Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On El Sistema generalizations

When asking the question "What is El Sistema?", or "What is its essence?" I noticed people usually have their mindsets framed in what they are familiar with, and that leads to certain generalizations. Preset ideas of methods, curriculum, schooling, arts policy, and many others come to mind.  I am uneasy with the idea of generalizations. Early on I noticed that detaching from the usual U.S. generalizing mindsets would be a big challenge.  I understand they are sometimes a strategy to give order to our thoughts, but I would think that in order to understand the essence of El Sistema the first step would be not to try to fit it into any of our regular generalizations.  Think out of the box.  Now, really, get out of the box.

A couple of weeks ago, José Antonio Abreu explained to us –the Abreu Fellows–  the origin of the "El Sistema" brand, which has to do more with Venezuelan government bureaucracy than its organizational structure. Furthermore, Abreu called it a permanent ser no-ser todavía –"not-yet-being being".  That idea alone may define the essence of El Sistema....but even still has to think outside of that box.   As we have been getting deeper in exploring the Venezuelan Orchestra System, I realize that not even the ser no-ser-todavía statement cannot be taken as a generalization of how things work here.  

In my next blogs I will try describe with examples and try to explain our expericences.  This trip started on Febrary 18th with the 10 Fellows in Caracas, and now continued in the Guárico province, right in the center of Venezuela, where along with 3 more of the Fellows, we have visited multiple programs and met amazing people, young musicians and leaders.  (I hope I can blog more frequently, sometimes internet is spotty here, and most times, we are out and about.  No time to stop and turn on the computer!)

I don't think I will come up with the right words to give a definite answer to the question of what is the essence of El Sistema.  For one thing, because any example that I describe here will be soon outdated.  Things evolve freely and fast around here.  And then, as much as we are trying to catch as much of the essence of El Sistema in Guárico, any idea that I write here which may be seen as a generalization, will be challenged by what we find in the next province we visit.

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