Venezuela youth orchestras flood Caracas metro

Reuters, Sunday 27 Nov 2011

Two thousand children in 23 bands played brass instruments and sang in choirs at metro stations across Caracas on Saturday in the latest endeavour to lure Venezuela's youth away from destructive, anti-social behaviour

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra conductor Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra for a performance during a visit by conductor Daniel Barenboim at the venue of the National System of Children and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela in Caracas August 11, 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

The simultaneous concerts were organised by the subway authorities, and the programme, known locally as "The System," which teaches classical music to kids from poor families.

"Today I got up early and my brother was left playing at home ... I'm so proud to be here," said 10-year-old Jose Cuevas, clutching a trumpet and dressed in black trousers and white shirt, like the rest of his group at Miranda station.

Venezuela's programme has drawn worldwide praise for tempting youths away from crime in tough neighborhoods by teaching them the work of composers, like Mahler and Stravinsky.

Working with more than 300,000 children, it shot to prominence a few years ago when a young alumnus, Gustavo Dudamel, gained rock star-like fame leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

President Hugo Chavez has often taken credit for the achievements of "The System," which was created by a previous government in 1975. He aims to win another six-year term at an election in the politically-polarised nation next October.

For some of the two million people who use the Caracas metro on average each day, Saturday's concerts were welcome respite from the cacophony of the politicians' campaigns.

"Here there are no party colours. This is art," said the mother of one young child performing at the station.

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