University of Cambridge > > Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars > Citizens or Subjects? El Sistema in Critical Perspective

Citizens or Subjects? El Sistema in Critical Perspective

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Two of the main pillars of the Venezuelan youth orchestra program El Sistema are founder José Antonio Abreu’s claim that “when you train musicians you train better citizens,” and conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s statement that “the best example there is of what a community can be is the orchestra.” This paper examines these ideas in the light of the speaker’s research in Venezuela and academic studies of orchestras, music education, and citizenship.

Geoff Baker is a Professor in the Music Department at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Director of the Institute of Musical Research. His books include Imposing Harmony: Music and Society in Colonial Cuzco (Duke, 2008), which won the American Musicological Society’s Robert Stevenson Award; Buena Vista in the Club: Rap, Reggaetón, and Revolution in Havana (Duke, 2011); and El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (OUP, 2014). He made a series of films about childhood music learning in Cuba and Venezuela ( He recently guest-edited Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education (15, no. 1, January 2016) on the topic of El Sistema (

This talk is part of the Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars series.

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