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Sistema Scotland

El Sistema
Sistema Scotland

Sistema Scotland was awarded funding from the Scottish Arts Council's Youth Music Initiative towards their work in the Raploch area of Stirling.

El Sistema

The Foundation for the State System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, commonly known as 'El Sistema', was founded in 1975 by Jose Antonio Abreu. Abreu wanted to transform the lives of Venezuela's poorest children through the experience of hearing and playing music. Big Noise launch; Photo: Peter Sandground

He believed that if these young people were given the opportunity to learn an instrument and play together, their lives could be changed from a path of crime, drugs and despair to one where they would contribute and take their place in society.

El Sistema has grown into an extremely successful orchestral and social development programme. Around 270, 000 young people are involved in 220 youth orchestras throughout Venezuela, and the programme's top orchestra, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, is internationally renowned. Young people who have been through El Sistema are now members of professional orchestras all over the world.

Sistema Scotland

With the huge success of El Sistema in Venezuela, it is not surprising that other countries have been inspired by 'the system'. A charity called Sistema Scotland has been set up to bring the idea to Scotland. Funded partly through the Youth Music Initiative and led by Richard Holloway (Chair of the Joint Board of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen), the charity recently launched its inaugral 'Big Noise' project in the Raploch area of Stirling.

The Big Noise summer school will run throughout the summer holidays, bringing children aged four to seven together to learn music and form the Big Noise Orchestra. The focus is on the ensemble rather than individual playing and practicing, meaning the programme is immersive and intensive. Big Noise launch performance; Photo: Peter Sandground

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has taken on the role of 'performance partner' in the project. The day before the launch of Big Noise the full BBC SSO performed a special concert at its home at Glasgow City Halls. Children and parents from the Raploch estate travelled to experience a full symphony orchestra, many for the first time.


The Raploch estate in Stirling is an area of multiple deprivation which is currently going through a period of regeneration and development. Richard Holloway commented at the launch of Big Noise:

"It would be great to think that soon [the children] and their orchestra will be compelling ambassadors for this community, and that it won't be long before the mention of Raploch conjures up an image not of controversy and deprivation, but of a place alive with music."

Nicola Killean, director of Sistema Scotland, added, "We can provide them with an environment where they can aspire, be challenged and feel part of things."

The programme will continue once term starts in the autumn and will follow the children up through school, recruiting new younger members of the orchestra every year.

For more information on the Big Noise project, contact Sistema Scotland.

Related links
* Sistema Scotland
* Big Noise project
* Raploch
* BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
* YMI archive of Projects
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