Obituary José Antonio Abreu (1939-2018)

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By Maria Guinand

On Saturday, March 25, 2018, the distinguished Maestro José Antonio Abreu died in Caracas. His extraordinary legacy is known as El Sistema, which was conceived and founded by Abreu in 1975 to systematise the education and  practice of music through symphonic orchestras and choirs, as instruments of social organisation and humanistic development. This is a social and cultural project of the Venezuelan State. This pedagogical, artistic and social model, which has achieved relevance throughout the world, constitutes the program of social responsibility with the greatest impact in the history of Venezuela, through instruction and collective practice of music, dedicated to training, prevention and recovery of the most vulnerable groups in the country, both for their personal characteristics and their socioeconomic situation.

José Antonio Abreu, economist and musician, had a brilliant mind,  a very clear sense of his mission, a generosity and unlimited dedication, a great capacity for creative work and continuous struggle,  and all of this allowed him to sow orchestras and choirs to Venezuela, Latin America and the world.  Abreu's philosophy was always governed by very clear postulates, and some of them were:

Transformation
Whoever creates beauty by playing an instrument or singing. and generates musical harmony, begins to understand from within, what essential harmony is….that is, human harmony, which only music can communicate to human beings.

Revelation
God reveals  something ineffable, something that cannot be penetrated by rationality, that is only penetrable by intuition.
It is that young person, penetrated by music, challenged by the musical impulse and the tasks of the orchestra or the choir, who begins a psychological transformation.

Excellence
Arts implies a sense of perfection, therefore of excellence, through a sense of harmony and order, implicit in the rhythm, a sense of the aesthetic, the beautiful, the universal and the language of the invisible.

Agreement
What is an orchestra? what is a choir? an orchestra or a choir are  communities where the essential and exclusive feature is, that they are the only communities, that come together with the fundamental objective of agreeing within themselves
Agree on what?
To create beauty.

Human values
It is evident that music has to be recognized as an element of socialization, as an agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest social values, such as solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion and it has the ability to unite an entire community and express sublime feelings.

Leave the circle of poverty
The child who is materially poor, becomes spiritually rich and through this new richness, he can start to dream about a better future, he starts to fight with a new strength and internal energy, that material richness does not provide, and he begins to open his own road for life.
To think that this can be transmitted to every country in Latin America, that Venezuela can share this enterprise with the whole continent, we are witness to a profound transformation of the social history of our continent.

His project in Venezuela reaches more than 700,000 children and young people and has spread in more than 50 countries.
Great musicians, directors and pedagogues have been trained in the ranks of El Sistema.
José Antonio Abreu was undoubtedly an exceptional figure and his legacy will be continued and enriched by many generations of young people who have understood that through music they can effectively build spaces for social dialogue, coexistence and opportunities in all corners of the world .