Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Brazil: Week 14 - Municipal Orchestra Performance and Collaboration with Vale Musica

The Municipal Orchestra of Campos dos Goytacazes
 performing in the Camara Municipal
This week I was able to see the Municipal Orchestra of Campos in concert for the first time.  As I've written about before, the Municipal Orchestra is the city's first professional orchestra, it is less than a year old, and comprised completely of staff and students of Orquestrando a Vida.  Essentially it is a smaller and more selective version of the Mariuccia Iacovino Orchestra, the top youth orchestra of the project, having about 45 members instead of the 90 that the youth orchestra has.  They performed in the lobby of the Camara Municipal, a city government building just two blocks away from the project, for what I believe was the anniversary of the founding of the city in 1677.  It was a very short concert, in front of what seemed like all the city politicians, consisting of their best and most impressive repertoire: the last movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, Glinka's Overture to "Ruslan and Ludmila" and Bernstein's "Mambo."  After the concert, a theater troupe acted out a play on the steps about the history of the city.  Here is a video of the performance of "Mambo" complete with the choreography and tricks:

The theater troupe performing on the steps of the
Camara Municipal
Early in the week, the project received several visitors from Vale Musica, which has several music education programs for children around Brazil.  These representatives were from the state of Espirito Santo, which lies just to the north of Campos (which is in the state of Rio de Janeiro).  Jony tells me that they have had 3 music programs there each in a different city for the past 12 years, but during the last 2 it has kind of fallen apart.  They have a sponsor and money, students, instruments, and facilities, but the big problem is the teachers.  It seems that the teachers, who are all professional musicians, are not very dedicated to teaching and the children.  Trying to turn their programs around, the leaders of Vale Musica have reached out to Jony and the program here as they are interesting in adopting an El Sistema model.  This seems to be a perfect fit for both parties, as here at Orquestrando a Vida they don't have very much money, don't have ideal facilities and resources, yet are still producing great results, while Vale Musica has all the resources but lacks the same high quality outcomes.  The plan is that Vale Musica will send both teachers and students down here to Campos to be trained in the philosophy and methodology of El Sistema and return to their projects with a different mindset, skills, and training.  Jony explained to me that this is what El Sistema in Venezuela does when helping open new nucleos, they send teachers to train and support, and it is time for Orquestrando a Vida to do the same thing now around Brazil.

A painting of the Goytacazes Guacu
Indians, the natives of this region,
which was part of the play
When I asked Jony what advice he would give to El Sistema programs in USA, he simply said passion and love, for people first and music second.  The great secret of El Sistema, he says, is the passion they have and how effectively they can inspire that passion in others.  Once you have a strong passion, there are no barriers that can't be broken through, which I think is sound advice for any aspect of life, not just in music.

Jony also told me that I should tell all my musician friends and my home university that if anyone is looking to gain some great experience teaching in an El Sistema program abroad that Orquestrando a Vida would love to receive musicians from the US and from other countries to volunteer teaching with the program for a month or 2 at a time.  You would probably have to pay all your own expenses, although the cost of living in Campos is pretty low (and much, much lower than living in Rio or Sao Paulo).  Having some Portuguese skills would make things a lot easier, or even Spanish would go a long way, but they would be fine receiving teachers that only know English.  Please send me an email if you are interested, and I can help you make it happen.

Bass classes - June 18, 19, and 20 - Professor: Beans
(I just thought this was funny)

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