The orchestra, a school of life
...from a plastic bag, he takes a sort of violin, made with the remains of an old pot, a fork, wood and four strings. Gradually, we realized that melodies could come out from that piece of tin, and that a child could learn, with great dignity, his or her first lessons...
In a small room, there is an orchestra formed by the children of gancheros – people who work at a landfill in Cateura, a place where all the garbage produced in the Paraguayan capital, Asunción, and in the surrounding areas, is deposited. Meanwhile, in an adjoining room, the parents of the students who form the orchestra are reunited to evaluate the work and demonstrate how much they could gather to contribute to the project. These people work at the landfill, revolving the waste to try and find anything that might be used, sold or recycled. Since the results of the collection don’t seem to rise any high hopes, Don Colá, a skilled carpenter who earns his living from the stuff others throw away, approaches the table. From a plastic bag, he takes a sort of violin, made with the remains of an old pot, a fork, wood and four strings. “This is all we can contribute to at the moment, and we want to know if it works”, he says. Gradually, we realized that melodies could come out from that piece of tin, and that a child could learn, with great dignity, his or her first lessons.
Don Colá gave us a valuable lesson: if we have the will to overcome and to look ahead, even from garbage it’s possible to build the tools for a positive change in our own destiny. The idea of Don Colá became a full orchestra of recycled instruments that travels the world, showing that everything is possible. It is a matter of attitude.
The “progress of a population” is not measured by the results of one country’s gross domestic product, or by the number of hospital beds, or by the amount of traffic lights in the streets. The progress of a nation is measured by the level of happiness of its people. The joy of music, the elimination of competition and the building of trust bonds between the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the native indigenous and the white people – together, it all generates this miracle of human communion. Without giving sermons or speeches on standards of living, environmental protection, or personal and social care, the orchestra – that school of life – stimulates the formation of human values and the creation of spirits who search perfection, rejecting mediocrity. The fundamental question that arises from the need to care about the future of humanity is: how to find the magic formula? How can we activate the “button”, the “click” that will bring back intelligence and the good will towards ourselves and the others. Not only to seek the formation of good musicians and artistic geniuses, but also to find, through music, the profile of a new citizen: one that is honest, creative, idealistic, participative, respectful and committed.
Every day, Jorge Guzman, a young man living in the small town of Mbuyapey (187 km south of Asunción) rises at dawn to milk cows. He saddles his horse; at one side, he hangs a barrel full of milk and at the other, his cello. After he finishes delivering the milk, he arrives at his village’s music school. He takes a bath, puts on his uniform and starts studying the Bach suites. His participation in an orchestral group, being subject to standards of conduct and interaction and planned activities, helps to improve his musical learning and, above all, understanding his position in society as an active member of the community. And it helps him to pass on to his family concepts such as a greater responsibility concerning the handling of milk, the relationship with his customers and his family’s financial planning. Guzman, now an admired and virtuoso musician, thinks about the children who are fed with the milk that he distributes and encourages them not to leave school. And to have hope, to empower themselves and to work for a better and more dignified future.
Por: Luis Szarán
A Paraguayan maestro whose musical training was enhanced in studies in Rome (Italy) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), Luis Szarán is, since 1990, the director of the Symphony Orchestra of the City of Asunción. In 2002, he started the project Sonidos de la Tierra (Sounds of the Land), which brings music education programs to 72 poor communities in Paraguay and includes the production of instruments made of recycled material. The project was given in 2005 an award by the Skoll Foundation (United States) and is sponsored by Petrobras.
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Illustration: Luiz Correa
62nd edition | June 2012