FIVE ENCOUNTERS WITH EL SISTEMA INTERNATIONAL:
A Venezuelan Marvel Becomes a Global Movement
By Eric Booth and Tricia Tunstall
Humans find other humans endlessly fascinating – probably because of the balance of sameness and difference we share. The worldwide growth of El Sistema fascinates us for the same reason, as we witness the consistent DNA of values and goals manifest in different ways among different cultures. This essay shares some discoveries we’ve made from recent encounters with five different national Sistemas. Each example sheds a different light on the nature and possibilities of El Sistema.
Genuine worldwide movements for social change are rare in human history. Even more rare is the phenomenon of a worldwide movement for social change through art. We are fortunate to be experiencing the evolution of such a movement now, in the global blossoming of El Sistema, a program that seeks to change the lives of underserved or at-risk children and communities through immersive learning in musical ensembles.
At the time of this writing, in late 2013, the U.S. has almost one hundred programs, many with multiple sites, and there are about one thousand Sistema-inspired program sites in 55 countries, including all continents except Antarctica. All are aligned with the fundamental principles of El Sistema as developed in Venezuela, and every teacher and leader involved in these programs feels deeply part of a global El Sistema movement.
It is clear that “Sistema” is something of a misnomer: El Sistema is not really a system but a vision and a set of fundamental principles. It offers not a blueprint but an inquiry into the most effective ways to achieve youth development goals through intensive investment in ensemble music. As such, it is proving infinitely adaptable to very different circumstances and environments. We are seeing that evolving programs in a variety of settings can differ in many ways, while still sharing the consistent DNA of values and goals.
The five encounters, all in 2013, include the Sistema conference in Gothenburg, Sweden; the Sistema residency at the Salzburg Festival, in Austria; visits to El Sistema Korea and Sistema Japan; and the birth of Sistema Canada. Throughout our remarks, we celebrate the historically unprecedented growth of this movement, honoring the passionate commitment we find in like-spirited Sistema colleagues everywhere.
The following five snapshots capture just a glimpse of the enormous accomplishments in each location, and they tell just a part of five larger stories.
We all have much to learn from one another in this global inquiry; we are smarter together than we are alone. Therefore we urge readers of this essay to pass it along to colleagues. Ultimately, we hope for translation into other languages, so that the ideas can bridge linguistic boundaries, connecting us the way our shared music does so well.
1. Gothenburg and the potential of community impact
Leaders from almost a dozen El Sistema programs, mostly European, attended the El Sistema Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden in April 2013. The packed days included visits to learning centers, speeches, panel discussions, workshops, an in-the-community concert by the Gothenburg Symphony, and a side-by-side concert between the Gothenburg Symphony and the children of Sistema Gothenburg.
Any preconceptions we might have had about the Swedes as a cool, cerebral people were dispelled in the first minutes of our visit. Sistema Sweden is the most ebullient, heart-centric, playful national program we have seen. We heard the word “love” used there more frequently than anywhere else we have been. We felt the priority on community-building more strongly there than anywhere else.
The eight sites of Sistema Gothenburg, like those of other cities in Sweden, are located in immigrant neighborhoods, with mixed ethnicities and languages and some degree of ethnic tension. The Sistema programs include lots of group singing, dancing, and game playing, along with learning to play instruments. Students in the Gothenburg sites learn many of the same songs; some are original tunes like the endlessly catchy “Babumba,” written by Sistema Sweden Director Malin Aghed, and the bluesy student-composed “Home in Gambia.” Others are adapted pop songs, like the Coldplay song “Fix You” with rewritten lyrics about the feeling of El Sistema connectedness. There is also an “El Sistema” song with a kind of pop-rock beat and the repeated chant: “El Sistema yeah!” It’s the first time we’ve heard children in Sistema programs sing the words “El Sistema.” They are taught about the Sistema in Venezuela from the first days of the program, and they feel strongly connected to Venezuelan children.
The teachers we observed were very affectionate with the kids, and the general atmosphere was cheerful and warm. Malin, the director, adds her flair for the dramatic whenever possible; for example, when she introduced to symposium attendees the young Venezuelan conductor Manuel López-Gómez, who had come to work with the children and guest-conduct the Gothenburg Symphony, she staged a ceremony complete with stage lights, Venezuelan jackets, and children from the program holding up a big yellow crape-paper ribbon and cutting it with giant scissors.
Every Wednesday, each of the Gothenburg sites holds a one-hour family celebration combining children and families. The “Wednesdays” always include food, and there is a different theme for every Wednesday of the month (i.e. children’s performances, a guest performance, an ethnic potluck, a surprise). Parents show up in significant numbers, learn music together (often taught by the students), and sing and dance together. This weekly party boosts the students’ learning and cohesion, and also builds bonds among families of different backgrounds and neighborhoods – we saw Turkish children teaching Bosnian parents how to do a silly dance that was being led by a Croatian child.
One of the most striking features of Sistema Gothenburg is the strength of its support from the Gothenburg Symphony, Sweden’s national orchestra. We saw Maestro López conduct the orchestra in a Mozart symphony at a community center in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. The executive director of the orchestra, Helena Wessmann, came along on that event and introduced the orchestra to the standing-room-only audience.
On another afternoon we attended a side-by-side concert in the concert hall, the day after the orchestra had played to a large house of regular patrons with Venezuelan double-bass prodigy Edicson Ruiz as soloist and Maestro López on the podium. For the side-by-side, the older children of the Sistema program, who play instruments, sat among the musicians and shared stands with them. The younger children stood in rows along the sides and back of the orchestra, singing and waving gauzy colored scarves. The repertoire was varied, part classical and part pop. There were orchestral arrangements of the songs the children are used to singing, like “Babumba” and the Coldplay adaptation.
We were told that even though Dudamel’s association with the orchestra was a strong incentive for orchestra musicians to be supportive of the El Sistema program, they were not unanimously enthusiastic at first. However, Helena Wessmann has been unequivocal about making the program a priority for the orchestra. “We want to open up this house to everybody,” she says. “We want people here who have never been here in their lives. It’s their home too.”
She means this. Recently the leaders of Sistema Gothenburg came up with the idea of having a series of “Friday” events, to provide older children from sites around the city a safe haven where they could come together to eat and play music. “Let’s have ‘Fridays’ right here in the concert hall,” said Helena Wessmann. Soon, perhaps, the musical hangout for Sistema teenagers across Gothenburg will be the official concert hall of the national symphony.
2. Salzburg and the confirmation of “world class” excellence
The annual summer Salzburg Festival in Mozart’s birthplace is at the apex of the classical music hierarchy, the music world’s equivalent of the Venice Biennale or the Cannes Film Festival. In 2009, the Festival had a vivid introduction to the music of El Sistema with the performance of the Simon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Festival planners and Maestro Abreu thereupon decided to take a substantial next step together, making a commitment to feature El Sistema orchestras in residence at the 2013 Festival.
The residency brought seven large ensembles from Venezuela – over 1400 musicians, plus an entourage of additional hundreds. Included were the Simon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the Teresa Carreno Orchestra, the Youth Orchestra of Caracas, and the 325-member National Children’s Orchestra, with players aged 8-14. Most of these ensembles presented a Mahler symphony, among other works, as part of the festival’s 2013 “Mahler Cycle.” Also included in the residency were the National Youth Chorus and the White Hands Choir, as well as numerous smaller ensembles such as the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble and the Simon Bolívar String Quartet.
Mozart’s hometown became “Caracas on the Salzbach” for two weeks: the stages that present the world’s greatest orchestras and soloists were filled with hundreds of young musicians from the barrios, plains and mountains of Venezuela.
The virtuosity of the Venezuelans seemed to come as a surprise to a good number of audience members, who were mostly sophisticated older Austrians and Germans – and perhaps had purchased season tickets without reading the fine print about who would be performing. At the beginnings of concerts, as the venerable stages filled up with hundreds of Latin American teenagers, we often felt a degree of surprise and skepticism in the house. But the ovations at the end of every performance were unrestrained, with much cheering and stomping. One Austrian audience member, who remarked to us that he lives in the exact spot where Mahler spent his summers, went on to say, “I have been coming to this festival all my life, and I have never seen an audience respond like this.”
The triumphant performances by ensemble after ensemble stamped an inarguable seal of arrival upon El Sistema’s four-decade quest to produce top-tier orchestras. Certainly, there will be aficionados who quibble about one or another aspect of the performances. However, just as there is no denying the accomplishments of the Chinese diving team after breathtaking accomplishments in the last two Olympics, there is now no denying El Sistema’s musical greatness. The debate is over. Let the discussions about their artistry deepen.
This is an important milestone for El Sistema. No more can there be traces of condescension in the music establishment’s attitude toward El Sistema’s artistry because it is an “education” project. José Antonio Abreu and his co-founding colleagues have crossed a monumental bridge in their artistic journey. As young musicians 39 yeas ago, they sought to create a professional orchestra of Venezuelans. Not only have they accomplished this many times over; they have created orchestras that are fully comparable to the best orchestras in the world.
Can one think of any time in classical music history when such an array of greatness appeared from one place? Suddenly, four youthful symphonic ensembles (one comprised of younger children) from one not-so-large country in South America are among the world’s most interesting orchestras! What Vienna was to 18th- and 19th-century composition, Venezuela is to 21st-century orchestral performance. It is a sublimely improbable achievement.
True to the El Sistema’s core value of inclusiveness (in an orchestra field still defined by traditions of exclusivity), Maestro Abreu was especially insistent about the inclusion of the White Hands Choir in the Salzburg residency. This was the first international tour for the 120-member ensemble, which is half comprised of singers with various disabilities and half of deaf children who wear white gloves and, with their gloved hands, perform choreographed interpretations of the music the hearing children are singing.
The White Hands Choir performed to a packed house at the Mozarteum, for full ticket prices. The audience was uncertain at first; the singing wasn’t as refined as that of the Vienna Boys Choir (which also performed at the festival), and the hand choreography was not precisely synchronized. But all the young performers were freely emotive and expressive. By the end of the concert, the impact of the true accomplishment on stage, and its clear connection to what matters most about music and life, was so palpable that the audience was profoundly touched and excited.
One common critique of El Sistema’s orchestras has been that people so young haven’t had enough life experience or depth of artistic development to bring anything significant to interpretations of Beethoven and Mahler. This critique seems misinformed about the way El Sistema works. In Sistema learning, children play Beethoven as they begin to play instruments at five and six. They hear their teachers’ and older peers’ orchestras play Beethoven frequently as they grow up. They play Beethoven in their own orchestras at age seven, and again at ten, and again at thirteen. By the time they play a Beethoven symphony at age fifteen, they have lived most of their lives inside it, and can pour into their playing that lifelong experience – intense, although short – of passionate personal meaning.
The best orchestras of El Sistema combine youthful exuberance with deeply felt musical meaning. That is why the German and Austrian high-art connoisseurs stood up and cheered for the orchestras of El Sistema. They are used to experiencing the aesthetic finesse of the Vienna Philharmonic, and also the ebullience of youth orchestras, but they have never witnessed such a combination of both attributes in a single orchestra. In Salzburg last summer, the young people of El Sistema won the hearts of some of the world’s most sophisticated and critical listeners.
There is an important postscript to our Salzburg experience. At one musical event during the Festival, the National Children’s Orchestra played side by side with the very young beginners of a new Eastern European Sistema initiative called Superar, which includes children from Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Turkey. These children had begun ensemble music learning in their own countries and had come together for the first time the week before, rehearsing Rossini’s William Tell Overture in Vienna in preparation for their appearance at the Salzburg Festival. Said Superar leader Étienne Abelin: “It was a sensation to hear and see this first Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra play music with the incredible Orquesta Infantil de Venezuela - 300 kids playing together.” This was yet another example of how the Sistema residency in Salzburg confounded historical conventions: here were Venezuelan children becoming mentors and role models for the children of Eastern Europe.
3. Korea and the example of Venezuelan-style rapid growth
El Sistema Korea may be the Sistema organization most like that of Venezuela. A government agency called KACES (Korea Arts and Culture Education Service), funded by the Ministry of Culture, is leading a rapid national expansion of the program, called The Orchestra of Dreams. Prospective sites applying to KACES must be able to show a partnership between an organization (usually a cultural entity) with local government funding and an established organization with music education expertise. Proposals that are accepted receive three years of funding from KACES, during which the program is developed and sustainable local funding cultivated. Thirty such programs have been launched in the past three years, with about 1600 children currently involved, and more are in development. This is the fastest pace of growth we have seen among Sistema programs across the world.
The national government commitment to fund this fast-growing initiative derives from two priorities: a wish to close the opportunity gap between affluent and struggling sectors (even though there is little severe poverty in Korea, and the income gap is less egregious than in most nations); and a recognition of problems with the social development of young people. The government sees El Sistema-inspired youth orchestra work as an excellent way to meet these social challenges. Leaders believe that rapid growth in the short term is an investment in long-term change. And, like Fundamusical in Venezuela, they have bold social goals in mind: reducing the disparity of opportunity gap, and changing the trajectory of many young lives.
The program leaders cite four reasons for the social development challenges of young people: many single-child homes, few after-school socializing activities for non-affluent children, absorption in electronic media, and strong pressure around academic achievement. As a result of these circumstances, they say, there are many children who speak very little, and many who become angry and difficult around puberty; in general, they lack teamwork skills, and exhibit a kind of joylessness.
Since this is a young initiative, and most programs are recent startups, teachers and administrators are taking some time to find their way. Still, many students begin to show significant behavioral changes in their second year with the program. One indicator of change is that children begin to talk more at home and at school; among many families, the colloquial name for El Sistema Korea is “the talkative program.”
As in most countries, identifying and developing good teachers is the foremost challenge. Western classical music traditions are entrenched in the cultures of professional orchestras and of traditional music education, and the youth development priorities and practices of El Sistema are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many. One music director with a successful conducting career in the professional and youth orchestra fields reported that his wife and colleagues thought he was crazy to give his time to this startup program for kids who were beginners and didn’t get lessons. In fact, members of one professional orchestra he conducts told him that his association with El Sistema brought them shame.
Nonetheless, people who are absorbed in the work of El Sistema Korea are excited about it. The wife of the above-mentioned conductor changed her mind and became supportive of his El Sistema commitment when she noted how unusually relaxed and happy he is after working with his Orchestra of Dreams orchestra. The program in Wanju, in just its second year, has inspired community members to become more artistically active; a thousand-person community chorus was created and performed with the young orchestra during a local festival.
KACES provides not only funding but also significant resources for learning and professional development. It brings program leaders together four times a year to share with one another, and has taken several delegations of leaders and teachers to study overseas programs; this year groups will visit Venezuela and Sistema New Brunswick (Canada).
A particularly impressive aspect of KACES leaders is the speed at which they are learning, organizationally. Staff members are attentive and responsive, and make course corrections quickly. Inspired by the Venezuelans, they are growing more and more ambitious. In 2013, the third year of the program, they decided to host a national summer camp, and brought together 1000 young musicians and 40 top teachers from around the country for four days, with work time split between rehearsal and physical exercise. They divided the students into four huge orchestras by skill level, and exceeded even their own hopes for what they could accomplish musically.
And they have caught the Venezuelan spirit of boldness in relation to the children’s accomplishments. When Rafael Elster visited from Venezuela as an advisor, he urged them to be more ambitious, and the challenge made a deep impression. Several Sistema Korea leaders quoted his words: “Come on, people! These kids have enough food; they can read music; they are smart – they can be playing Mahler within a year.” We will not be surprised to hear a national group from the Orchestra of Dreams performing Mahler a year from now.
And that conductor mentioned earlier, whose wife took some time to come around…he says that in ten years, his Orchestra of Dreams students, who are recent beginners, will be the best youth orchestra in Korea.
4. Japan and the priority on social development
When we first heard of an emergent Sistema Japan, our initial response was, “They have no poverty and perhaps the world’s best youth music education; why do they need El Sistema?” The answer to that question shines a spotlight on the social development goals of El Sistema.
The first site of Sistema Japan has been created in the city of Soma, in the Fukushima prefecture, which was brutally damaged by the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear power radiation leakage. Many children in Soma lost parents, family members, friends, and homes, and they still live with the fear of radiation from the nuclear power plant. Soma has a long and proud history of ensemble music education, and a rich presence of traditional folk music; school administrators decided to regenerate their existing music assets with El Sistema philosophy and practice, to answer the needs of their troubled children. They sought “a pedagogy of joy,” and they believe they have found it in El Sistema.
Yutaka Kikugawa, the founder of Sistema Japan, wants to grow the program slowly, as opposed to the rapid growth in Korea. The Soma program now includes about 150 children, ages 5 to 17, who work several times a week with in-school music educators in three elementary schools, and come together every weekend for a day-long ensemble program. The Saturday program is led by advisor and conductor Yohei Asaoka, with considerable assistance from college student volunteers who travel to Soma from Tokyo every week. Some adults, mostly retired teachers, play in the ensembles along with the children, giving the program an authentic multi-generational dimension.
During our visit in October 2013, we saw the same children we had met 15 months before, when they were just learning how to hold a bow. It was thrilling to see that they are now – already – an orchestra, playing simple arrangements of Vivaldi and Mozart pieces. They played skillfully and enthusiastically, and seemed more relaxed than when we had first met them. The orchestra included some very small six- and seven-year-olds who had joined the program just two months before; they sat with their feet swinging, playing their open strings.
The Libertadores String Quartet from the Simon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, who had flown in from Caracas for the occasion, opened the proceedings by playing for the children: a Beethoven quartet, a Chick Corea arrangement, and a movement of the Franck piano quintet with a fiery young Japanese concert pianist, Mami Hagiwara. Then they played with the children’s orchestra to teach from a side-by-side viewpoint. In the orchestra on that Sunday afternoon, therefore, were a mix of children with varying skills, their teachers and volunteer assistant teachers, some older adults, and a quartet of virtuosic professional teaching artists. This is not the traditional Japanese way, but it is now the Japanese El Sistema way to create a community that addresses social needs, is consistently fun, and accelerates musical improvement.
Sistema Japan emphasizes social development. This priority resonates in Fukushima, because of the trauma these children have experienced from natural and man-made disasters. The social learning impact of the program in Soma is being evaluated, to provide a solid foundation for growth across the country. Supporters of Sistema Japan note that the country has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the world, and that there are many other evidences of stress among the outwardly well-behaved young generation. These concerns about social skills and emotional well-being are similar to concerns voiced in South Korea.
In most Sistema programs around the world, leaders emphasize youth development goals more than musical goals for the first few years. During that initial phase, educators discover how to create an El Sistema-esque learning environment that works in their culture. They experiment to get just the right feel of kindness and safety, fun and ambition, mutual responsibility and full absorption in making beautiful music with their friends. Once the atmosphere feels right, there is a natural shift toward greater musical ambition – by program leaders and students.
In Japan, where music education is already strong, the priority on social development becomes even more important. Certainly they focus on musical achievement; but the heart of Sistema Japan is in creating a different kind of learning environment that can nurture young people in new ways.
Maestro Asaoka, the conductor of the Sistema orchestra in Soma, says that the program explicitly emphasizes peer-to-peer learning. Students are placed in stand-partner relationships that put a more experienced player next to a less experienced one, and children are often reminded to help their stand partners – thus cultivating the habit of mind in which such responsibility is a natural part of the work. This is particularly poignant and powerful in a community where peer responsibility prevailed through the worst kinds of disaster imaginable. El Sistema Japan evaluates the social impact of the program with a leading university researcher, investigating the development of peer teaching and learning and how this can have an impact on family and community in the post-recovery process.
Most of the ten young volunteers of the Soma program, called Fellow Assistants, are university students; one is an IBM consultant who plays in the IBM orchestra. All are excellent musicians, but only one is studying music as a major. The rest are students of psychology, sociology, law and other fields, who are drawn to this program because of the opportunity to use their musical knowledge to help young people achieve social goals. It is unusual to have so many non-music majors make such a commitment to a Sistema program. (Some of them told us they found out about the program through its Facebook page!)
Another unusual feature is that part of the funding for El Sistema in Soma comes from a section of the national budget devoted to recovery from the tsunami disasters; the music teachers are officially hired as psycho-social care providers. Government funding to pay music teaching artists as experts in social health: this is a promising idea that programs in other countries might fruitfully emulate.
5. Canada and the vision for a national network
Although we have not visited Canadian Sistema programs in the past year, Eric has served as an advisor to one of their remarkable accomplishments. Together, the leaders of Canadian programs, with catalytic help from funders and project leaders, have decided to form an organization called Sistema Canada to support their national movement. The quality of the process and the clarity of the resulting entity present an excellent example for other countries to study and learn from.
Funded by a private foundation (the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation) and the National Arts Centre (NAC) Foundation, a yearlong process unfolded in three stages. Beginning in the fall of 2012, the project was facilitated by Genevieve Cimon, (Director of Music Education, NAC) and co-designed with independent researcher Inga Petri (President, Strategic Moves) and a National Sistema Steering Committee (NSSC) made up of seven Sistema directors representing Canada’s diversity and size. The project began with a national needs assessment, culminating in a first report back to the field, by Inga Petri. The key finding of the needs assessment was that “a highly focused national network working on behalf of local and regional, established and emerging Sistema-inspired Centres would significantly benefit the growth of this movement in Canada, and by so doing positively affect the lives of children and youth.”
This finding led to a feasibility study, A National Sistema Network in Canada: Feasibility Study and Strategic Plan (downloadable at: nac-cna.ca/sistema and scroll to the bottom of the list of available documents), which presents conclusions about the ways a national organization might best serve that goal, and how it could work in synergistic partnership with local efforts. This study was completed in the summer of 2013, again in consultation with stakeholders across the country; the process included a planning retreat of the NSSC. The resulting study outlines the case for and scope of El Sistema in Canada.
Sistema Canada is envisioned as a small, nimble organization with a clear set of priorities and an energetic relationship with every independent site in the country. For national or multi-national entities (like Sistema Europe or Superar) that are not able to follow the “top-down” funding model of Venezuela and Korea, the Canadian process is a model that embodies El Sistema’s values of inclusion, peer learning, ambition, careful listening, and even some fun along the way.
The Canadian leaders propose five basic areas for service activity by their national organization: a start-up lab that helps new programs grow well (with mentoring, partnering, and seed funding); leadership development (including a web-based information exchange portal, webinars, regional and national conferences, and professional development); youth development (with youth-led events and exchanges, regional/national/international performance opportunities, and community leadership training); a think tank focusing on coordinated research and evaluation, publishing findings and guiding collective learning; and a contact and communications point for international colleagues (especially Venezuelan) and for the wider “arts for social change” field, thus raising visibility.
The leaders of the Canadian movement also took on a task we all can learn from. They reviewed the writing about El Sistema fundamental concepts (including writings by both of us), and distilled eight shared values as the irreducible core of El Sistema-ness. These guidelines align the efforts of all their programs, providing a consistency of aspiration and practice across program differences.
• Social Development is the goal; music is the means to achieve that goal.
• Community basis. Communities are at the heart of each local program, no matter where it is housed. Programs are built of partnerships, starting with families and community resource people, and extending to other organizations, including schools and post-secondary institutions. Each program develops its repertoire and curriculum to best meet the needs of the local community.
• Access. El Sistema-inspired centers break down barriers of all kinds, from socio-economic barriers to language and cultural barriers.
• Ensemble. Ensemble-based instruction is at the heart of cultivating the socio-behavioral benefits of concentration, discipline, mutual respect and collaboration. The instructional modes can range from classical orchestral music to choral to other ensemble-based styles, cultural genres or traditions.
• Immersion. High frequency and intensity characterize the El Sistema learning process. Programs foster multi-year commitment and participation.
• Mentorship. Students mentor each other and share their knowledge.
• Achievement. Striving for musical excellence unites the participants around a common goal. Performance gives purpose and direction to this effort and lets the community acknowledge participants’ achievements.
• Collaboration. Sistema-inspired programs collaborate to combine their skills, and to support the development of new Sistema programs in all communities that want them.
These values resonate as the core aspirations of El Sistema-inspired programs shared around the world. This is the “belief sistema” that enables a seven-year-old Turkish girl in Sweden teaching a silly dance to her Armenian friend’s mother to know she is connected to a 13-year-old boy who is nervously conducting rehearsal scales for an orchestra of his friends in a small town in Korea. They are the core values that have guided the worldwide flowering of Venezuela’s unique accomplishment, and have taken on the power of a truly international movement.
Millions of people around the world have long held the quiet belief that the arts are not only beautiful but also extraordinarily powerful. We have continued to believe this, even as the arts are more and more often marginalized in contemporary culture. El Sistema has rekindled this belief. The resulting energy and excitement are igniting in different ways, in different places, to produce the same worldwide guiding light.