Seoul Peace Prize

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Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of Venezuela's 'El Sistema', is a musician and economist who led children and juveniles of the lower poor class to find a goal in life through music by instilling the value of harmony and fellowship. He saved juveniles from violence and crime and contributed to building a peaceful society by promoting harmony, cooperation and fellowship through the organization of orchestras.

Born in Trujillo, Venezuela, in 1939, Dr. Abreu learned to play the piano and the organ, as well as to compose music, at the Jose Angel Lamas Music School in Caracas. He gained the title of assistant professor and master composer and was soon recognized as a great conductor. Following his studies in music, Dr. Abreu majored in Petroleum Economics and received a Ph.D. in 1961. He held vital positions in government departments related to economics after receiving his Ph. D.

Dr. Abreu witnessed how juveniles, especially those of the lower income class, suffered from a chaotic life that was exposed to drugs, violence and crime in Venezuela. It led him to devote himself to bringing hope and dreams to children and juveniles through the education of music as a means of offering an opportunity to live as healthy and dignified members of society.

Dr. Abreu taught music to 300,000 children and juveniles for the past 35 years, handing out free musical instruments with which to practice. He inspired a sense of belonging and fellowship to children and juveniles wandering in the streets and instilled compassion and responsibility in them, as well as with the importance of order. His dedication gave juveniles and their families an opportunity to break away from poverty and chaos, and it also provided a solution for social reform and welfare.

Dr. Abreu's music education program started in 1975 with the Juan Jose Landaeta National Juvenile Orchestra. And throughout the past 35 years, it has produced several great musicians who have gained international reputation, such as Gustavo Dudamel, who is the youngest leading conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

Dr. Abreu's 'El Sistema' is operating throughout Venezuela, and it has expanded to Mexico and several other countries in Latin America and in Europe. The education of music and the organization of orchestras for children and juveniles are not only inspiring harmony and fellowship, but also contributing to social reformation.