Orchestra program connects underprivileged Argentinian youth to music

By Diana Engel  |  Aug. 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (GPI)-- From a white school building lost among the dirt roads in Buenos Aires province drifts the mixed chords of an orchestra. At 9 a.m. on a Saturday, the rest of the town is silent. The locality of San Vicente is located less than 60 kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital. But life is fairly rural here, with dirt roads, one-story houses and local citizens traveling by horse. The doors are wide open at Escuela Primaria No. 22 or "Dr. Luis Agote," a public school in the neighborhood of Santa Rosa. The school has just six classrooms, all decorated with children’s drawings. The hallway leading to the music is full of flags that are white and light blue, the national colors of Argentina. Around the corner is the cafeteria – the source of the music. Through the cafeteria door, the sound resounds more clearly. There are percussion instruments, trombones, clarinets, cellos, bass guitars, violins and flutes. The kids who play them are between 10 and 20 years old, participants in the Programa Nacional de Orquestas y Coros Infantiles y Juveniles para el Bicentenario, a government program that aims to connect youth in underprivileged areas with music. The young musicians are sitting in a corner of the cafeteria, each one with a music stand. Among them is a teacher for every instrument. Gonzalo Pumilla, 14, plays the cello in the orchestra, though he passes from one instrument to the next with enthusiasm. To his side, his father, Sergio Pumilla, laughs with his arms folded across his chest. He says that his son began to participate in the program in November 2011, a month after the orchestra formed at the local primary school. “Gonzalo is pleased,” his father says. “He is happy. In reality, he wanted to play a sport. But when he tried the orchestra, he chose to come here every Saturday. Since he started with the orchestra, he traded the computer and PlayStation for the music. From Monday to Monday, he talks about music.” Pumilla says that before every Saturday rehearsal, the parents prepare breakfast in the school for the teachers and students. They then all dine together to kick off the weekend practice. Complementing the weekend practices are classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in which the aspiring musicians learn how to read music and play the instruments. Pumilla says he couldn’t afford to buy a cello for his son, but Gonzalo attends these classes twice a week to learn how to play it. The Saturday rehearsal is special because it offers him more contact with the instrument on the weekend. “The theme of music is integration,” his father says. “It gratifies my wife and I a lot. And here, Gonzalo has the opportunity to play an instrument that is not within our reach to buy.” The Argentine government launched Nacional de Orquestas y Coros Infantiles y Juveniles para el Bicentenario in 2008 in order to offer more inclusive education to socially vulnerable children and adolescents. The objective is to expand their access to cultural activities while stimulating their enjoyment of music. Many times, their passion and talent surpass the expectations of the music instructors, and the participants' school teachers observe that the music even encourages better peformances in the classroom academically and behaviorally.

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