I was lucky enough to accompany a group of American teachers down to a program in Campos de Goytacazes (about 4 hours from Rio and a GIANT “thank you” to Dan Trahey of OrchKids for organizing this trip and letting me come along). Orquestrando a Vida was started 15 years ago, and today involves 1100 children. I was able to observe their program structure, five different orchestras, instrumental classes, and the most incredible peer to peer mentoring I have ever seen. We coached the students through their orchestra music, and put on a chamber music concert.
I taught the wind class for many hours each day and was blown away by the dedication of the teenage students. The principal oboe is one of the most talented young wind players I have heard in a long time, and not only does he not have a teacher, he teaches all the other oboe players. When I say I worked with them for hours, I mean hours, and they stayed on task the entire time with energy and focus I have not experienced in children before. It would only be a matter of hours for the lessons I was giving the older students to trickle down all the way to the beginners in the program.
It is an amazing thing they are doing in Campos, and beautiful to see the trajectory of all of the hard work we are engaging in at the bottom level right now. I am so moved by the love and dedication that the Brazilian students show to each other, and it is certainly something we will continue to aspire to here in Philadelphia. I feel like my whole perception of what is and what can be El Sistema has shifted, and I am reminded to work tirelessly on building community and that we must empower our students at every turn. Of course we cannot easily transfer the values of one culture onto another and some days seem harder than others, but as they say in Portuguese: Tocar e Lutar! To Play and To Struggle!
Orquestrando a Vida’s blog: http://academiadeorquestrasecoros.blogspot.com.br/2012/04/orquestrando-vida-recebe-musicista.html