Gustavo Dudamel was five when he already had his own orchestra. He played a vinyl record with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony on his father´s turntable, and waved his arms holding his baton —a piece of wire—, to conduct the dolls that he had carefully arranged around his grandmother´s courtyard. He was as passionate and enthusiastic as he is today conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Thirty years later, his relatives and friends from the popular district in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, are no longer Gustavo´s audience. This Sunday, February 7th, more than one hundred million people from all latitudes will enjoy his and the young musicians´ talent in the mid-time show of the Super Bowl. There, in one of the biggest sporting events with a global audience, this humble origin man who benefited from the System of Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, will share the stage with the British band Coldplay.
What will happen is exciting because the musicians that will be conducted by his baton are boys and girls from the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), an orchestra founded by Dudamel in 2007, composed by many Hispanic children: another example of the Latin talent in the world, but also of the transforming power of education. It is undeniable the perseverance, discipline, and development of socio-emotional skills, including strengthening of self-confidence, that students get by receiving musical training.
When young people gather together with a common purpose, one as noble as music, making individual contributions is fundamental to achieve excellent results. The commitment of its members, being on time for rehearsals, studying scores, listening, and being disciplined are keys to breaking the vicious circle of violence and poverty.
There are also results that demonstrate this. The extended day program of the Ministry of Education of Bogota, called Canta, Bogota, Canta!, has benefited nearly 17,500 children and young people from vulnerable sectors of the Colombian capital.
The growing Latin American middle class and the world in increasingly demanding cultural property associated to the creative industries. In the region, this type of industry, have only a 5.4% of the GDP, in contrast to countries like the United States, which is 11.1%, Australia with 10.3% and South Korea with 8.7%. With this world scenario, the impact of musical training in public schools could go further and allow a better transition from school to work.
At the IDB we are committed to expanding opportunities for more students who, as Dudamel, will develop their musical talent but for a growing world of screens and interactive platforms, eager to receive emerging talent. Thus, in partnership with the prestigious Berklee College of Music, we are developing tools that are easily adaptable to the musical training curriculum. These aim to strengthen local capacity institutions that focus on students aged 13 to 19 years of vulnerable populations. Whoever embraces a musical instrument with difficulty will wield a weapon or fall into vicious activities. That is our conviction and one of our biggest bets.
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Emiliana Vegas, Chief of the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank
*This article was originally published by El Universal.