The conservatory of the 21st century
One of maestro Abreu’s dreams is to change the conception of conservatories and traditional music schools; not only from a theoretical and organizational point of view, but also in terms of their mission and purpose. Hence, it has been of fundamental importance for El Sistema to plan and build appropriate facilities for bringing youth and children into contact with all art forms, and helping them to come into contact with national and international artists.
With that idea in mind was built the National Center for Social Action through Music (NCSAM), a modern and unique music and cultural center located in Caracas.
According to José Antonio Abreu, a key purpose at the NCSAM is to encourage children and youth to learn how to interact with each other through the arts. “A place characterized by the confluence of all the arts, using music as a connecting thread,” explained maestro Abreu.
Even though the main purpose of the NCSAM is to promote music and musicians internationally, it also aims at becoming a center for the cultural integration of Latin America.
The use of music to address social need is a top priority at the NCSAM, as well as the training of music educators for at-risk children.
Leonardo Méndez, trumpet played educated at El Sistema, is its current academic director and responsible, along with Maibel Troia, of planning the schedule of activities in which over 700 people participate every day (without taking into account those who attend the center on weekends).
A joint effort
The National Center for Social Action through Music was created by the System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs of Venezuela and financed by the National Housing Institute of Venezuela and the Inter-American Development Bank for the purpose of promoting music, orchestras and virtuosi internationally; and developing music academic programs and training courses for orchestral conductors, performers and music experts.
Conceived as a university for specialized music education, the NCSAM has hosted the greatest number of academic and artistic exchanges in the Americas.
The NCSAM was also funded by the Ministry of People’s Power for Participation and Social Development; the Ministry of People’s Power for Finances; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Centro de Arte la Estancia; Bancaribe; Banesco; diplomatic delegations from Austria, Germany and South Korea; Fundación Polar, and the Society of Friends of the Simón Bolívar Music Foundation, among others.
Designer and builders of the NCSAM
The NCSAM was designed by the Venezuelan architect Tomás Lugo and built by engineer Otokar Kondrat along with engineer Aurelio Manzano and resident architect Marco Pitrelli.
Tomás Lugo graduated in architecture from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV). He entered the competition to design the NCSAM with Jesús Sandoval and Dietrich Kunckel, and won it. Lugo has a wide experience designing art spaces. The Corp Banca Concert Hall, the auditorium of PDVSA Zulia, the theater of the Cículo Militar de Caracas, the auditorium of the Banco Central de Venezuela in Maracaibo, and the auditorium of PDVSA–CIED were designed by this talented Venezuelan architect. He also designed, along with D. Kunckel, the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex.
Otokar Kondrat graduated from the UCV in 1959 and has designed and built aqueducts, roads, multi-family residential buildings, office buildings, shopping malls, passenger terminals and auditoriums. Kondrat served as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the UCV from 1975 to 1978.
Indoor spaces and works of art
A work by kinetic Venezuelan artist Jesús Soto titled El gran virtual amarillo greets the visitors at the entrance of this 14,750 square-meter building made of reinforced concrete. The floor art on the ground floor titled Inducción cromática a doble frecuencia was designed by Carlos Cruz-Diez, a renowned exponent of Venezuelan kinetic art who also designed the tapestry covering the seats of the NCSAM’s Simón Bolívar Hall.
The National Center for Social Action through Music is an eleven-story building with music instruction areas, instrumental and choral rehearsal rooms, libraries, concert and theater halls, chamber music halls, an outdoor acoustic shell, recording rooms, music instruments workshops, changing rooms, cafés, and administrative offices.
Simón Bolívar Hall
With a seating capacity of 1,100, the Simón Bolívar Hall is where the top orchestras of El Sistema give their concerts. The hall has a modern lighting system and the stage consists of three electronically-controlled modular platforms that can be configured for an orchestra, for dance and for opera performances.
The Simón Bolívar Hall houses a pipe symphony organ which was especially designed and built by Orgelbau Klais for the Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela. It has 36 feet high and 42 feet wide and was donated by Fundación Polar.
The organ has three keyboards or manuals and a pedalboard, and 74 pipes made of alloys of tin, copper and zinc. It is the only one in Latin American specially designed for a concert hall.
Salas de conciertos y de ensayos
Concert halls and rehearsals rooms
There is a wide range of different rehearsal rooms: for a single musician and a professor (single rehearsal rooms); for two or three musicians and a professor (double rehearsal rooms); piano rehearsal rooms; section rehearsal rooms for strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussions; and many general rehearsal rooms, so each instrumental section has a space designed for its specific requirements.
The doors of the rooms are made of heavy gauge steel with a reinforced internal structure and acoustic fibers of varied densities. Their rubber frames and double glass structure block sound transmission in both directions. Wall surfaces, floors and ceilings are soundproofed.
Fedora Alemán Hall
The chamber music hall of the Center for Social through Music was named after Fedora Alemán, a Venezuelan singer who has left a fundamental opera legacy. Located on the first floor of the CSAM, the Fedora Alemán hall has opened its doors for soloists, and orchestral and chamber musicians. The hall has a seating capacity of 400.
Audiovisual National Center
The NCSAM is also home to the El Sistema’s National Audiovisual Center, which documents the daily activities held at the CSAM such as concerts, educational concerts, academic events, etc; as well as the concert tours by El Sistema’s ensembles and many other activities carried out by El Sistema in and out of Venezuela. The NAC has currently a catalogue of over 10,000 titles.
Address: Centro de Acción Social por la Música, Boulevard Amador Bendayán de Quebrada Honda, Los Caobos.
Telephone: (58) 212-5970511