2013 Culture of Peace Special Award Laureate


José Antonio Abreu

Musician, Conductor (Venezuela)

“In recognition of his extraordinary achievement in transforming the lives of young people through music.”

Through his educational initiative ‘El Sistema,’ José Antonio Abreu has empowered millions of underprivileged children over decades, driving social change towards a culture of peace and harmony in Venezuela and around the world.


Born in Venezuela in 1939, José Antonio Abreu is an economist, musician, and conductor, and former Minister of Culture in the Venezuelan government. In 1975, he founded El Sistema, a free classical music education program for underprivileged children to help them fight poverty and violence and integrate into society. The program has proved to be successful in fostering not only musical excellence but also social development of young people through collective practice of music in symphony orchestras and choruses. El Sistema is now implemented nationwide by the Venezuelan government, encompassing more than 200 youth and children’s orchestras and 350,000 young musicians, and producing internationally acclaimed musicians and conductors like Gustavo Dudamel. Dr. Abreu has received numerous international awards, including the title UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (1998), Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan (2007), and the Légion d’honneur of France (2009).