One of this year’s TED Prize winners is JosÃ© Antonio Arbreu. What an astonishing story. In the seventies Arbreu, a symphonic musician, started a program in his native Venezuela to get empoverished kids off the streets and transform their lives through classical music. He called this program El Sistema. Thirty years later his youth orchestras are considered some of the finest in the world. And last night we found out why: When a satellite link took us to Caracas for Arbreu’s very poetic acceptance speech, we were treated to a live performance by an orchestra of world-class teenage musicians, conducted by his protegÃ© Gustavo Dudamel, now famous as the music director of the LA Philharmonic.
To describe this orchestra as spirited is an understatement. They are magnificent. They play music the way the Brazillians play football: it’s like a lifeline to them. And, as Chris Anderson pointed out, for a country like Venezuela to have a world class orchestra is good incentive to learn how to do a world class orchestral TV production—the camerawork and editing were exemplary. It’s usually pretty hard to get a talking head to work over a satellite link, let alone a live orchestral performance. It was simply breathtaking, and everybody around me was in tears, myself included.
(Pic: Larry Johnson)