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El Sistema was founded by music educator and activist José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela during the year 1975. It is a publically funded music education program that is governed by the philosophy "Music for Social Change." This program started in a parking garage with 11 students who were very dedicated to learning and rehearsing music. At that time, Abreu promised his students that they would grow into the world’s great orchestra as long as they persevered. Through vigor, recruitment and discipline, Abreu’s choral and orchestral program soon grew into the leading Youth Symphony in all of Venezuela, as well as blossoming into a highly renowned international music education philosophy. 


El Sistema was brought to the United States through the world famous conductor and violinist, Gustavo Dudamel, who is the current director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Dudamel began his musical training with the original El Sistema program in Venezuela, and upon moving to the states he started an El Sistema based orchestra program in Los Angeles, known as Youth Orchestra L.A. This program was highly successful and inspired the development of several other El Sistema programs around the nation. Today, there are at least 80 El Sistema programs scattered across the United States. 

about el sistema
Our Mission

Our mission at El Sistema Lehigh Valley is to enrich our community by inspiring special needs and underserved youth with a free opportunity to develop coveted life and musical skills through the participation in daily musical instruction, large ensembles experiences and performance, along with academic tutoring.

Teach In Harmony


At ESLV our motto is “In an Orchestra, we do everything together!” This saying holds true throughout all ensembles that our students participate in, including the choirs. Our teachers work hand in hand to optimize the learning of our students as well as to create a safe and nurturing environment for them. We also hope to model this teamwork like behavior to our students so it will trickle down to the ways they operate with one another.

The Future Sounds Good


Like the original El Sistema program in Venezuela, our goal is to grow to the capacity to teach all instruments to our students and have our very own youth symphony. This coming year we are celebrating our 10th year anniversary, and have grown and are continuing to grow tremendously. We are very excited to see what the future has in store!


The Debuts are the entry level group for our program, and is made up of primary Kindergarten through Second Grade. This group focuses on general musical skills that can be applied to various types of musical practice. The Debuts begin as a pre-instrumental group and work throughout the academic year to develop the tools and discipline needed for instrumental instruction.


The Preludes are a group of beginner students that possess the musical knowledge and maturity needed to start learning music on an instrument right away. This group works at a slightly quicker pace than the Debuts, as they are receiving a general music foundation simultaneously with learning instrumental technique.


The Interludes are a group of intermediate students who have shown progression past the level of debut and prelude. These students are learning how to work together in an ensemble, while also being able to hold their own musical part independently.


The Fellowship is our most advanced group of students. These students have generally been immersed in music and playing their instruments for several years before reaching the Fellowship level. In this group, fine musicianship skills are developed through the practice of higher level ensemble repertoire as well as through many public performances and competition.

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