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A modest proposition

June 15, 2017

I am starting from something I published in Facebook which seems to have had some resonance. The World Bank made a study of Uruguay and it marks that, due to the ageing population and the influence of technological changes in the employment, we will need to develop three things: to teach to solve problems instead of memorization, to develop critical thinking, and to learn in some way to be more creative. All these, very sensible things.

My proposition is that all three can be solved with a very simple measure: make all Uruguayans learn classical music seriously. Anybody who has ever learned any instrument knows very well, by their own experience (which is the best, although not always the cheapest) that you cannot trust blindly on traditions or on what somebody tells you, and you must develop your own thought, which is necessarily a critical one; that to solve problems is what you constantly do (how do I choose the fingering for this passage, why, how does it work, does it work at all), and that to be creative is a necessary condition (this solution I just thought of, maybe no one has thought of before, and even if they did, it is mine. As Goethe said, an idea does not belong to whoever had it first, but to the one who has it best.)

And there are also other added benefits, let's say civic benefits, which appear when you study classical music. First, the respect for other people's ideas – the composer had his/her ideas, which are not necessarily mine, and I can learn a lot from them. Also, if I am doing chamber music, I need to attentively listen to what the others do and adjust to their ideas, I need to work amidst a more or less harmonious whole. And I have to present and defend my own ideas also, otherwise the idea the composer had might not be realized.

It could be argued that all that was happening in Venezuela, and look what is happening there now. I say, look rather at how it will end, and besides, I don't think Maduro is a product of that system, or had anything to do with classical music in his life. In fact, El Sistema, according to my very humble and unqualified opinion, was one of the factors that opened the possibility of the social revolution that Chavism was, good, bad or indifferent that it was (I think we need to write in past tense). Nobody gets out to put their life in danger if they are not convinced of their own value - like they are doing now. And I think that Venezuela is a very extreme case. In Finland, they have been taking classical music seriously for a long time, and the worst they did was to put a Tárrega waltz on the Nokia. And there is also Esa-Pekka Salonen, which we would like to have here if ever he gets bored with a relatively easy life.

So I join the proposition of my friend Gustavo Reyna. We have already the Plan Ceibal (one laptop per child). Now it is the time of the Plan Zorzal, one instrument per child. May the Force be with us. Greetings.

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