Eighteen-year-old violist Armando Cañizales “was a success story of Venezuela’s state-run music program for the poor,” write Ana Vanessa Herrero and Nicholas Casey in Sunday’s (6/11) New York Times. Cañizales was shot during ongoing street protests in May against the Venezuelan government. “Venezuela’s political unrest is testing the loyalties of many.… Yet no group has been tested quite like Venezuela’s classical musicians, who for years have been drawn from the country’s working-class barrios…. El Sistema … a source of national pride … seemed exempt from Venezuela’s growing polarization…. ‘In its 42 years, El Sistema somehow managed to keep an impartial position,’ said Ollantay Velásquez, the director of Mr. Cañizales’s orchestra…. Yet the young man’s death is rupturing that neutrality [during] street protests [approaching] their third month, with at least 67 people dead in the turmoil…. In Venezuela, orchestra members have played memorial concerts for Mr. Cañizales.… Hundreds turned out for Mr. Cañizales’s funeral in May. Members of his orchestra set up their music stands in the cemetery to play. Someone held a Venezuelan flag. Mr. Cañizales’s mother, Mónica Carrillo, went up to the teacher, Mr. Pérez, and handed him her son’s viola [and said] … ‘I want that Armando’s viola gets played today.’ ”

Posted June 13, 2017