From Trash To Triumph: The Recycled Orchestra

When you think of an orchestra, you're probably picturing refined woodwinds, brass, and strings. But one ensemble I recently met is made up mostly of kids who play instruments made out of literal trash. This is the Recycled Orchestra from Cateura, Paraguay, and their group is the subject of a documentary film.


Cateura is not a town, really. It's a slum alongside a landfill, located not far from Paraguay's capital city, Asunción.

Every day, about 3 million pounds of solid waste get dumped in Cateura. Many families eke out their existence by scavenging trash from the landfill to resell, and kids regularly get pulled out of school to help. During rainstorms, the landfill floods, and residents have to wade through contaminated water.

"Really, to be honest with you," says 16-year-old violinist Noelia Rios, "there was practically nothing in Cateura. What there was most was drugs."

Her violin, like many in the orchestra, is made out of cans, wooden spoons and bent forks. One of the ensemble's cellos uses an oil drum for its body. String pegs are created from detritus like old cooking utensils and even the heel of a worn-out women's shoe. Drum heads are made from old X-ray film, held in place with copious amounts of packing tape. Fifteen-year-old Tobias Armoa plays a saxophone made out of a drainpipe, melted copper, coins, spoon handles, cans and bottle caps.

The Recycled Orchestra was founded 10 years ago by Favio Chavez. "I went to work in Cateura as an environmental engineer," Chavez says. "I saw that there were a lot of children there, and I had the idea to teach them music in my free time."

Chavez' classes became so popular that they soon ran out of donated instruments. So he asked Nicolas Gomez, a talented carpenter in the community nicknamed "Cola," to make new instruments for his group — out of stuff from the landfill.

Several years ago, the orchestra caught the attention of a team of filmmakers led by executive producer Alejandra Amarilla. She knew that most people outside Paraguay had no clue about her home country. So the team went looking for a story to tell.

"It was mostly to be able to create awareness on children's issues," Amarilla says. "The uniqueness of the story that I ended up picking was that it contained a very strong emotional component, and very inspiring."

Four years ago, the film team made a short video for a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $175,000 to make a full-length documentary. Not only did they raise the money — the video went viral. Since then, the Recycled Orchestra has performed for politicians, monarchs and Pope Francis. The group plays Mozart, Paraguayan folk music, even Frank Sinatra. And the young musicians have backed up artists like Stevie Wonder, Metallica and Megadeth.

These days, kids from Cateura are flocking to join the orchestra. Ten-year-old Cinthia Servin, who plays the violin, says that she looked up to some of the older girls in the ensemble, and saw all the amazing opportunities they were having to travel well beyond Paraguay: "I wanted to play because it seemed like they liked what they were playing," she says, "and I wanted to visit other countries."

But it hasn't been easy for the Recycled Orchestra to go from being a community-based group to being the toast of international development folks and media around the world.

"Nothing that happened to us was planned, of any of this," Chavez says. "We're still learning to deal with it, moment to moment."

In the meantime, the ensemble has brought a lot of good to Cateura. Money the orchestra has generated from its international touring has funded the building of new, safer homes for several members of the group and their families — and the orchestra's lead instrument maker, Cola Gomez.

Chavez says there's also been a bigger change. "What we have achieved," he says, "is that in the community, children are respected. And respect for the moment that they need to get an education. It's something sacred. Before, it wasn't like this. Before I gave music classes, the mom or dad would take the kid away by the hand because they had to go to work. Today, that's unthinkable, impossible for it to happen. And we've already achieved the most difficult thing, which is to change the community."

Maybe it didn't have to be music that triggered such a fundamental shift. It could have been soccer, or chess, or theater, or some other activity.

But Chavez says that the kids playing in the Recycled Orchestra are creating something gorgeous out of nothing.

"To be a musician," he says, "you have to be responsible, persistent, tenacious, conscientious and sensitive. Without these values, you can't be a musician. But music has such a great power that it can't be just of the musicians. Music can transform society. "

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Doctors Now Prescribing Music Therapy for Heart Ailments, Brain Dysfunction, Depression, and More

Music has proven time and again to be an important component of human culture. From its ceremonial origin to modern medical usage for personal motivation, concentration, and shifting mood, music is a powerful balm for the human soul. Though traditional “music therapy” encompasses a specific set of practices, the broader use of music as a therapeutic tool can be seen nowadays as doctors are found recommending music for a wide variety of conditions.

Music Helps Control Blood Pressure and Heart-Related Disorders

 


According to The Cardiovascular Society of Great Britain, listening to certain music with a repetitive rhythm for least ten seconds can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. Certain classical compositions, if matched with human body’s rhythm, can be therapeutically used to keep the heart under control. The Oxford University study states, “listening to music with a repeated 10-second rhythm coincided with a fall in blood pressure, reducing the heart rate” and thus can be used for overcoming hypertension.

Listening and Playing Music Helps Treat Stress and Depression



When it comes to the human brain, music is one of the best medicines. A study at McGill University in Canada revealed that listening to agreeable music encourages the production of beneficial brain chemicals, specifically the “feel good” hormone known as dopamine. Dopamine happens to be an integral part of brain’s pleasure-enhancing system. As a result, music leads to great feeling of joy and bliss.

It’s not only listening to music that has a positive effect on stress and depression. The Namm Foundation has compiled a comprehensive list of benefits of playing music, which includes reducing stress on both the emotional level and the molecular level. Additionally, studies have shown that adults who play music produce higher levels of Human Growth Hormone (HgH), which according to Web MD, is a necessary hormone for regulating body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function.
For more on how music can be composed to benefit the brain, read about States of Consciousness and Brainwave Entrainment.

Music Therapy Helps Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

 


 
Music therapy has worked wonders on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. With Alzheimer’s, people lose their capacity to have interactions and carry on with interactive communications. According to studies done in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

Studying Music Boosts Academic Achievement in High Schoolers

 


 
Early exposure to music increases the plasticity of brain helping to motivate the human brain’s capacity in such a way that it responds readily to learning, changing and growing. “UCLA professor James S. Catterall analyzed the academic achievement of 6,500 low-income students. He found that, by the time these students were in the 10th grade, 41.4% of those who had taken arts courses scored in the top half on standardized tests, contrasted with only 25% of those who had minimal arts experience. The arts students also were better readers and watched less television.” This goes to show that in the formative stages of life, kids who study music do much better in school.

Playing Guitar (and Other Instruments) Aids in Treating PTSD 

 


 
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shared a study in which veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced relief by learning to play guitar. The organization responsible for providing guitars, Guitars For Vets “enhances the lives of ailing and injured military Veterans by providing them free guitars and music instruction.” Playing music for recovery from PTSD resembles traditional music therapy, in which patients are encouraged to make music as part of their healing process. Guitar is not the only instrument that can help PTSD. In fact, Operation We Are Here has an extensive list of Therapeutic Music Opportunities For Military Veterans.
 

Studying Music Boosts Brain Development in Young Children

 


 
A research-based study undertaken at the University of Liverpool in the field of neuroscience has light to shed on the beneficial effects of early exposure to music. According to the findings, even half an hour of musical training is sufficient to increase the flow of blood in the brain’s left hemisphere, resulting in higher levels of early childhood development.

The Portland Chamber Orchestra shares, “Playing a musical instrument involves multiple components of the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord) nervous systems.  As a musician plays an instrument, motor systems in the brain control both gross and fine movements needed to produce sound.  The sound is processed by auditory circuitry, which in turn can adjust signaling by the motor control centers.  In addition, sensory information from the fingers, hands and arms is sent to the brain for processing.  If the musician is reading music, visual information is sent to the brain for processing and interpreting commands for the motor centers.  And of course, the brain processes emotional responses to the music as well!”
 

Music Education Helps Children Improve Reading Skills

 


 
Journal Psychology of Music reports that “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” In the initial stages of learning and development, music arouses auditory, emotional, cognitive and visual responses in a child. Music also aids a child’s kinesthetic development. According to the research-supported evidence, a song facilitates language learning far more effectively than speech.

Listening To Music Helps Improve Sleep

 


 
According to The Center for Cardiovascular Disease in China, listening to music before and during sleep greatly aids people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders. This “music-assisted relaxation” can be used to treat both acute and chronic sleep disorders which include everything from stress and anxiety to insomnia.

Playing Didgeridoo Helps Treat Sleep Apnea

 



 

A study published in the British Medical Journal shows that people suffering from sleep apnea can find relief by practicing the Australian wind-instrument known as the didgeridoo. Patients who played the didgeridoo for an average of 30-minutes per day, 6 days per week, saw significant increases in their quality of sleep and decreases in daytime tiredness after a minimum period of 3-months of practice. Dr. Jordan Stern of BlueSleep says, “The treatment of sleep apnea is quite challenging because there is not a single treatment that works well for every patient. The didgeridoo has been used to treat sleep apnea and it has been shown to be effective in part because of strengthening of the pharyngeal muscles, which means the muscles of the throat, as well as the muscles of the tongue.”

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5 Tales From the Complicated Life of Beethoven



Passionate, moody, troubled, social — Beethoven's personality is hard to pin down. Here are a few wild stories from his life that provide a glimpse into a life misunderstood.

As Salieri's Vocal Student

Antonio Salieri has a bad rap in many a mind, thanks to insidious rumors about his distaste for Mozart which were bolstered by his characterization in the play (and later, film) Amadeus. But he was a talented composer in his own right, and can take some credit for being a teacher to Beethoven himself. When Ludwig went to Vienna, he sought instruction from the Italian composer. From Salieri, Beethoven learned the art of vocal music; the student would set Italian texts to music, and his teacher would correct them. One interesting anecdote from Beethoven’s own pupil, Carl Czerny: Once, Salieri had some negative feedback for one of Beethoven’s songs, but admitted he just couldn’t get it out of his head. Beethoven’s reply? “Then, Herr Salieri, it cannot have been so utterly bad!”




Symphony No. 2 — Fun in a Dark Place

For much of his life, Beethoven struggled with severe cramping and gastrointestinal issues as well. While we aren’t sure exactly what was the cause of these issues, there’s a chance his symptoms were due to irritable bowel syndrome. And the composer-killer syphilis may have been involved as well. On top of that, around the time he finished his second symphony, Beethoven was beginning to notice he was losing his hearing. It was a rough time — he wrote of his “miserable” and “unhappy” situation — and began to withdraw from social functions. With all of this in mind, it’s pretty interesting to hear how energetic and lively his second symphony is, especially it’s finale. Chicago Symphony Orchestra annotator Phillip Huscher declares it has a “nose-thumbing sense of humor,” and contemporary critic Hector Berlioz wrote that it was “smiling throughout.”

 



"Eroica," or, When Your Hero Isn't a Hero

In 1804, Beethoven completed his masterful third symphony. It's big and bold, and from those striking opening chords the audience knows it's in for something big. So it was only appropriate that this magnificent symphony be dedicated to someone of equal importance. And who better than to dedicate your best work than to your idol? For Beethoven, there was no question that his own hero, Napoleon Bonaparte, should be the dedicatee. At least, until he realized his own personal hero was a maniacal dictator bent on world domination. When he learned Napoleon had declared himself emperor, Beethoven lamented, “[Napoleon] is nothing but an ordinary being! Now he will trample the rights of man under foot and pander to his own ambition.” Beethoven scratched out Napoleon’s name from the dedication page, tore it up, and retitled it “Sinfonia Eroica,” for the true heroes of the world.




Fighting With Art

Once Beethoven got over his disillusionment with Napoleon, he used his art to actively resist his Imperial Majesty. Toward the end of 1813, Beethoven completed his orchestral piece Wellington's Victory, Op. 91 that celebrated Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Vittorio. It’s a battaglia, a musical form in which the sounds of the orchestra mimic the opposing sides of a battle. Listen closely and you can hear the sounds of war, as well as patriotic tunes representative of both sides. For the English, “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King”; for the French, “Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre” (which you may know as “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”). However, the piece wasn’t loved by everyone and Beethoven responded to one critic with fighting words: “What I shit is better than anything you have ever thought.”




Lovestruck

The “Elise” in “Für Elise” is still a mystery, but a popular idea is that it’s a nickname of Therese Malfatti, one of Beethoven’s piano students. Even though he was much older than her, Beethoven fell wildly in love with her. He suddenly began to care about his appearance and putting his best foot forward, which was slightly off brand for a guy who was wholly committed to just doing his thing. Anyway, the story goes, he wrote this piece just for her. But when Malfatti invited Beethoven over for a dinner party so he could meet the parents he dropped the glass ball into a million pieces. Maybe he was nervous, but apparently Beethoven drank way too much punch and, when asked to play this “Für Elise,” found himself unable to perform. It was a bad look, and Malfatti’s parents forbade him from ever seeing their daughter again.

Beloved as “Für Elise” is today, it may have been intended to remain a private work — it was found among Malfatti's affects when she died in 1851 and wasn’t even published until 1867.



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Warren Woodruff Attending CHOA Tower of Talent



So happy to be reunited with my darling Angelica and to be a part of such a wonderful fundraiser for CHOA. Great job everyone!


Yannie Tan and Laura Zhang

Muses: Clara and Robert Schumann ... and Brahms



She was an eight-year-old Wunderkind; he was an aspiring composer in his teens who saw her at a concert and so admired her playing that he sought piano lessons from her father. When Clara turned 18, Robert Schumann asked Herr Wieck for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but he was vehemently opposed to the union: so began years of agonizing separation and tender correspondence, with many sheets of manuscript exchanged, including some of Schumann’s most affecting Lieder and piano miniatures. He wrote to his yearned-for beloved, “You appear in the Novelletten in every possible circumstance, in every irresistible form... They could only be written by one who knows such eyes as yours and has touched such lips as yours.”



The lovers eventually took Clara’s domineering father to court after he threatened to disinherit her and confiscate her concert earnings. They won love’s battle and were at last married in 1840, the day before her 21st birthday. In celebration of their joyous union, Robert presented his bride with the song cycle Myrthen as a wedding gift – a bouquet or “myrtle of flowers”. He also gave her a marriage diary, in which the couple wrote regular entries for four years (often about their sex life). They settled into a routine: while Robert spent most of his time composing, Clara managed to give concerts and compose a thing or two herself in between running the household and wrangling eight children. 



Brahms

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One of the most frustrated love triangles in Romantic music was formed when Clara began to champion the music of the young composer Johannes Brahms – like her, a piano phenomenon. He quickly became a great friend of the Schumann family. When Robert’s mental health deteriorated, leading to his institutionalization and untimely death in 1856, Brahms moved in with his older mentor Clara to help look after her children while she coped with the loss of her husband.

Brahms, who was mentored by composer Robert Schumann,  launched himself into an extended period of work on his First Symphony shortly after declaring his love for Schumann’s wife Clara. A letter survives in which he declared, “I can do nothing but think of you … What have you done to me? Can’t you remove the spell you have cast over me?

So, did they or didn’t they? Schumann’s biographers frown at the suggestion. But this is the story that Brahm’s letters tell; they start formally “Honored Lady”, a bit later; “Cherished Friend”; finally “Most Adored Being- Every day I greet and kiss you 1000 times” or “Please go on loving me as I go on loving you always and forever”. Living under one roof in Dusseldorf for several months and hiking together along the Rhine valley. Platonic? If you wish. In later life Brahms, secretive and aware of posterity, threw into the Rhine a bundle of Clara’s letters. Platonic correspondence? If you wish. And Clara writes her children, protesting her innocence “I can truly say, my children, that I have never loved a friend as I loved him…( his role during the crisis…) Believe all that I, your mother, told you and do not heed those petty and envious souls who grudge him my love and friendship, trying to bring up for question our relationship, which they neither understand nor ever could.”  Brahms never married and as Clara was lying, crippled with stroke, waiting for the end, he was finishing his 4 Serious Songs “O death how welcome is thy call”. He almost missed the funeral and as he watched Clara being lowered into the grave, where 40 years earlier he had watched Robert being placed, he lost his composure and was sobbing behind the bushes. A few months later he died as a result of a chill he caught while trying to arrive for Clara’s funeral in time.

Piano Quartets in E flat minor, Opus 47 (Robert Schumann) G minor, Opus 25 (Johannes Brahms) were both premiered with the participation of Clara Schumann, guiding muse and one of the most distinguished pianists of the day.




Source: Limelight Magazine.com


CHOA's 4th Annual Tower of Talent

On October 15th, 2017

The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta 

will hosts it's fourth annual 
TOWER OF TALENT!!!

Don't miss this breath taking
display of young talent!
Click below to purchase your tickets


All My Children — The Family Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach

 

Johann Sebastian Bach worked hard. He worked hard to be a magnificent composer, he worked hard to be a good teacher and he worked hard to be a good father. Bach was married twice — first to Maria Barbara Bach and, upon her death, to Anna Magdalena Wilcke — and sired 20 children. 10 survived into adulthood — six sons and four daughters. While we're left to wonder what kind of talents their sisters may have harbored, four of those sons went on to become notable composers in their own right.


Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

He was the oldest of the J.S. sons, and had the toughest life. This is partially, at least according to Grove, due to the death of his mother when he was 10 years old and his father’s remarriage less than two years later. However, he did display some legitimately good keyboard skills and a composer. Like many of his brothers he attended the Thomasschule, and after graduation he proved to be a standout student at the University of Leipzig. In 1733, he handily won the organist’s position at St. Sophia’s Church in Dresden, where he also began to associate with the figures of the court. And Dresden’s court partied hard, so hard that it must have been quite the culture shock for someone who grew up under the religious restraints that Leipzig provided. Dresden was also a Catholic city, yet another thing a Lutheran Bach had to get used to. But Wilhelm Friedemann was able to adjust — perhaps too well. By the time he got to Halle (he's also known as the “Halle Bach”) — the liberal organist was at odds with the conservative city. His professional relationships in Halle grew ever contentious, and in 1764 he walked out of the job. Though that may have been his prerogative, it was more than a bit irresponsible considering he had a family at home.

Unfortunately, Wilhelm was a terrible keeper of his father’s work; most of the music he received from Johann Sebastian’s estate is now lost. He sold a lot of it, and passed some off as his own. There’s also a good chance that it was he who lost the St. Mark Passion. Thanks, Will.




Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Mozart once said, “Bach is the father, we are the children.” And while Johann Sebastian did have a lot of kids, it wasn’t Jo he was referring to. Mozart was talking about Carl Philipp Emanuel. That makes perfect sense, given C.P.E.’s role during the transition to what we know as the “Classical era” and the sheer volume of music he composed. Carl kept it busy.

Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci. That's C.P.E. Bach seated at the keyboard.
(Adolph Menzel / Wikipedia Commons)

He was a precocious child; J.S. was his primary music teacher and he was a talented sight reader of his father’s music by 11. He attended the University of Leipzig to study law, and like any money-conscious college student he lived at home with his parents and assisted in his father’s musical projects. Like any student out there grinding, he eventually transferred and made money by giving music lessons and directing public concerts. And through all of this, he began to emerge as a composer, balancing a full academic workload with his full creative capabilities. Grove speculates that C.P.E. was such a great student because he wanted to have the path to a “respectable” job if need be — professional musicians of his day weren’t always recognized for their creative contributions and were at the beck and call of their patrons (J.S. knew this all too well). Luckily for us, Carl went with music. But all the obsessive note-taking and meticulous record keeping habits he learned in school served him well — he was the most responsible steward of his father’s music. C.P.E. also counted among his friends Frederick the Great of Prussia. He was a mean flute player, and Carl and the King had many a jam session; C.P.E. even claimed that he accompanied Frederick’s first flute solo.



 

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Of all of J.S. Bach’s children to make their names as notable composers, J.C.F. and his younger brother Johann Christian got kind of unlucky. Not because of their talent, but because their older siblings got so much more time with their dad. And if you’re a Bach, “time with dad” means “time learning music.” J.C.F. went off to (again) the University of Leipzig, but had to drop out shortly after enrolling, in 1750. J.S. was sick (he died later that year), and the third Bach son needed to find a paying job. He wound up in Bückeberg, and did quite well for himself. While the court there was neither the grandest nor the most famous, it was incredibly cultured, making it a fine place to foster the life of the mind. J.C.F. cranked out vocal work, including some in collaboration with Johann Gottfried Herder.

Here’s something warm: in the late 1770’s J.C.F. and Wilhelm Friedemann went on a road trip to England to see their younger brother Johann Christian in England, stopping along the way to see Carl.





Johann Christian Bach

The youngest Bach boy was only a teenager when his father died. J.C. received a sizable inheritance (including three harpsichords) and eventually moved in with his older brother and music teacher Carl Philipp Emanuel. But in 1754, he moved to Italy where he *gasp* converted to Catholicism and became an organist at Milan Cathedral. It was there that he fell in love with opera; he moved again, this time to London, to compose for the Kings theater. He was popular, and in 1764 he was visited by a prodigious 8-year-old boy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. While J.C. was never formally his teacher, they were friendly, and Bach remained a great influence. According to Grove, 1768 saw J.C. give what might have been the first public performance on the piano.

Unfortunately, J.C.’s popularity declined over the years. His debtors were beginning to come around, and the shrinking demand for his new music did not pair well with the revelation that J.C.’s own housekeeper forged receipts and left with much of his money. His debts were never fully repaid. And while much of the public ignored his death, Mozart was sure to give him much deserved praise.





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