Transforming El Sistema

Last week, I was invited to attend a very special event for In Harmony England; the screening of a new short film called ‘Transposing El Sistema’. This film focused on the work of El Sistema and how it is now being implemented or ‘transposed’ to Britain.

As many will know, the In Harmony Sistema England charity is working with Sistema-inspired programmes to help children whose backgrounds would not normally afford them the opportunity to study music.

The project began in Venezuela nearly 40 years ago and has produced a whole generation whose lives have been completely transformed by music, both by learning to play instruments and being involved in the whole music process. The conductor, Gustavo Dudamel is probably the most well-known musician to have attended the scheme. Children are taught singing and how to play orchestral instruments in groups and are then encouraged to participate in Sistema orchestras and choirs, benefitting from the whole experience of working together, building bridges through music.

There is no doubt that this brilliant concept is as successful as it is inspired, and one which is now working here in the UK. It was first introduced in Scotland and there are at present six projects running here in England too.

The event last Wednesday was introduced by British cellist and  Chairman of In Harmony, Julian Lloyd Webber. He spoke passionately about the importance of In Harmony and  the inspired work undertaken by all those associated with the project. Excting new developments were presented which are taking place in the scheme namely a cooperation agreement with El Sistema:

‘The charity will support the Sistema-inspired programmes in England in an effort to adopt and adapt to the English context the values, principles and methodologies of the Venezuelan El Sistema programme of social action through music.’

The idea is to build and expand on the schemes already in place by constantly adding to them,  so that eventually it will be possible to establish El Sistema-inspired programmes throughout the country. What a great idea. Music tuition has so many benefits and due to this project, it now has the possibility to help society as a whole too. The film ‘Transposing El Sistema’ was very informative and will no doubt be an important vehicle for In Harmony’s message. We all enjoyed a performance given by some of the children in the Lambeth scheme, who introduced and played works arranged for string quartet.

In Harmony need financial support. They also require a constant supply of instruments so that all the children are able to have their own. If you have a dusty old violin or flute languishing in a case in your attic then please consider donating it.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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