El Sistema – key resources

Now that I’ve written many articles and over a hundred blog posts on El Sistema, the amount of information has got out of control. Below, you can find a handy guide to key resources in one place. I update this list from time to time.

NB: this is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the field, but rather a shortcut to key information on this website and a few academic and journalistic perspectives that I find particularly valuable. Sistema nerds can find a lot more information at my El Sistema blog.

Academic articles by the author:

[journal articles: you may contact me privately for a copy if you do not have online access via a university. There are some drafts on Academia.edu and Researchgate, but it’s much better to read the final version]

BAKER, G. (2018) El Sistema, ‘The Venezuelan Musical Miracle’: The Construction of a Global Myth. Latin American Music Review, 39(2), 160-93.

(Revised and translated into Spanish as El Sistema, “El milagro musical venezolano”: La construcción de un mito global. Trópico Absoluto, 24 October 2020)

BAKER, G., BULL, A. & TAYLOR, M. (2018) Who watches the watchmen? Evaluating evaluations of El Sistema. British Journal of Music Education, 35(3), 255-69.

BAKER, G. & FREGA, A. L. (2018) ‘Producing musicians like sausages’: New perspectives on the history and historiography of Venezuela’s El Sistema. Music Education Research, 20(4), 502-516.

BAKER, G. (2016a) Editorial Introduction: El Sistema in critical perspective. Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 10–32.

BAKER, G. (2016b) Citizens or subjects? El Sistema in critical perspective. In D. Elliott, W. Bowman, & M. Silverman (eds.), Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility, and Ethical Praxis (pp. 313–38). New York: Oxford University Press.

BAKER, G. (2016c) Antes de pasar página: Conectando los mundos paralelos de El Sistema y la investigación crítica. Revista Internacional de Educación Musical, 4, 51–60.

BAKER, G. & FREGA, A. L. (2016) Los reportes del BID sobre El Sistema: Nuevas perspectivas sobre la historia y la historiografía del Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela. Epistemus: Revista De Estudios En Música, Cognición Y Cultura, 4(2), 54-83. 

BAKER, G. (2015) El Sistema: the Future of Classical Music? In S. Dorin, ed., Déchiffrer les publics de la musique classique / Unraveling classical music audiences. Paris: Éditions des Archives Contemporaines.

BAKER, G. (2014). El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth. New York: Oxford University Press.

Selected academic articles by other authors:

ALLAN, J. et al. (2010) Knowledge Exchange with Sistema Scotland. Journal of Education Policy, 25(3), 335–47.

BATES, V. (2016) Foreword: How can music educators address poverty and inequality? Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 1–9.

BULL, A. (2016) El Sistema as a bourgeois social project: Class, gender, and Victorian values. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 120–53.

DOBSON, N. (2016) Hatching plans: Pedagogy and discourse within an El Sistema-inspired program. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 89–119.

FINK, R. (2016) Resurrection symphony: El Sistema as ideology in Venezuela and Los Angeles. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 33–57.

GODWIN, L. (2020) El Sistema in Australia: Risk, aspiration and promise. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343002117.

HOPKINS, M., PROVENZANO, A., AND SPENCER, M. (2017) Benefits, challenges, characteristics and instructional approaches in an El Sistema inspired after-school string program developed as a university–school partnership in the United States. International Journal of Music Education 35(2), 239-258.

LOGAN, O. (2015a) Doing well in the eyes of capital: Cultural transformation from Venezuela to Scotland. In J–A. McNeish, A. Borchgrevink and O. Logan (eds.), Contested Powers: The Politics of Energy and Development (pp. 216–253). London: Zed Books.

LOGAN, O. (2015b) Hand in Glove: El Sistema and Neoliberal Research. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287202150.

LOGAN, O. (2016) Lifting the veil: A realist critique of Sistema’s upwardly mobile path. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 58–88.

PEDROZA, L. (2015) Of orchestras, mythos, and the idealization of symphonic practice: The Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela in the (collateral) history of El Sistema. Latin American Music Review, 36(1), 68–93.

RIMMER, M. (2018) Harmony or Discord? Understanding children’s valuations of a Sistema-inspired initiative. British Journal of Music Education, 35(1), 43-55.

RIMMER, M. (2020) Too Big to Fail? The Framing and Interpretation of ‘Success’/‘Failure’ in Cultural Participation Policy: A Case Study. Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation, 7(2). https://www.sciendo.com/article/10.7146/tjcp.v7i2.119747

ROSABAL–COTO, G. (2016) Costa Rica’s SINEM: A perspective from postcolonial institutional ethnography. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 15(1), 154–87.

SCRIPP, L. (2015) The Need to Testify: A Venezuelan Musician’s Critique of El Sistema and His Call for Reform. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/285598399.

SHIEH, E. (2015) Relationship, rescue, and culture: How El Sistema might work. In C. Benedict et al. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education (pp. 567–81). New York: Oxford University Press.

SPRUCE, G. (2017) The power of discourse: reclaiming social justice from and for music education. Education 3-13, 45(6), 720-33.

WALD, G. (2009) Los dilemas de la inclusión a través del arte: tensiones y ambigüedades puestas en escena. Oficios Terrestres no. 24. http://sedici.unlp.edu.ar/handle/10915/44998.

WALD, G. (2017) Orquestas juveniles con fines de inclusión social. De identidades, subjetividades y transformación social. Revista foro de educación musical, artes y pedagogía, 2(2), 59–81.

Media articles by the author:

The disturbing noise coming out of El Sistema. Caracas Chronicles, 24 June 2021.

The ‘open secret’ of sexual abuse in Venezuela’s famous youth orchestra program is finally exposed. The Washington Post, 27 May 2021.

El Sistema, “El milagro musical venezolano”: La construcción de un mito global. Trópico Absoluto, 24 October 2020.

No, Venezuela’s much-hyped El Sistema music programme is not a hotbed of political resistance. The Conversation, 7 July 2017.

Big noise in Raploch? Scottish Review, 21 June 2017.

Too little, too late: Venezuelans respond to Gustavo Dudamel. VAN magazine, 11 May 2017.

Authoritarian El Sistema. VAN magazine, 21 January 2016.

Is El Sistema a busted flush? Classical Music, 4 February 2016.

The Simón Bolívar Orchestra – why we should look beyond the music. The Guardian, 13 January 2015.

El Sistema – a model of tyranny? The Guardian, 11 November 2014.

Selected media articles by other authors:

A History of Sexual Abuse in Venezuela’s Lauded Youth Orchestra System. Caracas Chronicles, 1 July 2021.

La falsa filantropía de Salinas Pliego. [detailed investigation of Mexico’s Sistema-inspired Esperanza Azteca]

José Antonio Abreu y los límites del populismo musical. The New York Times, 6 April 2018.

From Apostle to Apostate. Jonathan Govias, 1 December 2017.

“All that matters is how good it sounds.” VAN magazine, 21 January 2016.

Sceptic’s Sistema. Classical Music, 30 June 2012.

The Philanthropic Ogre. Exceso, March 1994.

CONAC: Toccata and Fugue. Viernes, 21 September 1990.

Key blog posts by the author:

(most recent first)

El Sistema is dead! Long live Sistema!

A model of social inclusion for the world?

7 things to know about the IDB graphic

Is anyone paying attention to the big issues?

Abreu’s phantom PhD

Writing El Sistema’s history

José Antonio Abreu: musician, philanthropist, ogre, caudillo

Professionalization or rescuing the poor? The origins of El Sistema (in Abreu’s own words)

IDB study sheds doubt on El Sistema’s claims of social inclusion and transformation (short version)

Before you turn the page: Connecting the parallel worlds of Sistema and critical scholarship

ESOVY’s first birthday: some reflections

On bullshit and El Sistema

Censorship and self-censorship in the Sistema sphere

Inside the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra

Abreu, Chávez, and oil

Music education, discipline, and profit

How big is El Sistema?

Scam, Voodoo, or The Future of Music? The El Sistema Debate

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