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
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 http://www.pantanalcer.org/.
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: http://www.panamsymphony.org.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, concerns, ideas, and donations.