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Breaking: El Sistema enters Africa

The Venezuelan music education and social reform project that has swept the northern hemisphere is now heading south. Marshall Marcus, its baroque consultant and international drum-beater, has opened a Facebook page for the Africa project today. He’s working with the London-based composer Gabriel Prokofiev to take western classical music where it has never gone before.

Marshall writes:

During the last year virtual conversations have taken me to Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, and beyond. There is a thirst, and a tremendous sense of desire to make something positive happen, and build sustainable help for young people through the vehicle of  music. Of course much is already going on, and there are many people who have been fighting the battle for some time.

Read the full post here. I’ll let you know when Dude plans a trip to Brazza.



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  1. Maria Vlachou says:

    This is really great news, Norman. I just think it´s a bit exagerated to state that this will take “western classical music where it has never gone before”… Check this out, for instance:

  2. I agree with Maria – this documentary was the first to come to mind when I heard your news. People also tend to forget from time to time that there are countries in the African continent that have good professional orchestras. I remember that a couple of years ago the Finnish RSO was planning a trip to Benin and one of the slogans they used was “Africa deserves to hear Beethoven”. I found that hilarious since just a little earlier I had returned from South Africa where I conducted a full Beethoven program with the JPO!

  3. Maria, I had already seen the film and was enchanted by it.

    NL says: “El Sistema has swept the northern hemisphere”

    I´d like to know which countries in the northern hemisphere have embraced El Sistema. I only know of Scotland and also about the LA programme.

    • Maria Vlachou says:

      The Gulbenkian Foudation here in Portugal ( is supporting a similar initiative, called Orquestra Geração ( Unfortunately, there isn´t an english version yet, but if you are particularly interested in them, let me know.

    • Maria Vlachou says:

      You can find out more about all european countries participating in the programme here:

    • Several Canadian cities now have programs modeled on El Sistema. There are national and international conferences held every year so that schools can form connections and learn from each other. I’m very happy to see it spread around the globe!

      I am on the faculty of such a program in Vancouver. It’s a wonderful place, and it serves its community extraordinarily well.
      Have a look:

  4. ruben greenberg says:

    If these countries are to make music, they will need reasonable musical instruments in good playing condition. I am sure there are a lot of us Western professional and amateur musicians that have instruments gathering dust in our attics. Does there exist an association that provides instruments to African orchestras or to other places that are in dire need of them? If there doesn’t, let’s create one!

  5. Thank you Maria Vlachou and Oblander for all the links.

  6. In the 1960′s I booked tours in Africa for the Dorian Woodwind Quintet in the Eastern side, and the Claremont String Quartet in the western side. They were very successfull and following the tours the musicians sent music back to the towns they had visited. Following a reception in Washington with President Johnson who listened to the Claremont Quartet play and about their experiences, he signed the National Endowment into law the next day. It was the first time any country had sent professionals rather than students to these countries. David Visintin in Toronto heads the El Sistema program here.
    Ann summers dossena

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