The Batuta National Foundation is a National Government initiative created in 1991, modeled in part, on the National Youth & Children Symphonic Orchestras Organization of Venezuela (“El Sistema”.). Batuta was created in response to significant societal interest in youth social development in Colombia through an enhanced appreciation, practice and teaching of music, and this national vision has informed the work of Batuta from its inception. The result has been a transformative impact upon the lives of many thousands of Colombian families from a broad range of social classes and backgrounds. Batuta is now one of the largest arts programs of any kind in Latin America, and the largest in Colombia, and has gained much international attention.
An initial public concert in Bogota’s central Plaza de Bolivar was presented by an orchestra comprising 354 young musicians aged (5-18) from 10 different States across Colombia and brought Batuta its first significant public recognition.
Following this first public effort, 10 Orchestras and 90 pre-orchestras were created in Bucaramanga, Medellín, Pereira, Manizales, Bogotá and Leticia. By 1998, the project activities had expanded to cover 16 more departments: Amazonas, Antioquia, Atlántico, Bolívar, Caldas, Guajira, Huila, Magdalena, Meta, Norte de Santander, Quindío, Risaralda, San Andrés & Providencia, Santander, Tolima & Vichada, Bugalagrande as well as programs in the capital city of Bogotá. At that moment, the Foundation was working with close to 7000 students through their activities in 169 pre-orchestras , 22 Training Orchestras and 15 Youth Orchestras.
In 2001, the Foundation established a partnership and cooperative agreement with the Social Action Network (Acción Social), formally known as the Presidential Agency for Social Actions and International Cooperation in the cities of Quibdo, Florencia as well as the neighborhood of Usme in Bogota.
This unique partnership, widely recognized by its slogan, “Be moved by music”, is now a strong presence across the country and now consists of 191 Orchestral centers located in departmental capital cities as well as smaller municipalities and reaches over 28,870 students. The vast majority of the young musicians in these pre-orchestral programs come from vulnerable and displaced societies.
In addition, over 600 impaired and disabled young children and adolescents with impairments living under the risk of displacement due to social unrest in several rural areas, have enrolled in a pilot program for the disabled, along with and additional 240 students who participate in the Basic Program for the Formation of Symphonic Orchestra.
The Batuta National Foundation for Youth and Children Symphonic Orchestras has resulted in the creation of cooperative arrangements with many orchestral organizations across Colombia. They include: Batuta Risaralda Corporation, Batuta Caldas Foundation, Batuta Huila Corporation, Batuta Amazonas Corporation and Batuta Meta Corporation.
The national scope and success of Batuta’s work has been achieved through the generous voluntary assistance of organizations and institutes such as: Ecopetrol, the Fundación Panamericana para el Desarrollo (FUPAD), the Fondo para la Acción Ambiental y la Niñez, ACESCO, Plan International INC, the Municipality of the Capital District (D.C) and various other cities, along with many smaller organizations.
The Batuta National Foundation has contributed significantly to the enhancement of musical education in Colombia not only through its educative activities but also by organizing professional training workshops for music instructors, conductors and musical instrument technical experts from all symphonic projects in the country. Cooperative arrangements have been established with many public and private sector institutes such as Ministry of Culture, SENA and the Salvi Foundation, thus enabling the growth and long term sustainment of the orchestral activities.
Today, the many different Batuta education projects are well-established throughout Colombia and encompass 284 Orchestral centers located in 102 municipalities and department capital cities, where over 36,000 students are active in 1,000 pre-orchestral groups and 26 Symphonic orchestras. The Foundation offers the use of libraries through the Batuta music library and the repair of musical string instruments through a professional string repair shop.