While the nature, architecture and scope of the
Center for Social Action Through Music is breathtaking in itself, the truest form of beauty
happened in our candid discussion with Rodrigo Guerrero in an office space (which, of
course, doubles as a rehearsal room) inside of the building.
We were talking about El Sistema's developing stages of assessment and evaluation to gain hard data revealing the program's success. Monique asked Rodrigo to speak not of numbers, but what it was that made him believe the program was working in terms of strengthening communities. He told us a story of a doctor in Barquisimeto who grew up in El Sistema playing the trumpet. While he did not pursue music as a career, he valued the importance of music and El Sistema in the lives of the people in his community. Barquisimeto is also home to one of the larger Sistema programs for children with special needs, including deaf children.
Over the past several years, this particular doctor has arranged for deaf students from the nucleo to receive cochlear implants FOR FREE. The doctors and nurses donate their time, and the cochlear implant manufacturers donate the devices. This is how Rodrigo knows the system is working. It has nothing to do with improved grades or school attendance (though the numbers do stack up in those categories); it's about the impact Sistema has on molding citizens who care about their communities. It's about creating a culture of love, respect and service.
Continue reading about our first day in Venezuela on my personal blog.
Sistema Fellow '13