It’s a common predicament that causes hugely divided opinion.
What to do with the youth of today?
Crime’s on the rise, the penal system doesn’t seem to be making a blind bit of difference, drug abuse among the young is up, poverty is causing unimaginable hardships on the city streets and, perhaps worst of all, there are very few opportunities for young people to thrive, grow and succeed.
So, what’s the answer? What do you do?
In 1975, this type of problem could be seen in countries all over the world. But in Venezuela a new solution to these issues arose:
The creation of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra was a brave, unprecedented gamble. 30 years later, by 2005, the orchestra had turned half a million young Venezuelans into working classical musicians – 90% from the poorest sections of local society.
To say that the orchestra is a source of immense national pride is only telling half of the story. Many of the musicians produced within ‘the system’ have gone on to achieve, not only collective international fame, but also individual recognition – among these stories is that of the double bassist Edicson Ruiz who joined the Berlin Philharmonic at just 20 years of age.
Placido Domnigo cried when he saw the youth orchestra perform and Simon Rattle proclaimed that they were doing the most important work in classical music anywhere in the world. Yet, the impact of the orchestra has been a far-reaching inspiration that transcends the confines of, even the most famous, classical performers in the world.
Take this for a statistic:
By 2005, 23 countries across the hemisphere had created musical education programmes that mirrored the ethos and methods of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra’s system. The country of Venezuela now has a different symphony orchestra in every state, when in 1975 there were two in the entire country.
Suddenly the question of whether classical music can change lives doesn’t seem so controversial.
What the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra did (and continues to do) was to instill a sense of pride among these young people, while producing musicians of the highest international caliber. Young people who, in many cases, had been through the penal system, failed to excel at school, struggled with drug addiction or been involved in crime.
The sort of people that so many would be happy to turn their backs on, swear that they could never be rehabilitated or lock the prison door and throw away the key.
Since 2011 the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is no longer able to call itself a youth orchestra. It is now simply the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. Well, what do you do – throw out all of the world-class musicians you have developed because they got too old?
However, even with this change, the impact the orchestra has had on the nation, the continent and indeed the world has been astounding. The system this orchestra produced has become a blueprint, not only for the development of great musicians, but for the ways in which classical music can change lives, bring hope and help to transform societies.
To leave you with today, here’s a video from the BBC Proms 2007, with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra playing the first movement of Shostakóvich Symphony No.10.
P.S. – Make sure you don’t miss out on the latest excellent opera posts on the Falstaff Music Blog http://falstaffmusicblog.wordpress.com/
P.P.S. – check out this new article on the inspiration the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is having on children in Iraq: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/01/229761.html