South Korea gives Venezuelan musician peace prize

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The Independent Culture

Venezuelan economist and musician Jose Antonio Abreu received the Seoul Peace Prize on Wednesday for his achievements in bringing music to young people.

Judges praised Abreu for devoting himself through his "El Sistema" music education programme to saving youngsters exposed to drugs, crime and violence.

"His efforts and dedication didn't stop at teaching responsibility, harmony and fellowship to children and juveniles of the lower poor class," chairman Lee Chul-Seung said.

"It became a peaceful movement that promoted positive reformation in scoiety."

El Sistema, or Social Action for Music, is a state foundation that supports youth orchestras to encourage children from poor backgrounds to adapt to school and society while learning musical instruments with orchestra members.

Born in 1939, Abreu majored in composition and piano in Venezuela and moved to the United States to study economics.

He established the music educational programme in 1975 for children wandering the streets of the South American country where drugs, gun crime and violence are rampant.

Over 300,000 children have benefited from the programme.

"Nothing brightens a child's soul with the sight of a wonderful life as music does," Abreu said in a speech after receiving a cash award of 200,000 dollars.

"Material poverty will be vanquished by the sublime spiritual richness that grows through and in music," he said.

He was the 10th recipient of the award, given to recognise those who devote themselves to transcending race and ideology to build world peace.

Previous winners include late International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.

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