Programs inspired by El Sistema will revolutionize music education, and will eventually create a new breed of authentic performers. Populated by such players, classical symphony orchestras will be more energized in general, more enjoyable to watch and listen to.Why? El Sistema emphasizes music expression to lead technique, not the other way around.
David Malek, 41, was born in San Antonio. He was trained as a classical musician, but has always harbored a bit of wanderlust.
“When I played with a professional orchestra it seemed so fractured, so distant from the community,’’ he said. “We would show up, put on our tuxedos, sit onstage next to someone we don’t really know that well. We’d play some music, but everything was removed. I found it unfulfilling.’
A clarinetist, he ventured into jazz, and performed with a range of groups, from the San Antonio Symphony to the United States Air Force Band. Still, the trappings of a traditional career in music never felt quite right.
’Malek was working at a community center in Los Angeles in 2007 when he stumbled onto a YouTube video of Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra performing a sizzling, incredibly joyful rendition of Bernstein’s “Mambo’’ — musicians dancing in their seats, twirling instruments in the air — at the Proms in London. It was both thrilling and perplexing, he recalled.
That orchestra is the result of El Sistema, the legendary music education program founded in 1975 by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu, which uses musical immersion to buoy the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelan children.