Gustavo Dudamel is one of the most charasmatic conductors of the 21st century. He learned to play violin through El Sistema to reach poor children on the streets and train them in classical music.
“Exclusion is the problem of our society. When you give a child an instrument, you are including them immediately,” said superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel, in the Boston Globe of April 16, 2010.
Dudamel discovered the violin and classical music through a 30-year old program, El Sistema, which provides an alternative to poor children in Venezuela. Some 70 percent of the 400,000 young musicians come from families with below-poverty incomes.
For a few hours a week, they leave poverty behind and belong to something bigger and more beautiful than the environment from which they came.
The young musicians in the Venezuelan youth symphonies start playing in groups immediately so when they play in groups of 300 or more, the music has an ensemble feel to it, according to the Globe. These children know how to belong and be a part of something bigger and more beautiful than they could ever achieve alone.
The need to belong is crucial to our human nature according to psychologist Alfred Adler, M.D. We want to belong so badly that we make great sacrifices and sometimes bad decisions to ensure membership in a group. Our whole society is set up on the “in group” mentality, reinforced by status symbols.
We demonstrate status by the groups we belong to, by buying certain cars, houses and clothes. We talk a certain way to demonstrate allegiance to our social class and group.
Our children yearn to belong somewhere in life. The family is the first and most fundamental place for them to belong. When parents count on children to do chores, it says, “you’re important. We need you. You belong.” Insist on their presence at family dinner, especially for teens, because it reinforces YOU BELONG HERE.
Think about how you feel as a newcomer to a group versus when you have been accepted. You have a place. You’re appreciated by others who care if you show up or not. Other people witness and greet you.
Children want to feel that sense of belonging in a family. Family dinners-chores-&-meetings, encouragement, witnessing them and setting boundaries all reinforce the sense of belonging.