Venezuelan El Sistema youth orchestra initiative founder and activist Maestro José Abreu has passed away – aged 78.
Founded in 1975, El Sistema has received worldwide recognition for its free classical music education programs - created to provide opportunities and development for impoverished children.
Started with just 11 students in an underground parking garage in Venezuela, today, the program consists of over 400 music centers and 700,000 young musicians globally.
"My heart is overwhelmed ... the music and arts have lost one of its brightest figures ..." Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel has said.
"Maestro José Antonio Abreu taught us that art is a universal right and that inspiration and beauty irreversibly transform the soul of a child … I feel an immense privilege to have shared a life next to someone of his dimension," he has said.
"José Abreu has given life to a musical system with which young people can be safe from the dangers of the street, of crime, of drugs ..." Berlin Philharmonic Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle has said.
Venezuela has announced three days of national mourning in honor of his passing.
Our condolences are with Maestro Abreu's family, friends, colleagues and students.