Music contests are very frequent. On occasion, they offer thousands of dollars in prizes, recording contracts, and sometimes even a debut at Carnegie Hall. But only one participant will win and the dreams of others will be diluted, as well as the money invested to participate when they are eliminated, many times, on the first round. When we decided to create a guitar orchestra in Paraguay, we had to find a filter, because our budget would only be enough to integrate 20 young people. And despite its limitations, we appealed to the figure of the contest, but using the YouTube platform.
I direct Pu Rory: this is the name of our guitar orchestra, which means “festive sounds” in Guarani language. 76 young people from 27 cities of the country, 40 men and 36 women competed. From my experience working with them I realized that the guitar, an instrument that was previously reserved exclusively for men, today is played by many women in almost equal amounts. In Pu Rory, women and men share responsibilities on an equal footing and on equal numbers!
This experience shows us innate talent in many cases, but definitely in all cases, dedication. An instrument is not mastered without the perseverance that allows perfection to become the norm. Ensemble or chamber music teaches many things that we could put into practice in daily life. Soft skills that are as important as academics for young people to be successful in the future:
– Recognize your position, so that you are able to contribute to the whole from the self-esteem and the recognition of the importance of our role,
– Learn to see and recognize others to be able to “resonate” with them, in perfect harmony.
– Know when to speak and when to listen, since ensemble music is fundamentally about respecting each other’s spaces.
– Learn to be accurate, to never sound louder than the one that is carrying the singing voice, but knowing how to accompany them when it is the turn of others to be heard.
– Empathy, in order not to take a faster pace than the majority can follow, so that the group sounds in the best possible way.
– Solidarity, to be a team worker, contributing to the brilliance of the whole.
– Discipline, that allows to learn the individual parts, so that each practice flows and the objective can be reached.
– Humility, to know how to recognize what one lacks, and the ambition to continue growing.
To operate in this small universe that is an orchestra, it is necessary to know that there is a vertical structure to respect for the hierarchy of those who direct it, and another horizontal one in parity with the colleagues that make up the group, where everyone is equal before music without any distinction.
Just to provide more content and strengthen those soft skills, transversal to any learning process, the Ministry of Education of Paraguay together with the Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, with the support of the IDB, are working to provide additional hours within the school day and use part of those hours in artistic and musical activities. This project opens the opportunity to cultivate values that boys and girls will take with them and will transfer them to all areas of their daily life. Within this great program, this weekend there will be an event where the children themselves, together with entrepreneurs will venture to present solutions to the problems that affect their communities.
Also there is an alliance between the Berklee College of Music, of which I am a professor, and the IDB, which seeks to train teachers and give young Latin Americans the opportunity to explore Latin American music and the Berklee curriculum in their own country. This, with the aim of offering them tools that enhance their knowledge and promote the evolution of musical programs in the region.
These initiatives not only seek to promote creative thinking, but also teamwork and the recognition of others and the context to provide solutions. These become valuable tools throughout life.
The biggest challenge we face is to replicate these experiences in the whole country. That there is a guitar or musical instruments within children’s reach, as well as professors trained to work with them. In that way, we will be able to bring the orchestra’s teachings to life.
Entry author: Berta Rojas, world known and three time Latin Grammy award nominee guitarist committed to furthering and disseminating the classical guitar. A particular focus is on promoting the music of her country, Paraguay, as well as Latin American music more widely, and her ongoing support for the careers of young, upcoming guitarists.