The Los Angeles Philharmonic on Tuesday had a free day from its performances of Mahler symphonies with Gustavo Dudamel in Caracas, Venezuela, and spent it on an excursion to a tropical rum farm outside of town. The media, however, only got as far as a race track at the edge of town.
It's not what you think.
The track, which is surrounded by dangerous barrios, was closed, but not the betting office. That has been converted to the Núcleo La Riconada, and there I met Christhien Diaz, a small, quiet but not shy boy of 13 who is studying percussion. He is one of 2,000 music students here, in one of the largest and oldest of Venezuela's more than 300 núcleos. In them, children, beginning as young as 2 and most often living in poverty, are provided instruments and world-class musical training for free for the rest of their youth.