Venezuelan conductor, pianist and teacher José Antonio Abreu was born in Valera on 7 May 1939, and studied economics at the Universidad Católica Andres Bello. He pursued a dual career in politics and economics.
He began studying music in 1957 - piano, organ, harpsichord and composition - and ten years later received a national prize for his musical ability.
In 1975 he founded El Sistema, the well-known and innovative youth education system which mainly used music for social and intellectual improvement. In 1979 he received the National Music Prize for his work with El Sistema, and this was followed by various international awards and recognition.
José Antonio Abreu died in Caracas on 24 March 2018, aged seventy-eight.