|Campos: my city, my love.|
|There are lots of these around the city, something|
that definitely reminds me of Nicaragua.
Needless to say, things were challenging for the first two weeks. It took me 8 days of searching, and waiting patiently, to find an apartment, and then another 4 days to figure out how to get internet access in my apartment. It was a steep learning curve for me, and VERY frustrating at times, but I now feel like I can accomplish anything in this country and through speaking the language, and I am very thankful that I was able to get so much help from kind strangers and acquaintances. I definitely wouldn't say this is the worst city I've ever been to, and I'm starting to settle in here and enjoy it. It definitely has it's problems and its poverty, but I think this will be a great experience for me being here.
|The only thing that I don't like about|
the vegetarian restaurant.
Despite my preoccupation with finding a place to live, I was able to visit Orquestrando a Vida twice during my first week, although I admit that during my visits I was also asking to see if anyone knew of any apartments for rent. The main headquarters of the project is located in what used to be essentially a junkyard for cars (and you can even see some old clunkers still in the courtyard,) which the project moved into in December. Before that they spent years in large house a few blocks away in the same neighborhood, but they simply outgrew it. The facility has numerous classrooms and several rehearsal spaces, and they even utilize the large courtyard as a rehearsal space, often for more than one orchestra at a time (which sometimes sounds like something a Brazilian Charles Ives' would be proud of.) The halls inside the building are lined with pictures of Gustavo Dudamel, Jose Abreu, and the Simon Bolivar orchestra when they visited Rio in 2011. They also have pictures of their trip to New York City and performance in Carnegie Hall, which must have been from only a few years back. The woman who showed me around, Tamires, mentioned that they have two other nucleos in the city located in much poorer and more dangerous neighborhoods. Altogether, she said they have about 500 students, but are looking for more as they could serve up to 1000 in this new facility. They teach all the standard orchestral instruments minus bassoon.
|Entrance to the new headquarters of Orquestrando a Vida|
|One of the clunkers still left over from when it was a junkyard.|
At least they know where to get a brake drum whenever they
The next night, the top three orchestras gave a short concert in the local municipal theatre, the Teatro Trianon. The first orchestra to play was the top orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica Mariuccia Iacovino, which Marcos conducted as the directors were still in Brasilia. They played Glinka's "Rusland and Ludmilla Overture" which showcased the group's technical abilities, especially the strings with their rapid-fire scales at the beginning. They are certainly much more advanced than any of the orchestras I heard in Rio at Ação Social pela Música, though I certainly expected this to be the case. There are about 85 students in the orchestra, and they certainly play at a high level for their age. They followed the Glinka up with Bernstein's "Mambo," which has been a favorite encore of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, and these Brazilians did their best to copy them exactly, complete with all the dancing, choreography, spinning of instruments, even having the cellist kick out the conductor and take over leading the group (I have no idea if the Venezuelans do this last bit.) They followed that up with Wagner Tiso's "Frevo," another of their "fun" repertoire but this time Brazilian, which also included choreography (and sounded like it could be the theme song of a game show on TV). In both these last two pieces, however, the percussion drowned out everything except the brass (kind of like a marching band.)
|"To Play and to Fight" -the motto of El Sistema|
I really wondered why they didn't have this top orchestra go last on the concert with all these fun encore-type pieces, as everything afterwards seemed anti-climactic, but next up was the third best orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica Infanto-Juvenil, which was comprised of much younger students about at a level of the best orchestra I saw at ASM. I also noticed that some kids from the top orchestra sat in and played with these younger kids. This peer-teaching and mentorship from the more advanced students is something I've been seeing a lot here. They ended with the Orquestra Sinfonica David Machado playing Brahms "Hungarian Dance No. 5," the theme to "Swan Lake" by Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre," and Sibelius's "Finlandia." Once again, some of the students from the top orchestra played along too, and these were close to, but not quite the original symphonic versions of these pieces. For example, there was no xylophone "rattling the bones of the dead" in the Saint-Saëns.
|Orquestra Sinfonica Maruccia Iacovino - the top orchestra|
|Orquestra Sinfonica Maruccia Iacovino during|
their performance of Bernstein's "Mambo"
I also heard this week that during Abreu, Dudamel, and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra's trip to Brasilia, Abreu met with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Minister of Culture Marta Suplicy. Besides Abreu receiving Brazil's highest honor from the president, the "Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul" (National Order of the Southern Cross,) they agreed on what seem to be some big steps for "El Sistema Brasil," although I don't quite understand it all. It seems that the Brazilian government is going to fund and create 300 El Sistema nucleos in Brasilia with some support coming from Abreu and Venezuela, and that a new bi-national orchestra of 200 Brazilians and Venezuelans will be formed in December. Diogo Pereira, who I met last week and was present in Brasilia during the meeting and concert, says that this was the "inauguration ceremony of a huge program," and that it was a "historical day" where "the government understood the values and impact of El Sistema work for the future of education." Perhaps this is the start of something really big: governmental support for El Sistema in Brazil (!) which nearly everyone I've talked to says is so crucial to making a real impact in this country through music programs. I'm sure I'll learn more about this in the near future and what kind of impact this is going to have in Brazil! Stay tuned!
|Orquestra Sinfonica Infanto-Juvenile - the 3rd most advanced orchestra.|
|Orquestra Sinfonica David Machado - the 2nd most advanced orchestra.|