News of the monumental success of El Sistema, Venezuela's 32-year-old program of social action through music, is rapidly spreading throughout the world. Today over 250,000 Venezuelan teenagers and children, most from impoverished backgrounds, are being filled with an "affluence of the spirit" through the intensive study of music and the participation in orchestras and ensembles. No less a figure than Sir Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, has called El Sistema "the most important thing happening in classical music in the world today".

As part of the NEC-sponsored Boston residency of El Sistema's flagship orchestra, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, the symposium, organized by NEC's Center for Music-in-Education, explores the questions on everyone's lips: How did this phenomenon come about? How can we learn from it? How can we apply it in our own country? Join Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu and leading figures in education and culture a they explore the answers.

This panel discussion moderated by Eric Booth, celebrated author on arts in education and founder of the Teaching Artist Journal.

+ BIO: Jose Antonio Abreu

Jose Antonio Abreu is a Venezuelan pianist, economist, educator, activist, and politician. Born in the western city of Valera,Venezuela in 1939, Abreu was trained as an economist. He holds a PhD in petroleum economics from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and did some graduate work at the University of Michigan. He served as a deputy at the Chamber of Deputies in the old Congress of Venezuela. After his political career, he also worked as a professor of economics and law at Universidad Simon Bolivar and his Alma Mater. He would return to politics briefly in 1983 to serve as Minister of Culture.

In 1993, El Sistema was awarded the famous IMC-UNESCO International Music Prize in the institution class. UNESCO also appointed Abreu as a Special Ambassador for the Development of a Global Network of Youth and Children Orchestras and Choirs in 1995 and as a special representative for the development of network of orchestras within the framework of UNESCO's "World Movement of Youth and Children Orchestras and Choirs". This project was created in the context of an inter-disciplinary project "Towards a Culture of Peace". He co-ordinates the program through the UNESCO office in Caracas. He was also designated a Goodwill Ambassador by UNESCO in 1998.

In 2001, Abreu was honored with a Right Livelihood Award and the World Culture Open Creative Arts Award in 2004. Among his numerous awards are the 1st Class Order of the Rising Sun Grand Cordon (Japan, 2008), the Glenn Gould Prize (Canada, 2008), the Puccini International Prize (Italy, 2008), the Q Prize with former student and protege Gustavo Dudamel (USA, 2008) and honorary memberships at the Royal Philharmonic Society (2008, United Kingdom) and the Beethoven-Haus Society (Germany, 2008). In 2009, he received the Crystal Award of the World Economic Forum and the TED Prize. On May 12, 2009, Jose Antonio Abreu was awarded the Polar Music Prize, given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

+ BIO: Mark Slavkin

Mr. Slavkin joined the Music Center at the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County as Vice President for Education on July 1, 2001. In this capacity, he leads the Music Center Education Division, one of the nation's largest and most effective arts education programs. As an elected member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education from 1989 to 1997, he forged partnerships with the Music Center and other community arts agencies to serve the district's students and faculty.

Prior to joining the Music Center, Mr. Slavkin served as Director of Public Engagement, Advocacy and Communications for the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project (LAAMP), the largest privately funded school reform effort in Los Angeles County. He has also served as Los Angeles Program Officer for the Getty Education Institute for the Arts, a program of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

He is a member of numerous boards including Vista Del Mar Children and Family Services, and the Koreh-LA Task Force of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Mr. Slavkin received both Baccalaureate and Masters degrees in Political Science from University of Southern California, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa.

+ BIO: Steven Seidel

Steve Seidel, Ed.D., holds the Bauman and Bryant Chair in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been the Director of Project Zero since July 2000 and the Director of the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since July 2004. He continues his work as a Research Associate and Principal Investigator and as Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Steve has worked in the areas of the arts and education for over thirty-five years. He trained and worked professionally as an actor and, later, as a stage director. He has worked with theater companies in Baltimore, New York, and Boston and his directorial work has been seen Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway in New York, in Boston, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In addition to working in theaters, Steve has also worked on short and feature-length films as acting coach, writer, and script consultant.

+ BIO: John Tobin

Boston City Councillor John M. Tobin, Jr. was elected as the District 6 representative to the Boston City Council in 2001. He was re-elected in 2003, 2005 and 2007. His district includes the neighborhoods of West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill.

Councillor Tobin has focused on improving the quality of life for individuals and families in his district and across the city. He proposed increasing residents participation in the citywide recycling program, an idea that has been implemented on a pilot basis. Thanks to Councillor Tobin, the city's building department now notifies abutters to new construction for as of right projects or jobs that don't require zoning board approval. In 2005 he helped pass an ordinance that imposes fines on property owners who do not remove graffiti. Two years ago Councillor Tobin launched Slow Down Boston, a citywide public awareness campaign aimed at curbing speeding in the city's neighborhoods.

Councillor Tobin was born in Boston on August 31, 1969. He is the son of Jack and Kathy (Freeman) Tobin and is the oldest of six children. He grew up in Dorchester's Lower Mills neighborhood and in West Roxbury where he currently resides with his wife Kate (Plunkett) and their sons Matthew and Daniel. He is a 1987 graduate of Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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