucleos throughout Caracas, we are discovering that each site is unique and flexibly adapts its planning to meet the  needs of its children and community.  In fact, Dr. Abreu himself explained that El Sistema is not a system, but rather a living, breathing program that continues to grow and develop through the collaboration of many generations of its teachers.

The process may vary, but the goal set forth by Dr. Abreu is constant: "creating better human beings." This mission drives the decisions of its teachers and permeates the walls of every nucleo we visit. We hear it in the impassioned voices of the young nucleo directors and teachers (not much older than their students) and see it in the determined faces of children in the orchestra focused so intently on the music that they seem unaware of the crammed spaces and stifling heat. 

Folks who had visited Venezuela and its nucleos told us the experience would be life-changing and now I see why:  it's become commonplace to enter a room of a nucleo and be deeply affected by music played in ensemble by hundreds of kids.  Each nucleo is living out Dr. Abreu's conviction that "the culture for the poor cannot be a poor culture."

When we met Dr. Abreu last week, he confessed that he had created a scandal when he first insisted that El Sistema be enrolled in the Ministry of Social Development, rather than the Ministry of Culture.  He expressed to the President of Venezuela at that time that he wanted only one thing: "To have the state acknowledge that this (El Sistema) is a social program and as an artist, I demand that my art be dignified with the mission of creating better human beings."

His teachers are living proof of that.  Having lived through El Sistema as children, they are now the young teachers and directors of the 180 nucleos across Venezuela.  Their collaborative teaching spirit creates an environment of constant learning and sharing, which is why we won't find a how-to-manual here.   Dr. Abreu left us with words I imagine he shares with any new nucleo director or teacher:
We will not give you a manual or dictate what you should do.  What we want you to do is to live with us for a while in the most chaotic possible way.  See schools with different programs and look at the interactions of the orchestras and their community so that you can see how this happens, make a concept of your own and find a way to incorporate yourself as you see fit into the process.
Thank you, Dr. Abreu and FESNOJIV for opening the doors of your nucleos to the Abreu Fellows. Your musical "chaos" is restructuring the way we think.

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