İzmir’s ‘El Sistema’ introduces music to children
The “El Sistema” model, which introduces art to Venezuelan children living in the areas of high crime rates, has been realized in İzmir.
Initiated 35 years ago by Venezuelan economist and amateur musician Jose Antonio Abreu, “El Sistema” began by gathering 11 children in a garage to make music. Today, it provides music education to hundreds of thousands of children.
The Yorglass Children’s Peace Symphony Orchestra, which was formed with children living in Eşrefpaşa, Agora, Kadifekale and İkiçeşmelik districts, performed a concert at the weekend.
Seventy children were on the stage, playing violin, cello, double bass and trumpet under the baton of world-famous British chef Howard Griffiths, now half Turkish. Then clarinet master Savaş Özkök and the great name of percussion, Burhan Öçal, joined them at the Adnan Saygun Art Center Concert Hall.
The concert started with the İzmir Anthem and the 10th Year March and continued with the unforgettable classical pieces, such as Hungarian Dance by Johannes Brahms, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Turkish March by Ludwig van Beethoven and some Turkish folk song pieces.
It was the fifth concert in the history of the orchestra. The violinist Eren Tok was just one of the young people who got the right to enter Işılay Saygın Fine Arts High School shortly after meeting the orchestra.
Tok joined the orchestra in 2015 through the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey. “My horizon widened when I started taking violin lessons,” he said, adding that he wants to go further in music.
The journey of the orchestra that started in 2015 thanks to the personal efforts of the founder and opera singer Selmin Günöz, wandering the streets in Eşrefpaşa looking for a place for the project, became an association in 2017 with the participation of many volunteers and turned into the Barış Children’s Orchestra Protection and Development Association.
The orchestra, whose motto is “another future is possible” for the children living in the center of the city but in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, has been working since 2018 as a social responsibility project of the İzmir-based Yorglass, which has been operating in the field of industrial glass processing and flat glass trade for 47 years.
At a press conference before the concert, Gülfem Yorgancılar Perçin, the vice-chair of Yorglass Board of Directors and the chairwoman of the orchestra, emphasized that they do not pursue “talent or intelligence” while applying the Venezuelan model in İzmir.
“El Sistema,” initiated 35 years ago by Venezuelan economist and amateur musician Jose Antonio Abreu, began by gathering just 11 children in a garage to make music, and today, it provides music education to thousands of children in more than 100 countries.
On the other hand, İzmir’s “El Sistema” started with 45 children and reached 130 children. It received the support of great musicians such as Gülsin Onay, İdil Biret and Gürer Aykal.
During the pandemic period, they continued their education via Zoom. The association provides psychological support to children and families, and Yorglass provides scholarships for the orchestra member children based on their success in the school.
Speaking about the journey of the orchestra, Günöz explained that children are now in a very close relationship with polyphonic music and that they reproach when they see the audience making noise during concerts or playing with their phones.
She said that children in the orchestra became more successful in their school and that some of them are continuing their education at the fine arts high school.
Stating that they accept children between the ages of 7 and 17, Perçin noted that they have reached 130 children in six years so far.
All the income from the concert will be transferred to the music education of the children, she added.