Saturday, 3/24/2018 was a sad day with the news that El Sistema founder José Abreu passed away.
I was fortunate to experience the program first-hand in 2005 (thanks to Ben Zander and the New England Conservatory Youth Orchestra for inviting me along to chronicle their tour). That visit included an interview Abreu, which became the source for an article in a four-part series about El Sistema.
Back in 2005, Venezuela was controlled by Hugo Chávez, an authoritarian figure that structured the government to his will, the very same government that provided El Sistema’s funding.
A soft-spoken man by nature, I was particularly interested in learning more about how Abreu planned on navigating those turbulent political waters. At the time, we did have an off the record exchange and while there is no reason to violate that trust, it is safe to say that Abreu’s ability to remain focused on larger goals served him well throughout his long and fruitful journey.