Haiti launches a music initiative modelled on Venezuela’s El Sistema

The Haitian government champions classical music for the young

Haiti’s government has launched a new project to provide music education for all ages and to encourage the formation of youth orchestras across the country. Inspiration for the initiative comes from the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, the hugely successful product of Venezuela’s El Sistema programme.

The new scheme has the support of the Haitian president Michel Martelly, himself a musician, who was impressed after watching the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra perform in Venezuela last year. And the Haiti government now hopes to generate social development in a similar way. Culture minister Mario Dupuy believes that getting children to practice music is the ‘surest ways to give them confidence’.

The project’s opening ceremony at the Karibe Convention Center in Pétion-Ville was attended by Andrez Gonsalez, a delegate of El Sistema. He has pledged the support of the Venezuelan government, highlighting its potential to help children express themselves and become ‘true creators’. Run in partnership with Haiti’s National Institute of Music, the initiative – which is being led by Haitian musician Raoul Denis and his sister Pascale Dennis de Moquete – will be piloted in the Dopalais region of the country, before beginning in others.

El Sistema, which was founded in Venezuela in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, now oversees 125 youth orchestras throughout the country. Outlying the original project’s aims, Abreu stated: ‘Music has to be recognised as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion’.

In addition to the initiative in Haiti, El Sistema has influenced the creation of similar schemes in Scotland and a number of South American countries.

Rosie Pentreath