|All the chairs set up for the concert|
But despite all his success, Marcos has had to overcome significant obstacles during his musical journey. His family, who have no musical training or background at all, thought when he began taking lessons that it was a nice thing but didn't think much of it. However, when he later decided that music was what he wanted devote his life to, he met resistance from his parents. Coming from a low-middle class family, his parents believed that music wasn't something you could make a living in, and if you were doing it professionally you must be playing in seedy bars late at night. They wanted him to study law, medicine or something like that where he could earn a lot of money, and they believed that jobs in the humanities and arts were for people who can't succeed in anything else (much like my own country's view of college English, Philosophy, Art History, and Music majors.) During his first 6 or 7 years studying music, his parents never even came to a concert. But as they began to learn more about music and his work as a conductor, they grew to become more supportive and understanding, and Marcos believes this is only a natural process for someone who has no musical knowledge or background whatsoever.
|Orquestra Infanto-Juvenile rehearsing before the concert|
The concert then went on with all the orchestras of the project performing. It was interesting to see the Orquestra Escola, which is the 4th most advanced orchestra, play "Russian Folk Dance," a piece which the next most advanced orchestra, the Orquestra Infanto-Juvenile, was performing two months ago when I first arrived here. These students are certainly progressing and I'm glad I've been able to witness some of it!
There was one surprise during the concert that came before the final performance of the top two orchestras combined. I was called up by Jony to join him in front of the the audience while they had a presentation honoring my two months with them, as I am leaving town tomorrow. They showed a slideshow of pictures of me, and then presented me with one of the Brazilian flag jackets that the orchestra wears when it goes on tour! It was so nice of them! I then joined then for the last number, playing piano (keyboard) for Arturo Marquez's "Danzon No. 2" just as I did for the concert a few weeks earlier.
|Me wearing my Brazilian jacket with pride!|
One thing I have noticed about all the concerts that I have seen here is that there are two sides to the repertoire the orchestras perform. Usually the first half of the performance consists of masterworks from the most famous composers of the European classical tradition, such as Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, while the second switches to pieces that are more "fun," closer to the popular music world, using Latin dance forms, rhythms, and lots of percussion. During the performance of these pieces, the orchestras employ choreographed movements, dancing, clapping, twirling instruments, jumping up out of their seats, etc. I asked Mauricio about this side of the repertoire and he told me that this is a strategy that, while in some ways is inspired by El Sistema, such as the dancing and choreography, is something unique to the project here and is used for a number of reasons. As the idea of an orchestra is not native to Latin America but imported from Europe, there isn't a strong orchestral tradition here, especially as the media is so focused on popular music. As a consequence, many people, especially those who are least privileged, do not have access to classical music. Of course, this is exactly why El Sistema exists in the first place, to give people access to this music when they wouldn't otherwise.
|Orquestra Infanto-Juvenile performing during the concert|
But how could this model be used effectively in the US? Here in Brazil they are using music that is an important part of their culture, yet adapting it to an orchestral context. Would it work to use more Latin pieces in American orchestral concerts, even though it would be something imported from Latin American and not exactly native to our culture? But then again, the Latin minority in the US is rapidly ceasing to be just that, and within 30 years it is predicted that 1 of every 3 Americans will be Latino, so perhaps we should embrace this music more as our own? Or should we look towards America's unique musical traditions of Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Country, Rock and Roll, The Great American Songbook, Native American music, and Gospel? Do we have an equivalent tradition of dance music with such energy that would work so well to end concerts? I think this is a good idea to think about and should definitely be explored further.
|Jony William and I after he bestowed the|
Brazilian flag on me (Photo by Anacelli Nuffer)
Tomorrow I leave Campos, but I have definitely had an incredible experience here. It certainly started out rough during my first couple of weeks, but I will greatly miss the students, teachers, and friends that I have made here, and even the strangers that have helped me when I've needed it. I have been welcomed with open arms (literally) and accepted as a member of the Orquestrando a Vida family. I'm proud to have had this experience in a city well off the beaten path, and I've learned so much during my time here. Now I head back to Rio for a few days to conduct a few interviews, then it is up to Salvador to work with NEOJIBA for the next two months. Obrigado e tchau, Campos!