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By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – At Vinicius’ home in favela Parada de Lucas you might never hear Concerto Violin No.5 from Mozart coming out of the home stereo system. But eight-year-old Vinicius does have a passion for classical music. “All I want to do is play the violin all day long. When I’m older I hope to be a great composer,” says the young boy.

The Orquestra AfroReggae Diego Frazão performs on stage, photo by Patricia Maresch.

He is the youngest member of the Orquestra AfroReggae Diego Frazão. Around the world AfroReggae is know for its percussion music, but the Cultural NGO has broadened its horizon to – of all things – classical music.

Four years ago conductor Guilherme Carvalho started giving free workshops in violin, cello and bass at the AfroReggae project in favela Parada de Lucas, the Northern Zone of Rio. The workshops became very successful which made the project rapidly turn into a complete string orchestra with 28 musicians between the ages eight and 24.

“You can find a lot of youth orchestras in the world, but you will never find one such as ours because we work mainly with children, young kids. The older ones just help out,” says maestro Carvalho. “Kids are still free from preconceptions. You won’t find them thinking it’s abnormal to listen to Bach when you live in the favela. They love listening to classical music, you wouldn’t believe it!”, he states with a surprised look on his face.

The 29-year-old conductor talks passionately about his young musicians. “For me it’s not obligatory, I’d love to play just popular music with the kids, but they insist on playing pieces by composers such as Haydn and Villa-Lobos.”

Young musicians at practice, photo by Christian Rodrigues/AfroReggae.

When the orchestra was launched last year they had only ten violins, today it features all the instruments of the string family. Maestro Carvalho has big plans for his young musicians: “We want to take our orchestra to the next level. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to play at festivals in Rio de Janeiro such as the X-Tudo Festival, but we want to go abroad.”

Maybe maestro Carvalho is a dreamer, but it is his solid desire to one day see his orchestra perform Vivaldi in concert halls in America and Europe. “Why shouldn’t we?”, he asks aloud. “They are just as talented as any other kid from a place where they might be better of.”

At the X-Tudo Festival this past weekend, the AfroReggae orchestra played eighteenth Century Baroque music, a pot-potpourri of music from the Brazilian Northeast region as well as songs from soul artist Ben E. King and pop legend Michael Jackson.

It’s not just the great variety in music which makes this a special ensemble, it’s also the ambition of its members. “I had to wait a long time to join the orchestra,'” says young violinist Vinicius. “I came by every week to ask if I could play, but it took months before they could give me an instrument to practice on. Now I can finally play my violin. It’s the best,” he smiles.

X-Tudo Cultural Carioca is a fifteen day-long festival with theater, music, poetry, dance and other art forms from Carioca artists.
November 5th through 20th at three different SESI theaters:
– SESI CENTRO (Av. Graça Aranha, 1)
– TEATRO SESI JACAREPAGUÁ (Av. Geremário Dantas, 940 Freguesia)
– TEATRO SESI DUQUE DE CAXIAS (R.Artur Neiva, 100 – 25 de Agosto).
Free entrance
www.firjan.org.br/cultura

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