El Sistema Around the World

Having recognised the power of El Sistema in creating social change, many countries have set up children’s and youth orchestras under the same name: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Slovakia, South Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay, USA.

Sistema Europe

Sistema Europe was formed in February 2012 with the support of Venezuela’s El Sistema, in order to facilitate, assist and promote the work of European Sistemas inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary music education system. Sistema Europe was established on the principle that openly sharing Sistema practice and planning at an international level will lead to a profound enhancement of Sistemas worldwide. SO DO is a member of Sistema Europe.


There are more than 50 organisations all over the USA in pursuit of the principles and methods of El Sistema Venezuela, with an overall goal to “achieve social change through musical excellence”. In the legendary film by Alberto Arvelo “Tocar y Luchar”, Mark Churchill, one of the deans of the New England Conservatory in Boston (the oldest educational institution in the USA) and a director of El Sistema USA, talks about the influence of El Sistema Venezuela on the development of children and whole communities.

In 2009 the NEC launched the Foundation “Sistema Fellows Programme at the New England Conservatory” committing to five years, with the aim of providing scholarships for a one year postgraduate study for 10 students every year. Young graduate musicians and music teachers who want to promote El Sistema programmes in the USA consent to participation in the El Sistema USA programme for at least one year, to becoming a member of the Sistema Fellowship Programme network, to developing their local programmes and to mentoring new leaders and teachers for the purpose of promoting the El Sistema programme in the USA. Part of the postgraduate programme includes staying in Venezuela, partaking in the work of various “Nucleus’ ” (El Sistema Centres across the country), observing and studying their methods of operation, their lectures held by the founders of El Sistema Venezuela and studying the El Sistema methods applied in the USA.


In Scotland, the project came to life in 2008 under the title “Big Noise – Sistema Scotland” thanks to a £2,000,0000 donation by the government institution “Scottish Arts Council”. Today El Sistema Scotland employs 17 teachers and educates 300 children, in cooperation with three local elementary schools and kindergartens. Similarly to Venezuela, the project in Scotland was launched in the economically deprived area of Raploch in Stirling, where the male life expectancy is under 63 years. From the beginning the Scots, in the vein of Venezuela, started integrating children with special needs.

The Scottish Government carried out a study to see what effect “Sistema Scotland” has on the children and their families that are involved in the project in Raploch. The report shows that “there is evidence that Big Noise is having a positive impact on children’s personal and social development, including increased confidence, self esteem, a sense of achievement and pride, improved social skills, team working skills and expanded social networks. For those children with special educational needs, behaviour issues or unsettled home lives, particular benefits include a sense of belonging, improved ability to concentrate and focus on a task, a sense of responsibility and positive behaviour change.“

Although it is too early to measure the long term positive impact on the orchestra members, the report does say that „Big Noise has the potential to contribute to long term outcomes such as reduced anti social and offending behaviour (by helping young people to become responsible citizens), improved employability and improved health and well being. It is anticipated that these will be achieved as children are engaged in a positive diversionary activity; develop new friendships with children they share an interest with; develop their self esteem and their soft skills; and are exposed to positive mentors who encourage and support them to achieve. In the longer term, this should enhance their engagement with learning and so their educational attainment and their employability.“

The results of a survey conducted among parents of children involved in Sistema Scotland show some astonishing statistics:

  • 100% thought their children were more confident
  • 93% thought their children were happier
  • 79% thought they were more willing to concentrate
  • 43% thought they behaved better


In Harmony” England was launched in 2008 in three locations – Lambeth (in south London), Norwich and Liverpool. All these locations are economically deprived areas, with low-income families which do not have opportunities to learn about or appreciate classical music. The founder of “In Harmony” and its chairman is the violoncellist Julian Lloyd Webber and the initial capital of £500,000 was provided by the English government.

In February 2012 “In Harmony” published a case study on the effects of the programme which showed that 78% of children exceeded teachers’ expectations in educational attainment, literacy and numeracy had improved dramatically, and children’s self-confidence, behaviour and social skills were transformed. The OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, a non-ministerial government department) report states that “it is very clear that participation in the ‘In Harmony’ programme has a much wider benefit for the pupils’ personal and social development, as well as for their general educational attainment.” Ed Vaizey, the British Minister for Culture, described this as “the best music-education project in the country.”


In December 2010, “Comitato Onlus guidato da Federculture“ and „Scuola di Musica di Fiesole“ founded the „Comitato Sistema delle Orchestre e dei Cori Infantili e Giovanili d’Italia.“ Honorary presidents of the committee were Claudio Abado, the world renowned conductor, and Dr José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema Venezuela. In their plans for 2011, they are announcing: the establishment of the first “nucleo” (centre); national communication campaign and press conference to present the project and its founders; regional events and showings of the film “Tocar y Luchar” by Alberto Arvelo, that illustrates the El Sistema in Venezuela; children’s concerts; setting up of the web site; concert by the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Claudio Abado.


Instituto Baccarelli

This organisation runs a musical project in the economically most deprived areas of Sao Paulo, called “Favela de Heliópolis”, providing children with a free music tuition programme and instruments. Education starts with children at pre-school age, with so called “seduction” – they must first start to like music in order to be willing to take part in the programme. Through singing children’s and folk songs that are familiar to them and practising body movements, children develop love for music and a sense of rhythm. In the next age group they sing in choirs, moving to the rhythm of a song, following simple dance routines (photo), so their musical training is enhanced with a theatrical one. This helps them stay relaxed and flexible, while focusing on vocal performance, clear intonation and accurate rhythm. Children also learn to play an instrument of their choice (“they must love it”) and take part in orchestras that are formed according to age groups. From these orchestras the most talented children audition for the prestigious „Sinfônica Heliópolis“ (Heliópolis Symphony Orchestra), which stands for Instituto Baccarelli in public. The patron of the orchestra is Zubin Mehta and their artistic director is a Brazilian conductor, Isaac Karabtchevsky. The orchestra has performed outside of Brazil in the last few years and is considered to be one of the best leading youth orchestras in the world.

“Guri” project

Guri Santa Marcelina is a programme dedicated to musical education and socio-cultural inclusion, founded in 2008 under the administration of Santa Marcelina Cultura. The programme focuses on teaching music to children and adolescents from the ages of 6 to 18. The programme’s activities take place within the São Paulo Metropolitan area, which is home to a population of some 20 million people, of whom 4 million live below the poverty line. As of 2011, Guri Santa Marcelina is offering courses to more than 13.000 students in 50 learning centres, or units, which have been inaugurated over the past four years. In the years to come, the programme is due to inaugurate 28 additional units for some 15.000 new students. At present, Guri Santa Marcelina includes 400 professionals, 250 of whom are music teachers. Its annual operating budget is 14,5 million Euros.

One of the principal challenges in the Guri programme is the provision of a high-level musical education to its students. Through the numerous courses on offer, the Guri programme allows students to grow while also developing their professional potential. The social and pedagogical aims of the programme are based on people’s inalienable rights, including access to musical education, development of sensitivity, and fulfilment derived from contact with artistic heritage. The pedagogical plan of the Guri programme is to provide students with one to four lessons per week, two hours a day, depending on their age, the course they have chosen, and their previous musical background. The classes involve musical initiation, theory, choir singing, group instrumental classes – from four to six students – and ensemble practice. Ensembles are proposed for string orchestra, symphonic band, acoustic guitar ensemble, madrigal and popular music groups. Within the instrumental arena, students can specialize in violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, horn, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, guitar, mandolin, electric guitar, electric bass and piano.