Seoul Peace Prize

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Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu began teaching music to juveniles living in poverty in 1975 at a garage located in the slums of Caracas, capital of Venezuela, overflowing with violence, gun crime and drug abuse. It started out as an education and rehabilitation program for 11 juveniles, which included juvenile delinquents with 5 previous convictions. Dr. Abreu taught them to play music with instruments purchased out of his own pocket expense. Juvenile delinquents with previous convictions were surprised to be trusted with clarinets and other expensive musical instruments with faith. The only thing that Dr. Abreu asked of them was to hold those instruments in their hands instead of guns. He later sought the support of the Ministry of Welfare of Venezuela in order to expand the opportunity of education to many more Venezuelan juveniles of the lower-poor class, and this gave birth to the music arts education system for juveniles and infants known as 'El Sistema(The System)'. 

'El Sistema' is a social movement that Dr. Abreu dreamed to realize. It states that an orchestra is the best example of an ideal society and that children are more likely to show positive changes in terms of adapting to society the earlier they participate in it. Its purpose isn't to select and raise talented kids and juveniles into successful musicians, but to free youngsters from crime and drug abuse. 300,000 infants and juveniles participated in 'El Sistema' during the past 35 years and 80% of them belonged to the low-income class of Venezuela. They learn and practice music for 4 hours a day in over 200 regional education centers located throughout the country and they have expressed that their daily activities switched from drug trafficking to something new and worthwhile. 

Dr. Abreu also contributed to improving existing social welfare through 'El Sistema'. He helped kids in the streets to open eyes to their inner artistic sensitivity through an opportunity of education that they never had before, giving them a means to express themselves and hope for building a better life and future. Being part of an orchestra gave them a sense of belonging and the harmony they created through it lead them to embrace and respect one another as part of the team and society. The education that juveniles and infants received through 'El Sistema' changed their values and view of life entirely. 

The orchestra performance of 'El Sistema' provided a place and opportunity for people of different classes to unite harmoniously in music, which in turn promoted social integration among different social stratumin developing countries such as Venezuela,where the gap between the rich and the poor is extremely wide.