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DAY 10: Changing Lives

Turnstall’s book tells the story of El Sistema, a large-scale (to say the least) education project that has been implemented and replicated in several cities around the world. El Sistema, started in Venezuela, teaches hundreds of thousands of children each year to realize their potential by learning to play classical music at levels previously unimagined. Turnstall’s book reminds us that a violin, piano, guitar, or trombone can be a tool for transformation and it calls all readers to join the fight to keep the arts in the schools. I loved this book; even if you are not involved in music or music education, it will make you want to dream bigger.

Book cover for Changing Lives

Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music

When Gustavo Dudamel, at the age of twenty-eight, ascended the podium at the Hollywood Bowl for his inaugural concert as conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he immediately captivated the hearts of his audience, just as he had the minds of music critics who designated him a modern-day Leonard Bernstein.

In Changing Lives, the maestro’s story becomes the entry point to an equally captivating subject: El Sistema, the music education program that nurtured his musical talent, first as a young violinist and then as a budding conductor under the mentorship of its founder, José Antonio Abreu. What began in Venezuela has now reached children in Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore, and cities around the world. No matter the location, the overarching goal of El Sistema is unwavering: to rescue children from the depredations of poverty through music. Part history, part reportage, this book reveals that arts education can indeed effect positive social change.