One of the most discouraging aspects of American musical life for years now has been the state of music education for the great majority of children. One of the most encouraging has been the growing interest in, and heartening receptivity to, the success in Venezuela of El Sistema, the program that is taking hundreds of thousands of children to heights of accomplishment that might seem theoretically unlikely in meetings around a boardroom table but have become a reality in hundreds of cities and villages.

I was thinking of El Sistema when the recent unrest in Egypt caused the temporary closing of two of the training programs that the Barcelona Football Club (Barça) runs for young boys around the world. As I watch the new short video here and hear the head of the base school (La Masia) in Barcelona talking about the importance of both general education and training for excellence in helping children transcend what can otherwise be a life with far less purpose, I find it difficult to remember whether he is talking about producing a Lionel Messi or a Gustavo Dudamel.

UPDATE: Since posting the above this morning, I have come upon this article by a British journalist, published yesterday in an Australian paper, that goes a little more deeply into the process at La Masia. It still reminds me of a good conservatory.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The subject is commanding a lot of attention. A new video about La Masia is up. Being from Canal Plus, it’s in Castilian, but even those who don’t understand much of that language may find the video impressive.

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Do Blogs Count?

January 8, 2010

Be a scribe! It saves you from toil and protects you from all kinds of work. It spares you from using hoe and mattock, that you need not carry a basket. It keeps you from wielding the oar and spares you torment … Now the scribe, he directs all the work in this land.

— Tomb inscription at Memphis (Saqqara) ca. 2100 BC

Pointed out to me by Peter Kurth