The following reflection by Eric Booth, Senior Advisor to the Sistema Fellows Program, appears in the Program's final report, to be published in November 2014.
Vision is both literal and metaphoric—both the capacity to perceive what is present and to see what is invisible or ready to appear. José Antonio Abreu is visionary in both meanings of the term.
For four decades, he has envisioned what is invisible but possible in Venezuela and other countries—ensemble music education centers in every city and town to transform the trajectory of young lives though the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence that is valued by their communities. His vision was initially seen as unrealistic—some thought he was crazy—but as more are drawn to sharing his vision, skepticism changes into commitment, and his vision manifests increasingly around the world. I recently asked him when he had the vision of Sistema spreading around the world. His answer, “I imagined this work growing around the world from the beginning, but it was impossible to proceed at the same time everywhere. So we had to wait patiently.” Waiting meant thirty years. And now the vision has blossomed in 57 countries, with the Sistema Fellows Program as the single most important leadership development program contributing to its growth.