Pantanal Music Exchange

We are founding a youth music education program and orchestra to enrich the lives and community of the boys at the Nazaré orphanage in Brazil.
Ethan Shirley
Email Verified
7 Team Members

Short Summary

The Nazaré Orphanage in rural Brazil is home to sixty boys whose lives have been scarred by domestic violence, abuse, and neglect. Orphanage founder Father Joaquim Tébar secured a donation of numerous violins, violas, and cellos to teach the children music. Tragically, he died before he could turn his idea into reality. We began this project to carry on his vision to bring music to lives that have known little else but adversity and hardship.

While working to set up workshops with the kids at Nazaré on public health, CPR, English, and sustainable technologies last summer, the director revealed a room full of stringed instruments that were collecting dust. We immediately decided to start putting them to use, and did our best to give some basic string lessons. The excitement and energy this brought out of the kids was immediately apparent, and we couldn’t help but want to see it continue. This summer we plan to expand the program into a full string orchestra through daily rehearsals over a two month period.

The Pantanal Music Exchange (PME) aims to cultivate creativity in the lives of these boys. We want the project to grow out of the excitement of the kids, so much of the music we teach will be pop and traditional songs that the kids know and want to learn, a model we had great success with last summer. Local support and involvement is crucial, and we are working with musicians and community members in Poconé so that the program can continue and grow even while we're not there. We're currently organizing partnerships with other youth orchestra programs in both Brazil and America.

We have built a team of dedicated individuals to lead PME, including regional experts, local Brazilian musicians, energetic college students, and recent graduates. All of us have been playing, writing, and teaching music for over a decade. Those who didn’t grow up speaking Portuguese have worked hard to learn it over the past year. We are also a relatively young group, which should help the kids relate to us and see us as role models.


"Lessons usually ended with requests, and the kids kept me on my feet trying to work out arrangements of anything from Lady Gaga to the Titanic theme song." -Alex, PME co-founder


What We Need & What You Get

We are seeking funding to overcome the many challenges to creating a sustainable music program in rural Brazil distant from the strong musical communities that already exist. The primary cost of the project is from the simple physical necessities of a music program: instruments, instrument maintenance, and associated accessories like stands, music, and rosin. The secondary cost is the transportation, housing, and board for the musicians who will be traveling to teach the kids.

You are seeking a way to make a difference in the world, and be excited while doing it. You believe in the power of music and want to see how it can transform the lives of these kids and the community they live in. To encourage you to make that difference through supporting us, we will even throw in a few goodies so you can proudly let the world know that you were a part of this project.


“The notes for ‘Happy Birthday’ are the same in every language!” -Ethan, PME co-founder


The Impact

We believe PME will benefit both the kids at the orphanage and the area as a whole. The orchestra would further link Nazaré to the community by both increasing awareness of the boys’ plight and exposing the community to new music. While our initial focus will be on Nazaré, we will soon begin to include a wider range of students, educators and musicians from the area, so as to create not just an orchestra but a community and cultural center.

The orphanage will benefit through cultural exchange, as well as creative and intellectual growth. The kids of Nazaré and middle schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan will exchange letters and make friends overseas through a partnership with Ann Arbor middle schools. Music facilitates creative and intellectual growth, which will have long-term benefits for the kids. The orchestra will create a space for the boys to realize their own potential, break the cycle of abuse and neglect, and become agents of change in their own lives and the community. Last year, we saw music already bringing them together to help each other learn. These boys have shown that they have the will to persevere; they only need the tools to succeed.

“Sixteen-year-old Bruno was a great help, passing on what I had taught to some of the younger kids. Gotta love anyone who appreciates the importance of a good bow hold!” -Alex


We begin PME with experience successfully conducting non-music projects in the region. Over the past four years, the founders of PME have built a community center and research station in the Northern Pantanal, and organized workshops on subjects ranging from basic literacy to advanced English, CPR to bio-sand water filter technology. For more details, please visit the Pantanal Center for Education and Research (PCER) website at

We have also partnered with the Pan American Symphony Orchestra (PASO) in Washington, DC.  The first orchestra in the nation to focus solely on Latin American music, PASO combines artistic excellence with educational initiatives for the greater arts community. Their website is here:

In addition to these two official partners and the Nazaré Orphanage itself, we have received advice and assistance from a number of other sources that we would like to acknowledge. We are working on developing closer partnerships with all of them:

  • Ciranda Institute (Cuiabá, Brazil) - local volunteers, experience organizing and administrating

  • Departamento de Música da Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (Cuiabá, Brazil) - volunteers and curricular advice

  • Rotary Club (Poconé, Brazil) - donation of instruments

  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI USA):

    • Michigan Pops Orchestra

    • University Music Society

    • Pantanal Partnership

  • Ann Arbor Public Schools (Ann Arbor, MI USA) - curricular advice, fundraisers, musical pen pals


“The night before the boys’ performance, they refused to go to bed, and stayed up late practicing and practicing.” - Ethan


Other Ways You Can Help

We are always looking for donations of instruments, stands, rosin, bows, bridges, strings, pencils, papers, folders, tape, and other supplies.

In addition, we are always looking for fresh perspectives on our projects. If you have advice, ideas, or connections that could help, give us a shout!

Please get the word out to everyone you can!

You can contact Alex Carney at with questions, concerns, ideas, and donations.


Find This Campaign On
raised by 65 people in 2 months
33% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$15,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on May 20, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $5USD

    We will put you on the email list for our weekly online newsletter. This will include some video footage of the final concert.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $10USD

    Sticker with the PME logo on it. Perfect for instrument cases! Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    9 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $10USD

    Silicone wristband with "Pantanal Music Exchange" written on it. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $25USD

    T-shirt featuring the PME logo. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    7 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $50USD
    Signed Concert Photo

    A high quality print of a signed photo of the kids at their final performance. The photo will be signed by the kids and the teachers. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $75USD
    Full Concert DVD

    A DVD of the full final concert footage. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $100USD
    Value Pack

    DVD, T-shirt, and choice of sticker or wristband. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $250USD
    Choose a Song - Kids

    Choose a relatively easy song for the kids to learn and perform. The teachers will work with you to make sure it is feasible. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    0 out of 3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $250USD
    Choose a Song - Teachers

    Choose a slightly more difficult song for the teachers to learn and perform. We will work with you to make sure it's feasible. Plus, you get on the newsletter email list.

    1 out of 3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $500USD
    Name on a Plaque

    You get your name on a plaque that will hang on the wall of the orphanage. We'll make sure you get a picture of the plaque digitally after it has been hung.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
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