Social Action Through Music blog

The Dream Unstarted: El Sistema’s discordant notes

The Inter-American Development Bank identified El Sistema’s excessive centralization in Caracas as a key weakness when it became involved with the Venezuelan youth orchestra scheme in the late 1990s. In 2007, the bank made a loan to finance the construction of high-spec music centres in seven regional cities in order to decentralize the program. The… Read More

¡Ya disponible! “Replanteando la acción social por la música”

Existe una narrativa de acción social por la música (ASPM) que resulta familiar en el Norte global: el programa orquestal venezolano El Sistema, creado en 1975, irrumpió en la escena musical clásica internacional en 2007 con el debut de la Orquesta Juvenil Simón Bolívar en los Proms, dando lugar a un movimiento global inspirado en… Read More

“Engineering” social action through music

In a recent study carried out in Colombia, Cespedes-Guevara and Dibben (2021) found that a year of training in a classical music instrumental program had no significant effect on prosociality or empathy. Their results echo those of other studies of similar programs, such as Alemán et al. (2017) on El Sistema in Venezuela, and Ilari… Read More

Media coverage of El Sistema sexual abuse allegations

There has been considerable media coverage of the sexual abuse allegations coming out of El Sistema. I wrote an article for Caracas Chronicles, and the site’s editors wrote a second one, available in both English and Spanish. There have been investigative reports in Clarín (Argentina), ABC (Spain), and BR-Klassik (Germany). The story has also been… Read More

Article in the Washington Post

On 27 May, an article that I co-authored with William Cheng appeared in the Washington Post. It tackles a difficult subject that I have been investigating for a decade: sexual harassment and abuse within Venezuela’s El Sistema. The story was followed up by Norman Lebrecht on Slipped Disc. This is not the first time that… Read More

In praise of conflict

Conflict is a good thing. This is, in essence, the message of Conflicted, a new book by Ian Leslie. Conflict can draw us together, make us smarter, and inspire us to be more creative. It can “force people to consider other perspectives, think more deeply about what they’re trying to accomplish, and fertilise new ideas.”… Read More

Doing things differently

What does a mentorship program for troubled boys in 1940s Boston, USA, have in common with a social dancing program for older adults in 2010s Sydney, Australia? Both were assumed to benefit participants, and both were subjected to randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which discovered—to the researchers’ surprise and even consternation—that the programs did not have… Read More

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