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The National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela

Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 2008

The National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela (its Spanish acronym, FESNOJIV), which currently comprises more than 1700 orchestral ensembles, is a Venezuelan social and cultural entity under the tutelage of the state. It came into being in 1975 in order to allow students of music to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, thus contributing to the comprehensive development of the country’s most vulnerable children and young people.

The project was launched internationally in 1995 with the performance of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington (USA). The orchestra’s exceptional artistic quality has taken it around the world, having performed in the United Nations Headquarters in New York and for His Holiness Pope John Paul II. It has been led by some of the most prestigious conductors, such as Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel and who received his musical training within this system, and Maestro Eduardo Mata. These young students have had the opportunity to perform alongside figures of great stature such as Plácido Domingo, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yehudi Menuhin, Alicia de Larrocha, Montserrat Caballé and Vladimir Spivakov, among many others.

The organization also provides workshops for children and young students, where they learn to make and repair instruments, as well as hospital care and special education programmes for children with disabilities or with learning difficulties, such as the “White Hands Choir”, consisting of children with visual, auditory, cognitive or motor impairment. FESNOJIV provides technical and managerial assistance to all state schools that request to be integrated into the music-education programme and works together with neighbourhood associations, parents’ associations, city councils and institutional representatives to provide rehearsal rooms or necessary musical instruments.

José Antonio Abreu (Valera, State of Trujillo, Venezuela, 1939 - Caracas, Venezuela, 2018) received his musical training at the “José Ángel Lamas” Advanced Music School in Caracas. In 1975, he became designate conductor of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. He then founded the National Network of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela and formed an orchestra with young musicians from different parts of the country which was to make made its debut that same year. José Antonio Abreu’s work has been recognised with numerous international awards. The FESNOJIV received the UNESCO International Music Prize in 1993 and in 1998 Abreu was appointed as Special Ambassador for Peace and Music and the children in the orchestra system were appointed as Artists for Peace. Since 2004, these young people are also UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassadors. Holder of honorary doctorates from the Music Conservatory in New England Boston (2002), the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (2004) and the Universidad Nacional Experimental Francisco de Miranda (2003), both in Venezuela, and from Harvard University, USA (2013) and the University of Lille, France (2014), among others, in 2007 Maestro Abreu was conferred with the Don Juan de Borbón Award for Music. He has also been distinguished by different countries and governments with the highest orders and medals, such as the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, Japan (2007), the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art from the Austrian government (2011), the Grand Cross of the Cruzeiro do Sul National Order of the Republic of Brazil and the Grand Order of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Colombia (2013).

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