Better lives through music

From Sistema Fellow Julie Davis...

I came to understand the magic of El Sistema while traveling in a twelve-passenger van with a broken air conditioner amidst the rural Venezuelan state of Guárico. Too restless to sleep but too tired to read, I spent the majority of the six-hour ride watching the bumpy dirt road roll out in front of my view, reflecting upon the experience that the foreign country had offered me so far.

I had rehearsed Prokofiev’s glorious Fifth Symphony with a passionate conservatory orchestra in Barquisimeto, where my stand partner eagerly penciled in English translations in the music so I could quickly feel apart of the ensemble.

I had observed incredibly dedicated teachers; teachers who consider themselves mothers, growing and enriching the lives of young musicians every day.

And I taught in a small nucleo in Coro, in which the nucleo director knocked on the neighbor’s door to ask him for his porch to use as extra rehearsal space for our violin sectional.

Our van continued moving along the dirt road when a giant hill suddenly appeared in our path. I laughed to myself considering the chances that the van, loaded with ten other passengers and their luggage, would manage to make it up the small mountain. Avoiding mounds of dirt and evading large potholes, I breathed a sigh of relief as we fought to reach the pinnacle of the hill. We made it.

And then we began the descent, and I realized the struggle wasn’t over. We had to dodge a plethora of potholes on the other side of the hill as well.

And to me, that’s what El Sistema embodies – a relentless struggle to better the lives of thousands through music, knowing every day’s successes will bring more challenges to overcome.


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