A Unique Social and Musical Development
Sistema Australia is a national initiative that offers orchestral training and performance programs for children in disadvantaged communities giving them the opportunity to partake in a rich and powerful music program through participation in orchestras and choirs. The programs use the “community” of the orchestra as an ideal example of social life, where everybody works together in a disciplined and organised manner to strive towards a common and beautiful goal.
Each program sees a unique collaboration between Sistema Australia and various local, national, and philanthropic organisations to provide children with exceptional after school musical training each day after school, with an emphasis on performance and rich cultural experiences.
Learning to play a musical instrument and gaining skills through music reading, singing and performance are important cognitive processes which are understood to enhance children's abilities in other areas of learning — particularly in literacy, numeracy, and memory.
As well as developing impressive musical skills, artistic sensitivity and expressive capabilities, children in Sistema Australia programs are able to gain valuable life skills such as teamwork, self-esteem, patience, discipline, respect and concentration.
El Sistema is a process formed by fundamental principals, as established over the many years of the Venezuelan program. This has been refined down to the very basics of the program which set it apart from any other “system”:
- Social Change – The primary objective is social transformation through the pursuit of musical excellence. One happens through the other, and neither is prioritised at the expense of the other;
- Ensembles – the focus of El Sistema is the orchestra and/or choral experience;
- Frequency – El Sistema ensembles meet multiple times every week over extended periods;
- Accessibility – El Sistema programs are free, and are not selective in admission; and,
- Connectivity – Every nucleo (Sistema music school) is linked at the urban, regional and national levels, forming a cohesive network of services and opportunities for students across the country.
(Ref.: "The Five Fundamentals of El Sistema" — by Jonathan Govias, Abreu Fellow - Canadian Music Educator Journal, September 2011)
To establish a sustainable, national, community-based music and social development program, based upon the principles of El Sistema, for Australian Children – particularly those living in disadvantaged communities — and in doing so, to inspire Australian children to achieve their full potential, acquiring lifelong values that have a positive impact on themselves and society.
Our vision is for a positive transformation of the arts, education and social sectors through a cooperative and inspirational approach to childhood learning, in order to strengthen communities and nurture a new generation of creative, engaged and responsible citizens.
Our Goals – Social and Artistic
To provide children with valuable self-development tools for enhancing self-esteem, creativity, cooperative learning skills and academic success.
To invest in the local community by encouraging participation through performances and events, and by providing children with skills for future employment opportunities.
To offer a safe and positive learning environment for children, supporting their musical training through quality instruction and a range of participatory opportunities.
About El Sistema – The Origins of the Program
Sistema Australia’s programs are based on “El Sistema” — "The System" — from Venezuela in South America. Established by a Venezuelan economist and classical pianist, Jose Antonio Abreu, he sought to bring his love of beautiful classical music to children in Venezuela, especially those from the "Barrios" or slums of the major cities there. He started the very first youth orchestra in Venezuela and from that creation of a small children's orchestra back in 1975, it grew to a Venezuela-wide, 300,000-strong, children children's and youth orchestra and choir federation — supporting over 300 orchestras and choirs daily.
The System is supported by a range of government and international sourced funding — the Inter American Development Bank (IADB), who financed a $150,000,000 support program to develop and extend El Sistema within Venezuela, from its current 300,000 to over a million children. The IADB established that for every dollar spent on the program, it yields $1.34 back in social dividends, staving off future social problems including drug and alcohol abuse, and violent crime prevalent in the poorer parts of Venezuela.
El Sistema has now spread around the world, with pilot programs underway in the USA, Scotland, England, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Austria and several South American countries. There are over 40 separate projects in the USA alone.
While Australia has quite different conditions than Venezuela, similar issues also severely affect our country — poverty, social inequity and youth disassociation are increasing, particularly in our ever-expanding urban environments, which lead to similar negative effects to those experienced in many countries around the world, including Australia.