“The worst thing about poverty is not the lack of material worth, it is the lack of self-worth.  Learning to create beauty, to belong to an orchestra, gives children something meaningful to be proud of.”

Dr. José Antonio Abreu, Founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema


HPBA’s concept is based on Venezuela's highly acclaimed "El Sistema", a music education program that began nearly 40 years ago to fight poverty and affect positive social change.  It was founded by economist and musician Dr. José Antonio Abreu in 1973, and began with just 11 musicians in a Caracas parking garage.  Today, El Sistema is the nickname for the Fundación Musical Simón Bólivar, a national network of youth orchestras and their affiliated training programs serving 500,000 Venezuelan students.  El Sistema is a successful model of how music education programs can dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s most at risk children.

The primary focus of the program is to develop good citizens through the pursuit of musical excellence in a collaborative, supportive environment.  The program aims to create a haven of safety, learning, and joy that builds each student’s skills, self-image, and sense of purpose. The passion that imbues El Sistema has produced great musicians and music lovers, while offering a path out of poverty, gang violence, and other risks for thousands upon thousands of students. Gustavo Dudamel, now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is El Sistema's most renowned graduate and international advocate. Programs inspired by El Sistema continue to spread around the globe.


Interested in learning more about Venezuela’s El Sistema?  

"60 Minutes" features El Sistema

Gustave Dudamel conducts an El Sistema Concert in Venezuela. Photo by Jehad Nga. 

Sistema Fellows Program

Take a Stand Program

REP+Resource Library


Go here for more relevant links on music education and the El Sistema model.