They are learning a new song. Some of the boys recently joined the orchestra and still feel insecure with the instrument in their hands. The teacher asks them to repeat some bars of the melody in groups; first the strings, then the winds. In the end they all have to play it together. And when they do it, it’s exciting.
We are in a public school in La Boca, where NOTICIAS was invited to witness the rehearsal of one of the 16 Children’s and Youth Orchestras of Buenos Aires. This program, which depends on the Ministry of Education, was created by Claudio Spector and Beatriz Fuchs, in 1998, in Villa Lugano; with the idea of making the opportunity for formal music learning available to children. An unattainable option for many due to lack of resources or simply because a violin or an oboe seem almost unreal instruments, very far from the dreams of a typical family. But public school opens this possibility to students, the path to an unexpected vocation.
From Mataderos to Flores and from Balvanera to Parque Avellaneda, in neighborhoods with very different characteristics and problems, around 2,000 kids and 220 teachers are part of a program through which, in a quarter of a century, more than 25,000 students have gone through. Many of them later continue their musical studies and become professionals. Others, even if they choose different paths, always return to say hello or bring their children to join one of the groups. An inevitable return to a story that made them happy.
An orchestra inside
A few meters from the white courtyard of the school where he rehearses the orchestra of La Boca, the mothers of the little musicians are meeting to plan an activity. As in every school, as in every group of parents, it is about raising funds to buy the t-shirts that will be the boys’ uniform in the different performances. Many of these women make enormous sacrifices to bring their children to rehearsals, which usually repeat 4 days a week. But it is the boys who insist the most on arriving on time. They don’t like to be absent. Being part of the orchestra is a source of pride for them.
“The orchestra is a journey of music, of discoveries, of friendships and I think, above all, a place of belonging. For many a place of transit and for others a way out – he explains Oscar Albrieu Roca, general coordinator of the Program, who accompanies NOTICIAS, to visit different orchestras and schools – The boys and girls arrive, the vast majority of the time, on their own initiative, because they have friends or colleagues in the group. On the other hand, orchestras play a lot in schools to spread the activity and expand the cultural repertoire of the students.”
Although the program depends on the resources provided by the Buenos Aires Ministry of Education, the orchestras have the support of an Association of Friends, made up of family members and alumni who raise funds (through donations or organizing activities) to help the different groups. A crucial factor in incorporating more kids is having a greater number of instruments. Just as an example, it is useful to say that a violin costs more than $150,000 pesos; a trombone, $400,000 and an oboe or bassoon, much more. Official funds are not always enough, nor do they cover losses, breakages or other accidents.
An interesting topic is the music class should integrate the repertoire of these groups, considering that the usual options of a traditional orchestra are classic compositions of European music. In this case, each school chooses what the group is going to play, and an important part of the repertoire is made up of songs close to the children’s cultural environment. “There are only 5 or 6 themes that are common to all orchestras. The choice of each repertoire is made jointly between the director and the teachers. We also have a team of composers, arrangers and copyists who can create or adapt the works needed for each level,” explains Albrieu Roca.
This year, the program meets its 25th anniversary and prepares to celebrate it with everything. In principle, two concerts will be held at the Teatro Colón on December 21 and 22. But the big party will be on Saturday, October 28 at Parque Roca, at the Mary Terán de Weiss stadium at 11 a.m. There the members of all the orchestras will give a great free concert, open to the public, in which 2,000 boys and girls will participate.
Music as education
What is the most important thing taught in orchestras? “Thinking and respecting others. Having to be silent or play more ‘piano’ so that the partner can be heard. Orchestral music has many roles, at different moments of a work: being the main voice, accompanying or being silent, but always listening and acting in relation to what is proposed with the other. Otherwise it doesn’t work. I believe that these teachings go far beyond the musical and can be directly extrapolated to life as citizens,” defines Albrieu Roca.
“The concept of selection is common to the formation of any orchestra,” explains Federico Landaburu, coordinator of the Barracas orchestra and clarinet teacher. Here it is quite the opposite. Our intention is to include as many as possible.”
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