#TBT El Sistema After José Abreu’s Death

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.

He will be sorely missed.

The Future Of Classical Music Is In Venezuela

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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