|Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras|
The System of Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras was established in 2007 for the purpose of reducing violence in jails and preparing inmates for their reintegration into society through the learning, practice, and enjoyment of music.
This music education program is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, and carried out by the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, and the Ministry of People’s Power for Interior and Justice. Lenin Mora, who coordinates the program, devoted himself to identifying the needs of the penitentiary population of Venezuela. For this lawyer, graduated from the Universidad Santa María, with studies in Humanitarian International Law, and a master’s degree in criminology – and horn player of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela – the key was to find a new way to promote music education.
To form the ensembles, the inmates were interviewed so as to know their temperament, nature, and morphology. Based on this information, they were assigned a musical instrument. Most of them did not have seen an instrument close to. The only requirement was not to have records of assault against penitentiary staff. Three months later, they knew how to play the national anthem and other pieces of moderate difficulty.
Currently, the program is being implemented in four penitentiaries: the Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina, the Centro Penitenciario de la Región Andina, the Centro Penitenciario de Occidente, and the Centro Penitenciario Mínima de Carabobo. Ten percent of the inmates of these centers are expected to receive music education through this program, which will be gradually implemented in other penitentiary facilities.
The Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras consist of 461 members and, since their creation, 1,086 inmates have received music education through the program.
The program prepares inmates for their reintegration into society. The work of the orchestra promotes – among its members– the development of discipline, self-esteem, communication skills, sense of group belonging, responsibility, and skills that favor team work. Through the orchestra, they learn to respect others and control their emotions.
All the members of the penitentiary orchestras are provided with dental services and a monthly income, which is calculated according to perseverance and class attendance; and through the Extension Program, some of these people can continue their music studies and work for the program once they have served their sentences.
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Henry Dávila, a former member of the orchestra, joined the staff of the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela once he was released from prison. He said he felt very proud to be an example to the inmates serving at the penitentiary centers of Mérida, where he is working as an instructor.
Víctor Villasmil, a 24-year-old inmate serving at the Centro Penitenciario de la Región Andina and member of the Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras declared enthusiastically: “I have been in this orchestra for ten months, since its formation. I dreamt of this day when I would perform at the Teresa Carreño Theater. The flute has helped me to leave the drugs. I’m a new person.”
“Before this, my music was reggaeton," said Irma González, 29, a street vendor serving a six-year sentence for robbery. Now she plays the double bass. Her proudest moment, she said, was when her four children, ages 14, 13, 10 and 9, recently watched her play. “When they applauded me, I finally felt useful in this life," González said. Like other participants, she hopes to reduce her term by playing in the orchestra, which judges may consider the equivalent of hours of study.
Within two years, in every prison facility where the program has been implemented, more than 137 concerts, recitals and technical exhibitions have been presented for the inmates and their families.
The Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras have also performed, as a unified ensemble, at the Teresa Carreño Theater, in Caracas, always guarded by soldiers from the balcony and both sides of the stage. In this theater, the orchestras have performed a varied repertoire that includes Venezuelan, Latin American, and European works.
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|Youth Orchestra of Caracas|
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|Penitentiary Symphony Orchestras|
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|Simón Bolívar Latin-Caribbean Orchestra|
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