On our first day in Venezuela, we visited the nucleo (or, program site) Montalbán, one of the oldest in Caracas. It's located in a building that would have been torn down, but the community insisted on using it as a space for a nucleo.
The nucleo director, a lovely young woman named Sobella, explained a few facts:
- There are almost 2000 kids at the site
- 110 teachers
- 40 administrators
- The teachers mainly come from within El Sistema
- They receive teacher training prior to starting, and during the year
- The little kids have choir to learn musical basics, 2 times per week. After age 6, children can start an instrument and join the orchestra program
- Children older than age 6 come everyday (sometimes 6 days per week) for 4 hours per day.
- They may not play in full orchestra each day, but will play in group sectionals (and take theory if they're beginners)
- For young beginners, there is an initiation phase to prepare for the orchestra: music theory, literacy, solfege
- For older beginners, choir is the best tool for them to learn the language of music before starting on an instrument
- Once or twice a month, all of the kids go to the main theater in Caracas to hear concerts of the professional and other children's orchestras