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José Antonio Abreu Receives Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class

1 AUG 2011

published in: Concert, General

Kulturministerin Dr. Claudia Schmied, José Antonio Abreu, Photo: Aleksandra Pawloff
“With his musical education program for children and teenagers in Venezuela, ‘El Sistema’, José Antonio Abreu has shown the world that music does not only touch the soul of children and teenagers, but that most importantly, social poverty is ameliorated and new chances to win self-confidence are opened up. With his social activism and talent as a politician, artist, economist and visionary, this social reformer sets an example for all of us. In the spirit of enlightenment, it is the first task of a society to enable people to become educated,” Dr. Claudia Schmied, Minister of Culture, emphasized at the award ceremony for José Antonio Abreu in Salzburg.

José Antonio Abreu was born on May 7, 1939 in Venezuela. He studied at the Music Academy (graduating in conducting, harpsichord, piano and organ performance) as well as the University in Caracas (graduating in law and political economy). He received a PhD in economics from the University Andrés Bello, subsequently completing postgraduate studies in oil economy at the University of Michigan. As a professor of economy and planning, he taught at the University Andrés Bello and at the Universidad Simón Bolívar. Apart from a political career as a member of parliament, minister of culture and president of the National Council of the Arts, he pursued a musical career as well. José Antonio Abreu has given numerous concerts as a conductor, harpsichordist, pianist and organist.

In 1975, the Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana Simón Bolívar and the Venezuelan youth orchestra system FESNOJIV (Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela), known commonly as “El Sistema”. The organization that calls itself Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar (FUNDAMUSICAL SIMÓN BOLÍVAR) today unites more than 250,000 members throughout the country in a system of pre-school orchestras (children aged 4-6), over 90 children’s orchestras (9- to 16-year-olds), over 130 youth orchestras (teenagers aged 16 to 20) and over 30 professional adult symphony orchestras. It is considered the largest musical youth education project throughout the world, combining musical excellence with social integration. It has produced international stars like Gustavo Dudamel and Alexis Cardenas. For his activism, José Antonio Abreu has received numerous awards, decorations and honorary doctorates, including the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany (2005), the Prince of Asturias Prize (2008), the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (2009) as well as the Polar Music Prize (2009).

The Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana Simón Bolívar performs two concerts at the 2011 Salzburg Festival. For more information please click here.