Ottawa’s youth and music communities were devastated this month in light of the recent passing of Maestro José  Antonio Abreu. Abreu founded the El Sistema youth orchestras in Venezuela, where to program helped impoverished youth develop through music.

By Owen Maxwell

The program started in 1975 with nine musicians in a garage, and soon expanded beyond 300 orchestras and choirs. After helping thousands of Venezuelan children, the program has spread and inspired countless similar programs around the world. Abreu was 78.

The National Arts Centre lowered its flag at half-mast in honour of Abreu, though his legacy is continued locally through the OrKidstra program. OrKidstra is a charitable social program for children aged 5 to 18 living in lower income regions of Ottawa. Following in Sistema’s footsteps, the program offers kids community and confidence with the power of music. The program services over 600 children from 42 distinct cultural backgrounds.