Teach children the beauty of music and music will teach them the beauty of life. - Dr. José Antonio Abreu
Dr. José Antonio Abreu created El Sistema in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela in 1975. Its premise is that poverty inflicts not just material deprivation on the child, but a spiritual deficit too – a void, a lack of achievement and recognition. Every child has all the potential in the world and the right to fully realize it, no matter what his or her circumstances.
El Sistema has transformed the lives of countless children in Venezuela. They receive intensive music classes and instruments at no cost, regardless of their background or status. Every year 250,000 children throughout the country study music in local training nucleos. They start at an early age, attending three- to four-hour classes five or six days a week.
Dr. Abreu has received numerous honours for his work with El Sistema, including the 2008 Glenn Gould Prize. The acclaimed Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is an alumnus; the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, which grew out of El Sistema, has appeared in such venues as the Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall.
Countless Sistema-inspired programs have sprung up around the globe. They are active in at least 20 European countries, and there are over 50 such programs in the United States alone. Canada’s first Sistema-inspired program launched in Ottawa in 2007. Today there are at least half a dozen programs in Ontario, and twice as many across the country.
The creation of Sistema Toronto was directly inspired by Dr. Abreu’s visit to Toronto to accept the Glenn Gould Prize and the performance by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra at the Rogers Centre marking the occasion. It was founded in 2011 by businessman and community activist Robert Eisenberg.
Our first centre opened at Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School; our second in 2013 at Jane/Finch’s Yorkwoods Public School. In our most ambitious expansion to date, we opened two centres at Military Trail Public School and St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in Scarborough's Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park neighbourhood. Our current enrollment is 240 children aged 6-13.