José Antonio Abreu, Venezuelan Musical Visionary, Dies at 78

José Antonio Abreu, who conveyed free traditional music lessons to kids in some of Venezuela’s poorest regions, made a generally copied arrangement of youth ensembles and saw his protégé, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, win worldwide approval, passed on Saturday in Caracas. He was 78.


His demise was declared by the Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation, which runs the program he established, El Sistema. He had been sick for quite a long while.

Mr. Abreu, a financial specialist and performer who converted for what he called the “social mission of workmanship,” may have embarked to utilize traditional music as a way to connect with the young of Venezuela, yet he ended up putting Venezuelan artists onto some of established music’s driving stages.

One result of the program, Mr. Dudamel, is currently the music executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and one of the world’s most looked for after conductors. The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, which Mr. Abreu established, has opened the season at Carnegie Hall and played at the Salzburg Festival and the Lucerne Festival, among different lofty engagements.

“He gave me the arcana of music with a similar energy with which he showed me that the privilege to magnificence is natural,” Mr. Dudamel said in an announcement, in which he called Mr. Abreu “a motivation, a craftsman, a companion, a father, and an educator.”

Be that as it may, Mr. Abreu and El Sistema have additionally drawn feedback now and again to be firmly attached to Venezuela’s pioneers, whom they depended on for money related help. The program was supported for quite a long time under divergent Venezuelan organizations, yet turned out to be especially connected with Hugo Chávez, the polarizing, populist president who kicked the bucket in 2013. It was then grasped by his successor, President Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuelans Criticize Hugo Chávez’s Support of El Sistema FEB. 17, 2012

That relationship has seemed stressed as of late. After Mr. Dudamel criticized the administration’s savage crackdowns on road challenges a year ago, the legislature scratched off two voyages through Venezuelan ensembles he had intended to lead.

Whenever Mr. Abreu established what might move toward becoming El Sistema in 1975, few would have anticipated that it would turned into a noteworthy player in both traditional music and Venezuelan legislative issues. He had a tendency to portray its main goal as guided as much by social equity as melodic aspiration.

“For me, the most imperative need was to offer access to music to destitute individuals,” Mr. Abreu revealed to The New York Times Magazine in 2007. “As a performer, I had the aspiration to see a poor tyke play Mozart. For what reason not? Why pack in one class the benefit of playing Mozart and Beethoven? The high melodic culture of the world must be a typical culture, some portion of the training of everybody.”

José Antonio Abreu was conceived in Valera, Venezuela, on May 7, 1939, and started considering the piano when he was 9; he went ahead to examine structure, the organ, the harpsichord and leading. Be that as it may, he at first made his vocation as a market analyst and an organizer, gaining a degree at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, filling in as an educator and later serving in government as a culture serve. Be that as it may, he saw El Sistema as his labor of love.

He cut a delicate, to some degree self-denying figure: He quit drinking liquor in the wake of having stomach surgery for ulcers in 1973, and later surrendered chocolate, which was depicted as his one liberality, subsequent to learning he had diabetes. He frequently wore a woolen jacket, even in the Venezuelan warmth.

Be that as it may, he knew how to utilize the levers of energy.

El Sistema developed from a social affair of 11 youthful performers to a young ensemble to an across the country arrangement of youth symphonies and choirs. It set up music focuses, called núcleos, all through the country, offering free melodic direction to a huge number of kids, and it shaped a system of youth and kids’ ensembles and choirs for its young understudies to perform in. Its maxim, “Tocar y Luchar,” or “to play and to battle,” proposes the feeling of battle that penetrates its ethos.

Its prosperity brought overall consideration and imitators: There are presently youth ensembles propelled by El Sistema in excess of 70 countries, incorporating a few in the United States, including the eager OrchKids program in Baltimore and the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, or YOLA.

Deborah Borda became acquainted with Mr. Abreu when she drove the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she set up YOLA and employed Mr. Dudamel. “It was through the sheer power of his identity and assurance that El Sistema came into life,” said Ms. Borda, who is currently the president and CEO of the New York Philharmonic. She included: “He changed my life — also truly a great many others all through the world.”

In any case, there have likewise been pundits. In a 2014 book called “El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth,” Geoffrey Baker, who educates in the music office at Royal Holloway, University of London, took an impressively dimmer perspective of the program and its organizer, discovering it “a misty association, skirting on the shrouded” and a “religion of initiative.”

Data on Mr. Abreu’s survivors was not quickly accessible.

It was not clear what might occur by El Sistema, now that its author is dead and its most acclaimed graduate, Mr. Dudamel, has crossed paths with the Maduro administration. Mr. Abreu had ventured down from running El Sistema as of late in light of sickness.

President Maduro paid praise to Mr. Abreu on Twitter, composing that he would proceed with his inheritance. El Sistema, as far as concerns its, said on its site that it would keep “playing, singing and battling” — in his respect.

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