An excellent trend. In the battle over classical music's value in a global economy, the gift it really offers is beyond artistic entertainment of society.
The real gift of classical music is it's endlessly engaging complexity and emotion, which, not surprisingly, nurture's deep connection and healthy community spirit, especially for the young and vulnerable.
Can learning and performing classical music guide poor kids in crime ridden neighborhoods to grow into productive, responsible adults?
Can El Sistema, a bootstrap poverty program that receives government support in relatively poor Venezuela, work in the affluent, free-market United States, a nation where classical music has become an afterthought?
Mark Churchill passionately believes it can. The dean emeritus at the prestigious New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston has founded El Sistema USA in an effort to bring the benefits of the original program to underprivileged American youths.
Music offers this exquisite balance of the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, the social, and the spiritual – five very important aspects of human existence," Churchill says.
José Antonio Abreu is the "godfather" of El Sistema. He founded it in Venezuela in 1975, offering poor children an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument and join an orchestra, while teaching them self-discipline, self-esteem, and the value of working together. ("The orchestra is the only group that comes together with the sole purpose of agreement," Dr. Abreu famously says.)
Today, Venezuela has more than 100 youth orchestras.
The program is grounded in the idea that poor children, when given the chance, can achieve the same level of excellence as affluent children, Mr. Churchill says.