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Leaders of Norwich project head to Venezuela to see how music has changed lives

PUBLISHED: 09:43 30 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:45 30 January 2013

Children from Larkman and Catton Grove Primary Schools take part in the Sistema in Norwich Sol Fa concert. Picture: Denise Bradley

Children from Larkman and Catton Grove Primary Schools take part in the Sistema in Norwich Sol Fa concert. Picture: Denise Bradley


The leaders of a city project that aims to change children’s lives through music are on a fact-finding visit to the pioneering South American group which inspired the Norwich initiative.

Marcus Patteson and Steve Copley are the programme and musical directors of Sistema in Norwich which works with young people in the Larkman and Catton Grove areas of the city and elsewhere.

They are currently in Venezuela where over the past 30 years the El Sistema programme has brought music to the lives of hundreds of thousands of the nation’s most neediest young people and along the way uncovered great musical talent.

Among El Sistema’s success stories is the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, largely made up of young musicians that once lived on the streets in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, and which has performed at the Proms in London.

Speaking ahead of their week-long trip, Mr Patteson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to see first-hand the programme that has inspired our work. For over 30 years El Sistema has been changing the lives of disadvantaged young people in Venezuela, and has produced one of the world’s greatest orchestras, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

“It will be really exciting to meet them in person and talk to their tutors and students about some of the challenges we face here in the UK.

“Hopefully we can offer something in return from our experience for their kindness in hosting us.”

Mr Patteson and Mr Copley are travelling as part of a 14-strong delegation from In Harmony Sistema England, the charity which supports the development of El Sistema-inspired programmes across England.

They are spending time in Caracas and visiting neighbourhood centres where El Sistema is based, with the aim of the projects in the two countries learning from each other and developing links for the future.

Sistema in Norwich works with schools and young people mainly in the Larkman and Catton Grove areas of Norwich.

About 120 children are involved across its two orchestras, with another 50 on the waiting list.

The Norwich project mainly works with string instruments and percussion but is now branching out to include wind and brass instruments, and it has also recently started piloting work with Great Yarmouth Primary Academy.

For more about Sistema in Norwich and how you can help by donating funds to the organisation visit

Are you involved in a new arts project in Norwich? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email

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