It doesn't matter how old and cynical you get, we all cling to a few shreds of fairytale magic. One of mine is 'El Sistema', the movement in Venezuela which, allegedly, encourages boys and girls from the slums of the main cities and towns to take up classical music training and aim for a place in the world-acclaimed Simon Boliva Youth Orchestra. I still remember a TV programme from a few years back which showed some of these kids from a small provincial town struggling to school each day with their musical instruments as well as their school books. It was a heartening sight.
I should have known better at my age! The other day I read - and alas I cannot remember where - that the whole programme is riddled with 'kiddie-fiddlers' who use their power as musical and instrumental teachers over these aspiring children to indulge their paedophile tendencies. I cannot judge the truth or otherwise of those accusations but there are certainly two schools of thought as to efficacy of 'El Sistema' and whether or not it lives up to the image that suckered me!
Geoff Baker in 'The Graun' complains bitterly of the ultra strict regime imposed on the young, 'wannabe' classical musicians calling it a tyranny and he has written a book backing up his complaints. Meanwhile, Ivan Hewitt in The Telegraph points out that the whole business of producing classical music depends utterly on strict discipline by the players. So, you pays your money and you takes your choice - and both articles are worth reading. But, alas, I will never quite look at 'El Sistema' with the same rose-tinted spectacles!