Carleton University will confer an honorary degree on El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu at a special ceremony that includes a musical tribute combining the talents of young musicians from Ottawa and the Simón Bolivar String Quartet from Venezuela on Thursday, March 29 at 12 p.m.
Media are invited to attend this event in honour of Dr. Abreu, a Venezuelan musician and educator who founded an innovative education method to introduce classical music to thousands of young people from some of the poorest urban and rural regions of Venezuela. This method has been successfully employed around the world, including Ottawa.
Carleton will award Dr. Abreu a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for “outstanding contribution to the advancement of underprivileged youth through music and education.”
Dr. Abreu will be present through video, while the renowned Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Quartet will join Ottawa’s own OrKidstra String Quintet to pay tribute to him. Carleton and Ottawa associations with Dr. Abreu are strong and growing. Ottawa’s Leading Note Foundation began the first El Sistema-inspired program outside of South America in October 2007. The group, co-founded and directed by Tina Fedeski and Margaret Tobolowska, has initiated programs such as OrKidstra and KidSingers. The foundation now has nine teachers and 10 instrumental mentors who provide free music instruction to more than 100 children.
Graduate student Austin Lui came to Carleton to conduct research on El Sistema and the Leading Note Foundation. Carleton graduate Nicholas Piper was commissioned to write a new piece for a gala performance by the Simón Bolívar Quartet during this visit to Ottawa on April 1 at 3 p.m. at Dominion-Chalmers United Church. Carleton is also promoting undergraduate student placements with the Leading Note Foundation team.
What: Honorary degree ceremony and musical tribute for Dr. Abreu.
Where: Porter Hall, University Centre, Carleton University.
When: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Parking: Media are invited to park in Lot P2 and leave their credentials on their dashes. Please see a campus map at: http://www1.carleton.ca/campus/.
About Dr. Abreu:
Dr. Abreu launched his visionary youth education system 35 years ago with a group of only 11 students who met in his garage. From the outset, he envisioned a program in which music would be employed as the principal means through which social justice, social change and intellectual and community development could be achieved.
Initially conceived as a modest program for children in the rural villages of Venezuela, the system has expanded into one of the most extraordinary international educational success stories in recent history. Gustavo Dudamel, the dynamic young conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is among the celebrated graduates of El Sistema who have emerged from poverty through the organization. Renowned British conductor Simon Rattle has said that “there is no more important work being done, now, in music, than is being done in Venezuela.”
Currently, 250,000 children attend El Sistema programs in Venezuela, 90 per cent of them from underprivileged backgrounds. Children are given an instrument as soon as they can hold it. Lessons are conducted in groups, and tuition, outings, music and social support are all furnished free of charge in return for the child’s agreement to play in one of El Sistema’s ensembles.
Youth empowerment, ownership and peer support are fundamental components of the El Sistema philosophy. Children who have mastered a few scales are designated to teach younger children, and ensemble playing is emphasized from the outset. The children rehearse together six days a week in one of 90 “núcleos” around the country. Innumerable international organizations have endorsed El Sistema as a transformative educational program proven to have an extraordinary capacity to reduce levels of poverty, illiteracy, crime, drug use and exclusion among youth populations.
Dr. Abreu holds a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and his early education included studies in piano and composition at Venezuela’s leading conservatories. He has held a series of academic appointments and has served as Venezuelan Minister of State for Culture, Special Advisor to the Venezuelan National Economic Council, Deputy of the Venezuelan Congress and President of the National Council for Culture.
He has won several prestigious international awards, including the TED Prize, Venezuela’s National Music Prize, the Polar Music Prize and honorary memberships at the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Beethoven-Haus Society. In February 2008, Dr. Abreu was awarded Canada’s coveted Glenn Gould Prize for his untiring efforts to promote music as a tool for human development.
When he accepted the award, Dr. Abreu expressed his hope that his educational model might be applied throughout the world, enabling all children to participate in music as a human right, in order to build communities and help less fortunate youth.
For more information:
613-520-2600, ext. 8718