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Venezuela youth orchestras flood Caracas metro

Children play music inside a subway station in Caracas
Children play music inside a subway station in Caracas

By Diego Ore

CARACAS (Reuters) - Two thousand children in 23 bands played brass instruments and sang in choirs at metro stations across Caracas on Saturday in the latest endeavor by Venezuela's lauded youth orchestra program.

The simultaneous concerts were organized by the subway authorities and the program, known locally as "The System," that teaches classical music to kids from poor families.

"Today I got up early and my brother was left playing at home ... I'm so proud to be here," said 10-year-old Jose Cuevas, clutching a trumpet and dressed in black trousers and white shirt like the rest of his group at Miranda station.

Venezuela's program has drawn worldwide praise for tempting youths away from crime in tough neighborhoods by teaching them the work of composers like Mahler and Stravinsky.

Working with more than 300,000 children, it shot to prominence a few years ago when a young alumnus, Gustavo Dudamel, gained rock-star-like fame as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

President Hugo Chavez has often taken credit for the achievements of The System, which was created by a previous government in 1975. He aims to win another six-year term at an election in the politically polarized nation next October.

For some of the 2 million people who use the Caracas metro on average each day, Saturday's concerts were welcome respite from the cacophony of the politicians' campaigns.

"Here there are no party colors. This is art," said the mother of one young child performing at the station.

(Writing by Daniel Wallis)

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