NEC-El Sistema in New Friendship Agreement

President Woodcock, El Sistema's CEO Mendez sign new pact

NEC President Tony Woodcock Signs New Friendship Agreement with Venezuela’s El Sistema

Document Reaffirms Cooperation, Shared Ideals for Music as Catalyst for Social Change

New Name for Fellows Program Announced

Michael Gandolfi to Compose Symphonic Work Honoring El Sistema and Founder José Antonio Abreu

New England Conservatory President Tony Woodcock and Eduardo Méndez, Executive Director of Fundacíon Musical Símon Bolívar (known familiarly as “El Sistema”) signed a new Friendship Agreement today at a festive ceremony in Caracas. The celebration, which reaffirmed the cooperation and shared ideals between the two institutions, coincided with the conclusion of the five-week residency in Venezuela of the third class of 10 Sistema Fellows from NEC.

Among those attending the celebration was Dr. José Antonio Abreu, founder of El Sistema who praised the Fellows’ program and NEC’s work in the U.S. El Sistema movement: “You are at the vanguard of Musical education in the world. You can count on us totally for the future .” (In photo above, L to R: Rodrigo Guerrero, Erik Holmgren, Leslie Wu Foley, José Antonio Abreu, Tony Woodcock, Eduardo Méndez).

This is the third Friendship pact since 2005. It “serves as an official declaration of the continued collaboration” between El Sistema and NEC “with the goal of fostering programs and projects that benefit the students, staff, faculty, and other constituents” of both. Among the goals cited in the Agreement are: “continuation of the Sistema Fellowship in its current form through 2014,” “a commitment to broadly sharing the work of the Sistema Fellowship throughout the United States and the world,” exchanges and residencies between students and faculty, and “joint advocacy in support of music as a catalyst for social change.”

The signing ceremony was also the occasion to announce the renaming of NEC’s training program for young leaders who are directing or working for El Sistema-inspired projects throughout the United States.  NEC and El Sistema officials worked together to identify a name that would point to the larger, more universal principles of Sistema-inspired programs, which has always been the goal of Dr. Abreu. Therefore, what was previously known as the Abreu Fellows will now become The Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory. (in photo below: Fellows with Maestro Abreu and Gustavo Dudamel earlier this month in Venezuela),

Founded by NEC in 2009 and intended to extend over five years, the program is a one-year, post-graduate, tuition free curriculum. Each year, 10 gifted young musicians “passionate for their art and social development” are given the grounding in organizational management, pedagogy, fundraising, communications, and other skills needed to operate an El Sistema-style community music center.

The current class is the third to go through the training and most of the Fellows have job offers that they will be finalizing this spring. The previous classes are already deeply enmeshed in the U.S. El Sistema network, doing valuable work from Atlanta to Juneau, Los Angeles to Boston, Pittsfield, MA to Durham, NC. The fourth group, Class of 2012—13, will be announced in May.

Looking toward the completion of its initial commitment to the Fellows’ program in 2014, NEC has commissioned a 10-minute work for youth orchestra from Composition Chair Michael Gandolfi to celebrate El Sistema and Dr. Abreu. The new piece will use the growth of El Sistema and some of Dr. Abreu’s most eloquent quotations as base material. President Woodcock announced the commission at the ceremony and presented a video recording of Gandolfi speaking warmly about the importance of music for social development and his eagerness to write the new work.

Click here to watch a brief unedited video that captures part of the ceremonies.

For further information, check the NEC Website


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115