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250 kids & teenagers

EDICSON RUIZ, 19 years old

double bass in the 'Berliner Philharmoniker'

My career began with a social educational project in my homeland Venezuela. I was still very young at the time and keen on the Mexican pop-group Mariá. I also played a lot of football. Classical music? No! That was stuffy and stilted, music for the old. But then a friend of my mother said to her: 'Look, there are some auditions for the symphony orchestra. Why don't you send your son along?' 'Sure, why not?' She wanted to get me out of the way, to channel my energies. At the age of 10 I was starting to rebel against her. So I went along to the orchestra and played, and that was the turning point. My thoughts and behaviour, my whole way of life changed. Instead of landing on the fringe of society, I landed on the fringe of an orchestra.

In Venezuela something remarkable has happened. We have a turbulent society, violent for many reasons. This is depressing and sometimes wounding, but we also have orchestras. Being in them is like being abroad. Of course they're in Venezuela, but on playing in them, you forget about your surroundings. You're in another world, a world of learning, a world where music flutters and takes wing. Its a world of illusions, a world of dreams, but a world with a sense of direction.

27 years ago there grew up in Venezuela an organisation which then gave birth to the best orchestra in Latin America - the Sinfonía Simón Bolívar, founded by Dr. José Antonio Abreu. He had a dream, a vision of how to change society through music, then he formed an organisation. With conductors coming and going from far afield, and with only a few cents, he set up an orchestra. Sure, there were problems. The orchestra lacked a home and even a room to rehearse in, but now it's the best.

Then came the Venezuelan Children's Orchestra, which 3 years on is the Youth Orchestra. It is now amazing the world and drawing conductors like Abbado and Rattle from Berlin to Venezuela. By now the organisation has 60 orchestras for children between the ages of 6 and 15, and 120 for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 20. They are all first rate.

Caracas is not Berlin. In Berlin you can muse and relax before working. You can then turn your mind to scores. But if you're in Venezuela and buses are hooting, cars are honking, and music is braying through the ceiling, and nothing is being done about them, it's only normal. Standards are different. Here focusing on music is easier. The surroundings are a great help.

In Venezuela there's a lot of poverty. Children flounder, be it through lack of learning or ethics. It's often due to parents, who are ignorant and at odds with society. That's how it is for millions of youngsters. They steal and kill then end up in borstal. It's a common tale, typical of the younger generation in Venezuela. But no less often they are highly gifted, as can be seen in the orchestras. If still very young, they are open to music, then music can change both them and their lives' direction. Slowly they learn to think differently and become human.

Fortunately Dr. José Antonio Abreu has just got the Nobel prize for his notable achievement. Nothing in the whole world can be likened to it. Nowhere is there such a plucky organisation to support young musicians and artists. The UNESCO has taken him on as an ambassador of peace. This makes me proud and full of hope for a society pure in mind and heart and furnished with high ideals. Yet the task is still not easy, since education - not only in schools - has been sadly neglected. The young have changed. They roam the streets, live by night and avoid work. The orchestras are there to save them.

A year ago an orchestra was formed from the inmates of borstals, then it played under Giuseppe Sinopoli, who enthused about all the projects which had led to the creation of the National Youth Orchestra, whose standard of playing is truly remarkable. This is my revolutionary background.

Dr. José Antonio Abreu believed 27 years ago that a youngster can fall in love with an instrument so deeply as to change his life. He then proved his point. His vision evolved and for 100 000 youngsters became reality. He is replacing murder with music. In effect, 27 years ago, he laid out a small garden whose plants were fruitful and multiplied and covered slums in flowers. The cycle is being repeated and the garden growing. There seems to be no limit.

Many folk praised my gifts from the start, even before I began playing. I knew that many youngsters grow smug and fail to practice, on feeling themselves to be already the best. For an instrumentalist, gifts are necessary but not enough, and the first person to tell me so was a pupil of my future teacher. He said: 'You're very gifted and ought to take lessons with my teacher, who is the best in Venezuela.' This teacher was Félix Petit, who later took me to the conservatory as the first child to study among young professionals.

There I began to study under my teacher. Aware that I had the gifts called for by the instrument, he gave me the greatness and form with which to master it more and more. Thanks to his teaching and the moral and human support of Dr. José Antonio Abreu, my achievements grew. I won the prize of the International Society of Bassists in Indianapolis and was accepted by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra and the Sinfonía Simón Bolívar, the best orchestra in Latin America. With my teacher's help I got into the Karajan Academy of the 'Berliner Philharmoniker'. He has been my only teacher.

Naturally I have been influenced by others, too, through their attitudes and ways of playing. Everything has served its purpose. I was told that I was gifted but was unable to guess why, since I played badly. I kept on thinking: 'How can I be gifted, if this passage never comes out right in my hands, and I can't play this or that? He plays it much better.' I never took praise to heart. What I took to heart were my teacher's words: 'Practise scales!' I practised scales. 'See that you don't slip up again there!' I saw that I didn't slip up again there.

Maestro Klaus Stoll (the 1 st solo-bassist of the 'Berliner Philharmoniker') stepped into my life at an important moment. Lot's of things happen to me like that. I'm a person who firmly believes in God's providence. Why He bothers I don't know, but He does. And through this person, God showered me with human and artistic riches. God had begun with my mother, gone on with Dr. José Antonio Abreu with his ideas and projects, with everything he unclosed to me, then given me my teacher, to make a musician of me, and then Maestro Stoll. It was like a seguidilla, a never-ending tale. He acts as He deems fit. He helps me to my goal, to be grown-up.

I heard 'Le Sacré du printemps' for the first time four years ago. As a youth of 15 I was utterly bewildered. The tempi, rhythms and keys change or the chords grow dissonant. Without enough musical background, you are baffled by a whole range of musical ploys which evolved in various epochs. To me it seemed modern and mad, but I now find it normal enough .- normal Stravinsky.

The dance-show in the Arena was very impressive, especially the blossoming at the start. Things arose gradually - small figures, not humans - as slowly as at the world's creation. There might have been a stellar explosion, and volcanoes been rising through rivers of bubbling lava. If you peered properly, you saw it all. Then bizarrely the movements paused. It was like a shadow-show. Truly amazing.


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How the Berliner Philharmoniker originated, which great names have swung the conductor’s baton and who is in charge of that now …
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