Los Angeles Philharmonic embarking on new El Sistema initiative

Gustavo Dudamel conducts a performance with Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at Walt Disney Concert Hall last May. Young musicians are the focus of the El Sistema program.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

To better unify the disparate El Sistema education programs across the United States, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is embarking on a new initiative with four other organizations to create a national platform for youth orchestras.

The L.A. Phil announced Thursday that the three-year project will consist of regional orchestra camps in 2016 and a National Take a Stand festival in 2017 that will bring together students for a seven-day youth orchestra camp.

Other institutions participating in the initiative are the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado, Bard College in upstate New York, the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Mass., and Venezuela’s FundaMusical, an organizational body for the country’s El Sistema program.


The festival will culminate with a performance led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the L.A. Phil and an El Sistema alumnus Conductors Robert Spano and Leon Botstein will also lead groups as part of the regional youth orchestras’ final performances in 2016.

The three-year project is expected to kick off this year with a weeklong pilot program where leaders will devise a program that will serve as a model for the camps.

An L.A. Phil spokeswoman said that the pilot program and 2017 festival would take place in L.A., although exact locations have yet to be determined. The orchestra and the other participating organizations are all contributing financially to the program, she said.

They are all “bringing their own unique artistic and financial resources, and the financial model will continue to develop as the program matures,” read an emailed statement, which added that specific numbers are not being released “at this time.”

Participation in the camps will be free for students.

El Sistema is a music-education program developed in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu, who still heads the program in Caracas. The system is geared toward providing free music instruction to students from underserved communities.

Versions of El Sistema have been formed in countries throughout the world based on the success of the Venezuelan model.


Twitter: @DavidNgLAT