In 1975, maestro José Antonio Abreu began endeavoring to fulfill his dream of founding an orchestra wherein musical students were allowed to get together and practice. A 1964 official decree (which stated group practice as mandatory for public music schools’ students) encouraged the maestro and eight students of the old José Ángel Lamas music school to meet with the idea of conceiving a unique music education program by adapting other countries’ existing teaching methods to our own reality.
Calling more young musicians from Caracas and the interior of the country, particularly from the cities of Maracay and Barquisimeto (seedbed for Venezuelan musicians), Abreu was able to form the first National Symphony Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The orchestra was founded on February 12, 1975, making its debut that same year, on April 30. That day, the orchestra started an amazing career taking it to the best stages of Venezuela and the world and earning it a UNESCO International Music Award in recognition of outstanding perseverance and achievements, and for being an example to the youth of the world.
Just a year after its formation, the orchestra was recipient of many accolades at the Aberdeen International Festivals of Youth Orchestras, and over the course of the years has recorded albums in alliance with American and European labels, has successfully undertaken the challenge of performing with the most famous soloists as well as under the baton of the most renowned conductors.
The orchestra became a powerful magnet attracting young Venezuelans. Music found in the Symphony Youth Orchestra a means to reach other audiences: lower-income youngsters and public in general who have started to enjoy the beauty of a well-performed piece of Tchaikovsky, Mozart and/or Berlioz.
The Venezuelan orchestral phenomenon is deemed a miracle; however, the achievements fulfilled are the result of the constant effort and work ethic. José Antonio Abreu and El Sistema give example of what constant effort and dedication can accomplish.
The State Foundation for the National Youth and Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela was established on February 20, 1979 (Decree Nº 3039, Official Gazette Nº 31681) with the purpose of preparing highly qualified musicians and obtaining the finance required to execute plans, activities and programs.
The State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela (FESNOJIV) was founded in 1996 in order to promote and develop the youth and children’s orchestras formed or that may be formed by El Sistema across the country; as well as to implement activities and programs aiming at the education and training of the orchestra’s members.
In 2011, the FESNOJIV changed its name to Simón Bolívar Music Foundation. The foundation —attached to the Ministry of People's Power for the President's Office of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela— is the umbrella organization for the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela, the local and regional youth and children’s orchestras, the choral and chamber ensembles born out of El Sistema program, as well as the academic centers and those units that provide operational support.
From a functional, educational, artistic and administrative point of view, El Sistema is made up of Núcleos operating in many cities and towns of Venezuela, thus integrating a complex and systematic network encompassing more than 150 youth orchestras and 70 children’s orchestras.
In the last two decades, the regional symphony orchestras emerged from El Sistema have become independent state-funded organizations which have joined together in the Federation of Regional Symphony Orchestras of Venezuela.