Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Brazil: Week 25 - Pedagogy Seminar, Sustainability, and Goodbye to Salvador

This week, Neojiba hosted a Pedagogy Seminar, the fourth such one they have held annually.  They hold these primarily to give training and improve the teaching level at the satellite nucleos and partner projects, but it is also open to the general public.  It is also a way to introduce them to El Sistema philosophy and methodology.  There were various lectures, workshops, and teaching demonstrations throughout the week.

The seminar opened on Monday with a workshop on sustainability presented by a representative from the Fundaci√≥n MAPFRE, a Spanish foundation that also works a lot all around Latin America, focusing on safety, culture, health, the environment, and social action.  Going into the workshop, I didn't know exactly what it was going to be about, whether it would be about sustainability in terms of energy, the environment, keeping non-profit arts projects healthy and going, or what angle they would take.  Indeed, it ended up being about environmental education within the context of music and arts programs.  

Although I felt unable to contribute to the discussion due to the language barrier, I found that the discussion hardly penetrated the surface of what creating an environmentally sustainable music program would be.  As so often happens today, "sustainability" is used as a buzz word; it is talked about a lot, but few actually grasp what it truly means, and most actions that are taken have very little impact, yet it looks good for their organization.  I was particularly disheartened when they stopped for a lunch break and everyone headed over to a table to drink soda out of plastic bottles poured into plastic cups, ate meat-filled snacks on plastic plates, and then threw all these items straight into a big trash can.  It was as if all of a sudden everyone forgot about the point of the workshop and nobody could see the connections between what they were doing and what kind of an impact that has on the world's natural resources and the environment.

Ricardo Castro with YOBA after performing Mahler 1 in the open rehearsal
"Sustainability" means the capacity to endure indefinitely.  I am glad that music projects like this are starting to consider what it means to be sustainable and operate in such a way, but unless we consider the ramifications of all of our decisions and how they effect the demand and use of our natural resources and planet, then we will only be fooling ourselves.  If you think recycling the bottle of water you purchased is acting sustainably and that you are doing your part for the environment, then you are either being fooled or fooling yourself.  

If El Sistema is about educating the whole person through music, then I think we must begin to talk about such things which might at first seem unconnected to music, like our natural resources.  El Sisetma already deals somewhat with social relations, family problems, etc., so why shouldn't it begin to acknowledge and address how a child should act in relation to other things, like food and water, health, etc.?  All music programs actually do influence children's behavior and thoughts in these fields whether they do so consciously or not, by what food they provide, whether they provide a way for the kids to exercise in some way or not, whether they allow bottled water or not, etc.  Often they are simply unconsciously reinforcing societal norms in these areas, while actively and consciously changing the other more obvious ones.  Why don't we take this opportunity to help our students begin to think and consider these often unconscious habits and make better decisions?  

Leon Spierer (right) playing with YOBA
For the next month, Neojiba is hosting several international visitors: 8 advanced students from the conservatory of music in Geneva, Switzerland, one violinist from El Sistema in Venezuela, and Leon Spierer, who was concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic for 30 years (you can't get much higher than that in the classical music world!).  All of them played with the Youth Orchestra of Bahia as they performed Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in an open rehearsal at the Castro Alves Theater this week.  

Recently I met a couple of great guys, Gabriel Globus-Hoenich and Brad Broomfield, who are both American drummers and teaching artists at Play On, Philly!, an El Sistema-inspired program in Philadelphia.  They arrived here in Salvador to spending 6 weeks learning the rhythms of Afro-Brazilian music and Candomble while learning how these are used in community music and cultural programs for youth, such as at Neojiba.  They plan on bringing what they have learned back to share with the youth in the US (somewhat like what I'm doing here with my own project.)  Check out their blog "Drumming for Social Change" to learn more about the interesting work they are doing.

Gabe and Brad (from left to right)
It is with sadness that my 2 months in Salvador are ending.  I had a great time getting to know this fascinating city and the culture, hear a lot of great music and meet some great people.  But it is time to move once again farther up the coast of Brazil to the state of Paraiba, where I will be spending 2 months working with a brand-new El Sistema-inspired program there called PRIMA.  On to the next adventure! 

1 comment:

gghdrums said...

Beautiful Keane! I wish we could have hung out more, but it was inspiring to get to spend the time we did. Best of luck over the next few months, and let's keep in touch!