Going global, El Sistema starts fellows program in U.S.


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The music program known as El Sistema -- which for 32 years has brought free classical music education to disadvantaged youth in Venezuela -- is no longer that country’s secret. It seems as if now the whole world wants to copy or at least learn from the program, whose most famous alumnus is conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Today, the New England Conservatory launched its Abreu Fellows training program, one of the first major initiatives of El Sistema USA. The program is named after Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema in Venezuela.


The Abreu Fellows Program provides tuition-free instruction and a living stipend for young postgraduate musicians who seek to develop El Sistema programs in the U.S. and beyond, according to the organization. The fellows range in age from 22 to 44 and are graduates of university or conservatory music programs.

Among the inaugural fellows are Daniel Berkowitz, Jonathan Andrew Govias, Lorrie Heagy, Rebecca Levi, David Malek, Dantes Rameau, Alvaro Rodas, Stanford Leon Thompson, Christine Witowski and Kathryn Wyatt.

During their time as fellows, they will receive instruction in subjects including child psychology, fundraising and publicity. They will also travel to Venezuela, where they will spend two months observing the operations of music education centers throughout the country.

After their fellowship, they will be required to devote at least one year to advance or found an El Sistema program outside Venezuela, according to the organization.

-- David Ng

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