Changing lives


Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music is the first major book to tell the story of El Sistema, the extraordinary children’s orchestra system that is fast becoming an international movement to transform the lives of children through music, and the fascinating story of charismatic young conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who rose through El Sistema to electrify orchestras and audiences across the world.

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El Sistema


Founded in 1975 by Venezuelan visionary José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema engages children in learning and playing music together in order to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, and to create an “affluence of the spirit,” in Dr. Abreu’s words, that brings individual and social change.

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Praise for changing lives

"Changing Lives is essential reading for every one of us who cares passionately about our neediest children. Tunstall's vivid, inspiring story-telling shows how the El Sistema model transforms children's lives, by the hundreds of thousands -- not only in Venezuela. It can happen anywhere, if we follow this road map for changing kids' lives through music." Quincy Jones
"This book is a must read for anyone who wants to change the world for the better, but has no idea where to start. With her excellent book – and she is a terrific story teller of a great story – Tricia Tunstall has captured the profoundly important achievement of one of the most remarkable people of our day: José Antonio Abreu, who does not know the meaning of the world impossible…The joy of Dr. Abreu’s vision reinforces the optimist in all of us." Clive Gillinson Executive and Artistic Director, Carnegie Hall
"No musical story of our time has proven as captivating and inspiring as that of El Sistema. Tricia Tunstall has illuminated the moving story of its creation…We are fortunate to have the story of El Sistema, with its world of limitless possibility, related so eloquently." Deborah Borda President and CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic
"This is a book the whole world needs to read. It is the story of a man of destiny and genius who saw in music the power to transform the lives of children everywhere…Tricia Tunstall tells their story with great flair and a music educator’s insight. Read the book. Join the movement. Change the world." Richard Holloway Founder, Sistema Scotland
"I hope Tricia’s well-written and deeply informative book will encourage thousands more musicians, teachers, funders and fans the world over to embrace El Sistema, a program that transforms children and their communities by using the symphony orchestra as a template for a society based on rigor, compassion, and joy." Jamie Bernstein Narrator, writer, and documentary filmmaker
"This is the story of a miracle worker, José Antonio Abreu, the miracle he created, El Sistema, and their most celebrated alumnus Gustavo Dudamel…Tricia Tunstall tells their story with the awe and respect they deserve, but also with love, and with the understanding of how by learning from this success story we can all create our own little miracles." Joseph Kalichstein Concert pianist