Longy Forms Alliance with El Sistema to Bring Music Education to All

March 26, 2013

El Sistema founder Jose Antonio Abreu, Bard President Leon Botstein, FundaMusial Executive Director Eduardo Mendez, and Longy President Karen Zorn
President Zorn presents Maestro Abreu with a violin — a symbolic gesture of the newly formed partnership — during the signing ceremony.

Cambridge, MA: Longy School of Music of Bard College took a giant step to advance its mission of using music to effect social change on Friday, March 22, by formalizing a partnership with Venezuela's groundbreaking music education organization, FundaMusical. Known colloquially as El Sistema, FundaMusical provides a route out of poverty and hopelessness for over 400,000 children throughout Venezuela. Founded in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema is the most successful program of its kind in the world, operating on an unprecedented scale.

Friday's agreement, signed by FundaMusical Executive Director Eduardo Mendez and Longy and Bard Presidents Karen Zorn and Leon Botstein, was endorsed by Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director, Anita Walker, who traveled to Caracas to deliver a proclamation of support for the alliance from Governor Deval Patrick. Commenting on the partnership, Walker said,  "Massachusetts will benefit enormously from this partnership, as Longy prepares the next generation of musicians to bring music into the lives of thousands of children all around the state."  Commenting on the alliance, Abreu declared Longy "The ideal organization to advance El Sistema's mission in Venezuela and the United States."

Founded 38 years ago in in Caracas, El Sistema has demonstrated the power of music education to dramatically alter the trajectory of children's lives. Its best-known "graduate" is Gustavo Dudamel, Grammy-award winning Musical Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As a result of his success, today thousands of children across the South American nation dream of growing up to become musicians and conductors. 

Over the next decade, El Sistema plans to expand its efforts severalfold, in Venezuela and around globe. That growth will require the development of a large corps of music teachers with the skills to launch and build music-based programs of social change tailored to each country. Under the agreement, both organizations pledge to partner in the development and implementation of programming to advance the work of El Sistema in the United States. In addition to supporting the newly-launched Longy-Bard Master of Arts in Teaching—the only degree program in the world to offer graduate-level training in the principles of El Sistema—the two institutions are discussing the coordination of student exchanges and residencies in Venezuela and the United States, performances, and teacher training opportunities including online courses and resource libraries.

Longy President, Karen Zorn said, “Longy and Bard are joined by a heritage of socially-conscious learning, and by a commitment to training musicians to make a difference in the world by sharing and participating in the values of El Sistema. We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with FundaMusical, the true pioneers of this remarkable teaching philosophy. By combining flagship initiatives like the MAT with local resources, including regional El Sistema teaching workshops and community music concerts, Longy is demonstrating the potential for moving people and institutions toward a new model of music education and community accessibility for the United States."

The agreement with FundaMusical is a natural extension of Longy’s existing El Sistema-based bi-coastal alliance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Bard College, TAKE A STAND. Launched in January, 2012, TAKE A STAND is focused on finding new ways to support and grow music as an agent for social change through international convenings and the Master of Arts in Teaching in music in Los Angeles.

The signing concludes Longy’s weeklong tour of FundaMusical and its programs. Trip highlights included a tour of regional nucleos, or El Sistema teaching sites, a visit to the National Center for Social Action Through Music, and a concert of Venezuela’s national Orchestra Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas, conducted by Leon Botstein.

About Longy School of Music of Bard College

Longy School of Music of Bard College, founded as Longy School of Music in 1915 by renowned oboist Georges Longy, is a degree-granting Conservatory and school of Preparatory and Continuing Studies located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school serves 225 undergraduate and graduate students from 37 states and 21 countries, and nearly 1,000 children and adults from the Greater Boston area. For all students, Longy provides a distinguished faculty that promotes profound musical understanding and technical mastery, encourages growth of imagination, and fosters inquiry about the role of music and the musician in the larger world. With a curriculum rooted in the traditions of Western music, Longy’s mission is to prepare musicians to make a difference in the world.

About the Fundación Musical Simón Bolivar

The Fundación Musical Simón Bolivar currently serves over 400,000 students across Venezuela, in an orchestra system that includes more than 1550 music agrupations distributed in 286 academic centers. Seventy-five percent of these children live below the poverty line. “For the children that we work with, music is practically the only way to a dignified social destiny.Poverty means loneliness, sadness, anonymity. An orchestra means joy, motivation, teamwork, the aspiration to success.” (José Antonio Abreu). Transcending its cultural role, Fundación Musical Simón Bolivar employs over 15,000 individuals whose talents and skills include training in instrument making, arts administration, and news media.


For media inquiries please contact:

Eliahu Sussman
Associate Director of Marketing & Communications
617.876.0956 x1791 or eliahu.sussman(at)