Lawrence Cripp, "All that Matters is How Good It Sounds: An Interview with the Former El Sistema Violinist Luigi Mazzocchi," VAN Magazine:
Despite my positive first impression, however, I soon became aware that evidence for the impact of El Sistema had not been systematically gathered and empirically verified. It struck me as unlikely that a large-scale national system of extremely intensive out-of-school youth orchestra training could simultaneously provide free or low-cost instruction, instruments, and community núcleos (music schools) open to all youth; elevate families from poverty and communities from drug addiction and gang warfare; and render exquisite and passionate performances of the most difficult pieces in the classical repertoire.As an independent researcher, I was disappointed in the lack of evidence for El Sistema’s validity as a model for 21st-century music education in service of broader social goals. As a music educator, I had difficulty understanding how a nationalized orchestra training system based solely on classical music and serving only a self-selected 6-8% of Venezuela’s youth could possibly be considered comprehensive education in music for all. It just didn’t add up.In 2014, the researcher and musicologist Geoff Baker published a book entitled El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth. His account challenged idealized views of El Sistema as an engine of positive social action and focused on the testimony of practitioners who were not directly involved in promoting the program. His interview sources, who were only willing to speak anonymously, portrayed El Sistema as a secretive, autocratic organization that has not been held accountable for its management practices, its treatment of teachers and students, and for gathering objective evidence of its social impact beyond anecdotes and musical performances.
In an effort to check what Baker reported Cripp interviewed "Luigi Mazzocchi, concertmaster of the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and associate concertmaster of the Delaware Symphony, who studied for 15 years in El Sistema starting at age nine, and rose to become a member of its top orchestras and a soloist in Venezuela." Mazzocchi has been in the United States for 20 year and had just finished reading Baker's book when Cripp contacted him.
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