Welcome to Venezuela!


After 6 months of preparation, the Fellows have finally arrived in Venezuela! We are feeling immensely fortunate to be among the chosen few that are invited to experience the Sistema in its most authentic form. For the next 5 weeks, we will be traveling throughout Venezuela, visiting numerous nucleos, documenting our experience and filling ourselves with enough music and inspiration to share with everyone we know back home. For those of you new to my blog, I am part of an initiative designed to bring music for social change programs to the United States. These programs are modeled after El Sistema, Venezuela’s now world famous system of youth orchestras and choirs. The system is, in actuality, an anti-sytem, an alternative to a life of crime and poverty that awaits many Venezuelan youth. Through music immersion, El Sistema has changed the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of its nations most vulnerable youth, providing an outlet and an answer – participation in the Sistema gives a child new career opportunities, unites communities and provides social mobility for whole families. Formed decades ago with only a handful of children and a man with a vision, El Sistema is now wildly popular throughout the world. See here for the latest in a recent series of New York Times articles on the Sistema.

For those of you new to my blog, I am part of an initiative designed to bring music for social change programs to the United States.

After just 3 days in Venezuela, I am pleased to report that my very high expectations have been exceeded. Although I have only seen a few parts of Caracas, I know that Venezuela is amazingly beautiful. The people have embraced us warmly and the culture is spectacular! We have visited two nucleos and can now say with assurance that what you have heard is true. The instruction is INTENSE, but worth it. The children are playing and singing on a level that impresses even us. AFter all, we are the third, not first cohort of fellows, so we’ve heard it all before. Yet, witnessing it for yourself is different – it delights you. It grabs you in a way that forces you to participate. We were only to observe this week and get a feel of how things operate here, but we couldn’t resist jumping in. Julie dismissed her limited Spanish speaking and eagerly began working with beginner violins, Ben was interviewed by a mass of excited little people after a music language class, I was serenaded by a group of children with a song that has special meaning to me, we were all mobbed for autographs when leaving Montalban. This is exciting! And its real! And we are here to experience it.

Welcome to Venezuela.

Clips of Sarrias, nucleo in Caracas


If you want to know why they do what they do, just ask Raphael. When he speaks, we all listen.


David caught me COMPLETELY off guard (as usual), but its worth it to see the
beautiful children at the end :)

We are all experience Venezuela in different ways. I encourage you to check out the thoughts of some of my fellow Fellows while we are here.

JoseLuis is a thinker! He is interested in the orchestra’s in redifining the role of an artist. Read his blog here – you won’t be disappointed.

David is a dreamer. He envisions, he strategizes, he makes it happen. He doesn’t mess around. And he is a madman in the classroom!!! Watch this clip of him teaching the children to play so beautifully that his knees buckle from the sound. And after that – follow him on facebook.

Albert is a friend of yours, you just don’t know it yet. No. Really. He’s from Mississippi and he believes that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. SO come meet him. He has some great conversations that you might be interested in.

First Day in Venezuela

Sarrias percussion ensemble

The Fellows arrive in Venezuela

Sarrias nucleo in Caracas, VZ