The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra is run under the auspices of the Fundacion Musical Simon Bolivar (FMSB), formerly known as the Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, known colloquially as El Sistema.
The economist Jose Antonio Abreu established the orchestra on 12 February 1975. Based in Caracas, the orchestra moved its home in 2007 from the Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex to a new Center for Social Action through Music nearby. The name of the center reflects the fact that El Sistema sees itself as a social agency: most of its music students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
Gustavo Dudamel has been the orchestra's artistic director since 1999. The orchestra has worked with many famous conductors including Claudio Abbado. By 2011, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra was no longer officially a youth orchestra because the average age of the players had risen too high. As its country's national youth orchestra, it has been replaced by its younger sibling, the Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra.