Gillian Howell reviews “El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth”

[21/06/2015] The musician, educator, and scholar Gillian Howell reviewed “El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth” for Music Australia:

The review concludes:

Baker suggests that the global interest in El Sistema has allowed an “extraordinary space” to open up, a space in which the critical contributions that music and other arts experiences can make in enriching people’s lives can be discussed, appraised and explored. But for that space to remain credible, its projects must be open to critical evaluation, deliberation and reflection by those within it as well as external observers.

As such, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth is an important contribution to music education literature. Baker’s findings may provoke, but they also illuminate in dazzling complexity the disconnects and conflicts that can evolve between power, discipline, and education, opportunity and aspiration, claims and experience, advocacy and evidence, politics and culture, social benefit and musical excellence. These are essential considerations for any organisation wanting to ensure both the best interests of the young participants and the sustained longevity of the program. Critical scrutiny can be uncomfortable, but if it provokes greater reflection and internal rigour, then this is a good and welcome outcome for all – leaders, organisers, teachers, musicians, and most of all, the young participants and their right to reach their full potential.