From Venezuela with music

Most of my Wednesday mornings this autumn are devoted to teaching, but I’ve managed to arrange two mornings off where I can do things in connection with my family.  One of them was last week, which coincided with the visit of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra to London.  This is one of the Venezuelan orchestras coming out of the scheme – el sistema – which offers opportunities to young people from deprived backgrounds to learn to play classical music.  As mentioned for example in this Telegraph piece, the Simón Bolívar Orchestra is the most internationally famous group resulting from the scheme, but its members are now in their late 20s and early 30s.  And in the spirit of bringing young people into music, they invited a large group of children from London, including my daughter, to spend a little time playing along them.  It’s worth stressing that this was an event for London schoolchildren who happened to be learning to play musical instruments, not particularly for those who aspired to be musical prodigies.   After playing alongside the chidren from London, the Venezuelans then did an informal performance, in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, alongside the young violinist Nicola Benedetti.

It was a wonderfully uplifting experience, and I guess there are some universal lessons about pedagogy in it.  One is the power of music to unite people from very different backgrounds.  Another is the extent to which in music, or sport, or even management, learning is partly about taking the time and effort to practise.  And of course enthusiasm and commitment are infectious, and there was certainly a sense of the schoolchildren from London picking up some of the Venezuelans’ magic.

Incidentally I’m taking this opportunity to add a new category (music) since there is at least one other music-related post to this blog in the pipeline, and quite a few others in the past.


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