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Oregon Symphony violinist Ines Voglar performing in the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, 198?

Oregon Symphony violinist Ines Voglar performing in the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.

A few years ago, Oregon Symphony violinist Ines Voglar returned to her native Venezuela and saw a performance of the country’s renowned national youth orchestra. “I was blown away,” she recalls. “They were playing Mahler’s Symphony #2, with a full choir, a deaf choir that ‘sings in sign language, 75 violins, 20 basses” – a colossal orchestra. And they played it brilliantly. “It gave me goosebumps,” Voglar told ArtsWatch.

It wasn’t just the exceptional quality of the music making, nor the sheer size of the orchestra, that impressed Voglar. She was amazed at how the youth orchestra, and the innovative educational program that produced, had transformed hundreds of kids, many of them from impoverished backgrounds, into such superb musicians. And she’s very excited that a program inspired by that renowned educational system born in Venezuela, popularly known as “El Sistema,” is coming to Oregon.

Voglar performed at Portland's Old Church in May.

Voglar performed at Portland’s Old Church in May.

Tonight, a concert at Portland’s Old Church kicks off that ambitious new educational effort. It’s an introduction to and, for audience members so inclined, a fundraiser for a new organization called Oregon BRAVO Youth Orchestras which this fall launches a free, intensive, classical music education program for almost 200 kindergarten through third grade students at one of Portland’s public schools in direst need of music education, Rosa Parks Elementary.
A member organization of the National Alliance of El Sistema Inspired Programs, Oregon BRAVO will be the first in Oregon, and 80th in the United States, which is one of 50 countries that boast Sistema programs. Since its inception in 1975, El Sistema, which became world famous when one of its graduates, conductor Gustavo Dudamel, was named music director of one of the world’s leading orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 26 a few years ago, has taught Western classical music to more 800,000 Venezuelan children from impoverished backgrounds.


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