English El Sistema project announced

16 July 2012, 17:09 | Updated: 16 July 2012, 17:12

The Venezuelan ‘El Sistema’ project has encouraged children from disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in classical music. Now a similar project is launching in England.

Children across England will be encouraged to make music together in four new youth orchestras, as part of the In Harmony programme, inspired by Venezuela’s famous El Sistema project. Orchestras in Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham and Telford & Wrekin will be awarded funding by the Arts Council and the Department of Education from September 2012 to March 2015.

The project aims is to bring positive change to disadvantaged areas, using classical music to change the lives of children, focusing on music-making and teamwork. Founder of the Venezuelan scheme, Jose Antonio Abreu, has recognised the English project for sharing the aims and values of his original programme, founded in 1975.

Julian Lloyd Webber, founder of In Harmony, said the four new projects were inspirational. “I am confident that the organisations that we have selected will embrace the spirit of El Sistema and will work tirelessly to bring positive change to the children and their communities,” he said.

Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Alan Davey, said he was extremely excited about the new commissions, which also include financial investments towards the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Lambeth Council.

“Every child and young person should have the opportunity to experience the excellence, aspiration and richness the arts can offer,” he said. “What we offer young people needs to enable them to engage with something that is really excellent and stretches their ambition.”

While the aim is to stretch young people and provide exciting opportunities, the emphasis is on music-making rather than technical excellence. Children do not need to master a high level on their instrument before joining, as the focus is on taking part together as a community.

The English In Harmony programme follows the launch of a similar Scottish Sistema-inspired project, Big Noise. Children from Stirling's Raploch estate performed with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela at the launch of the London 2012 festival in June.