The White Hands Choir is the flagship choral ensemble of the Special Education Program (SEP) at the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs of Venezuela. The program was created in 1995 by maestro José Antonio Abreu for the purpose of integrating people with disabilities into society through music.
Formed in 1999 by professors Jhonny Gómez and Naybeth García, the White Hands Choir consists of two sections: one of corporal expression made up primarily of children and youngsters with hearing impairments led by Naybeth García and the section of verbal expression, led by professor Luis Chinchilla, which is made up of children with vision, cognitive, and motor impairments; Down syndrome; learning disabilities; autism; and children and youngsters who, without having disabilities, set an example of the right we all have to participate and enjoy equal opportunities.
Attending a performance by the White Hands Choir is enjoying an artistic and emotional experience. The 120-member choir performs inspiring works that bring audiences to tears, and also provide an alternative to educate and integrate into society people with functional diversity.
The White Hands Choir has made recordings for television companies of Switzerland, France, Spain, Germany, and Venezuela. The choral ensemble was declared part of Venezuela’s cultural heritage in 2005, and received in Friuli, Italy, the 2010 Nonino Risit d’Aur Award for “providing children with special needs with joy and dignity and touching the hearts of those who attend its performances.”
Its performances have been highly praised by world-renowned artists, such as Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic; the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado; Michael Landerburger, museum director of the Beethoven-Haus; Mark Churchill, director of the New England Conservatory of Music; maestro Shoji Sato; maestro Gustavo Dudamel; Patricio Aizaga, conductor of the Ecuador National Orchestra; Gerald Wirth, artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir; the Italian opera soprano, Mirella Freni and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Other ensembles such as the Rhythmic Band, the Children’s Choir, the Percussion Ensemble, Somos Lara Quartet and the Handbell Ensemble have been formed under the Special Education Program, which currently serves 2,064 people in 30 núcleos located throughout Venezuela.