Music for Peace with El Sistema
The founder of the Music for Peace Foundation, Mehmet Baki and his wife has been giving musical education to thousands of less fortunate children in their place in Istanbul’s Edirnekapı beighborhood.One of the important events of the ongoing 42nd Istanbul Music Festival will be held on June 10 with a concert by Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela with 240 performers. The performance is to be conducted by music director Christian Vásquez, who is one of the talents grown in the inspiring El Sistema. The concert will take place at Zorlu Center Performing Arts Center.
El Sistema, which was founded in Venezuela by pianist and composer José Antonio Abreu, is considered the most significant classical music project in the world. Abreu, who is also a successful economist, describes El Sistema as a social system that fights poverty and crime.
Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, which is one of the most important products of the orchestral academic program of the Fundación Musical “Simón Bolívar,” will hold free-of-charge events, as well as their concert. The panel discussion with the participation of Abreu and representatives of Sistema Europe, the European leg of El Sistema, will take place at Martı Istanbul Hotel on June 10 between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.
Furthermore, the orchestra and choir of the Music for Peace Foundation, one of the best examples of El Sistema in Turkey, will perform in the Main Theater and Mini-Amphitheater of the Zorlu Center Performing Arts Center. The concert will be free of charge.
The Music for Peace Foundation was formed in 2005 by architect Mehmet Selim Baki and Yeliz Baki. It aims at providing musical education for as many children as possible and removing the handicaps for participating in the arts. The foundation has so far provided free education for more than 4,000 children.
Mehmet Baki is a graduate of Berlin Technical University, where he worked there for many years. After returning to Turkey, he decided to realize this project.
Speaking to Müge Akgün from daily Radikal, Baki says he had never been trained in music, but he initiated the project because he believes only music can create a more livable and peaceful world. In 2005, he and his wife Yeliz Baki founded the Music for Peace Foundation to give musical education to less fortunate children. While searching for regions where these children live, they found an opportunity in the neighborhood of Edirnekapı. There they established their conservatory adding a library, solfeggio and workshop rooms, a cafeteria and canteen. They gradually collected all of the symphonic instruments.
‘This is a revolution’
The lives of 4,000 children have changed here so far, says Baki. “If you throw a newborn child into water, they swim. But if you throw a 15-year-old child into water, they drown. These children come here like a miracle; they know nothing about music. But we throw them into the orchestra and they start playing Tchaikovsky after two weeks. We always complain about political situations, violence, fights. No matter what they say, unfortunately we have not formed a social state yet. This orchestra is a revolution. A group of minorities makes music for another group of minorities in this country. I hope this revolution will contribute to the change.”
The foundation and children have become the life of the Baki couple. “They take on responsibility. We started this journey with the dream of having a good future. Now it makes us very happy to see it. Nazım joined the orchestra 10 years ago, and now he is studying at the university and is still with us. Eren achieved high scores in the university exams in İzmir and he is supporting another project there,” says Yeliz Baki.