Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell MSP hailed Venezuelan social and musical visionary Maestro José Antonio Abreu at a world gathering of music teachers in Stirling today.

150 teachers from 28 countries are attending a four-day conference hosted by the charity Sistema Scotland with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland.

The conference aims to pool expertise and ideas from around the world.

The teachers, all from social action programmes inspired by Venezuela's El Sistema movement, are spending time observing the work of the Big Noise orchestras in Raploch, Stirling and Govanhill, Glasgow.

In a keynote address to the delegates: Education Secretary Michael Russell said:

“Music plays a vitally important role in education and Sistema Scotland’s work is a great example of how cultural activity can deliver real, on the ground benefits to communities and wider society. I look forward to participating in this conference, which is enabling international colleagues from the Sistema family to come together to learn from each other.

“We thank Maestro José Antonio Abreu, the founder of Sistema, and Venezuela for giving the world this extraordinary idea, which has already made a huge positive impact across Scotland.”

The El Sistema approach teaches children to play together in orchestras. While the most obvious triumphs are musical the main aim is to equip children to succeed across all areas of their lives. They gain confidence,patience and resilience from taking part.

Earlier delegates were welcomed with a video message from the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema’s most famous son.

He said: “this programme, El Sistema, that is now spread around the world is giving inspiration to many children. It is most important in our times to bring beauty, to bring hope, to bring peace and to bring love. Lets keep working to bring this message to more people around the world.”

This week’s conference cements Raploch’s reputation as a major international hub for the sharing of El Sistema expertise.

Delegates are attending the conference from programmes in: Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam and Wales.

Kerry Watson, Associations Marketing Manager at VisitScotland, said: “The VisitScotland Conference Bid Fund has supported association conferences of all sizes throughout Scotland, boosting the country’s economy by millions of pounds in the process. We are proud to have helped bring the World Gathering of El Eistema-inspired Music Teachers to Stirling, and are sure that the teachers attending from all over the world will enjoy what promises to be a highly productive and memorable event.”

Sistema Scotland runs Big Noise orchestras in Raploch, Stirling and Govanhill, Glasgow, with a third opening in Torry, Aberdeen next year. The work is funded by a mix of money from the Scottish Government, Stirling Council, Creative Scotland and private sources such as players of the

People’s Postcode Lottery, The Sigrid Rausing Trust and Paul Hamlyn


Mike Russell will address the delegates in Raploch Community Campus, Drip Road, Stirling at

1.15pm today (Thursday). Media are welcome to attend. Please call in advance as space is tight.

A selection of professional images from throughout the conference are available on request.

Delegates will be performing together for Raploch’s children at 2.15pm in the community campus. Filming and photo opportunities will be possible at this time. Please get in touch in advance.

For further information contact George Anderson on 07900 891691.

Notes for Editors:

Formerly known as The State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela (FESNOJIV), Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar is a Venezuelan social programme founded by Maestro José Antonio Abreu. “El Sistema” as it has come to be known, believes the symphony orchestra and the choir are instruments of social organisation and community development.

The work was founded in 1975. Today there is a network of 180 nucleos (orchestra centres) serving

500,000 children in Venezuela. The programme has also produced the world-renowned and acclaimed Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. In 2007 Sistema Scotland became the first UK organisation to sign a partnership agreement with FESNOJIV.

Big Noise Raploch was established in 2008. A Scottish Government funded evaluation states: “there is evidence that Big Noise is having a positive impact on children’s personal and social development, including increased confidence, self esteem, a sense of achievement and pride, improved social skills, team working skills and expanded social networks. For those children with special educational needs, behaviour issues or unsettled home lives, particular benefits include a sense of belonging, improved ability to concentrate and focus on a task, a sense of responsibility and positive behaviour change.”

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health is leading further research on the impact of the programme, with first results due in April 2015.

Big Noise Govanhill was launched in the summer of 2013. A third Big Noise centre will launch in Aberdeen’s Torry in 2015.

Sistema Scotland and Big Noise Raploch and Govanhill are funded from a wide variety of public and private sources including The Scottish Government, Stirling Council, Creative Scotland, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Sistema Scotland is a charity registered in Scotland no: SC039119.



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