The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (SBSOV) was founded by José Antonio Abreu and a group of fellow musicians, who were inspired by the ideals of Simón Bolivar. The orchestra is comprised of over 200 young musicians between the ages of 17 to 30, and is the flagship of the orchestral academic programme of the State Foundation for the Venezuelan System of Youth and Child Orchestras (or FESNOJIV).
FESNOJIV involves some 250,000 members across the country in a system of pre-school orchestras (4 to 6 years), over 90 children's orchestras (7 to 16 years), over 130 youth orchestras (16 to 20 years) and over 30 professional adult symphony orchestras. 75 percent of these children live below the poverty line. "For the children that we work with, music is practically the only way to a dignified social destiny. Poverty means loneliness, sadness, anonymity. An orchestra means joy, motivation, teamwork, the aspiration to success." (José Antonio Abreu) FESNOJIV employs over 15,000 music teachers, and includes training in instrument-making, arts administration and new media.
The orchestral academic programme of FESNOJIV allows the musicians of SBSOV to explore a demanding repertory, through masterclasses and concerts involving soloists from leading orchestras and arts institutions, among them members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Sibelius Academy of Finland, Stuttgart Bachakademie and the New England Conservatory of Boston. They have also worked with international conductors including Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado, and work for six months of the year with Gustavo Dudamel, their Music Director and also a product of FESNOJIV.
The SBSOV has toured several times in Germany, appearing in major venues including the Berlin Philharmonie and Essen Philharmonie. It has also performed at the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and at the Lucerne Easter Festival. In the summer of 2007, they appeared at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival and venues around in Germany, including the Schleswig Holstein Festival and the Semperoper Dresden. In Autumn 2007 the orchestra undertook a major tour with sold-out concerts in Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and also Carnegie Hall in New York, where the orchestra was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Sir Simon Rattle as part of the 'Berlin in Lights' Festival, followed by a highly acclaimed tour in Spain. In Summer 2008 the Orchestra played at the most important European festivals and cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Baden-Baden, Helsinki and an extraordinarily successful residency at the Salzburg Festival. In December 2008, SBSOV made its debut in Asia with concerts in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. The most recent tour of the SBYO in April 09 presented the orchestra in sold-out residencies in Houston, Washington, Chicago and London, at the Royal Festival Hall.
The SBSOV and Gustavo Dudamel record for Deutsche Grammophon, and have released recordings of Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 7, Mahler's Symphony No. 5, the superhit CD Fiesta, with works by Latin American composers, as well as a Tschaikovsky album featuring his Symphony 5 alongside Francesca da Rimini.