By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Over both nights of last weekend, young residents from Rio’s favela communities performed in Gávea’s Planetarium and Centro’s Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antiga Sé chuch as a part of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Rio de Janeiro.
With a full orchestra playing a repertoire of classical music, the evening presented the results of work by the Social Action for Music of Brazil (ASMB) project.
Forty-eight musicians aged between 13 and 22 year old performed in the Planetarium on the evenings of Saturday, March 11th and in Nossa Senhora do Carmo on Sunday March 12th.
Musicians came from the Dona Marta, Babilônia, Chapéu Mangueira, Cantagalo, Pavão Pavãozinho, Complexo do Alemão and Morro dos Macacos communities.
The project, which has been in existence since 1996, aims to teach classical music and citizenship training to children and young people who live in more vulnerable areas of the city.
Speaking to EBC, the Orchestra’s conductor Mateus Araújo said that the group is planning a lot more concerts for this year. “We need education more than ever, and music is the pinnacle of this process. That’s what we’re fighting for,” he said.
ASMB said that it also faced difficulties when it started due to the violence in those communities, in addition to funding difficulties. Today, the project survives off sponsorship and has found that the presence of UPPs (Police Pacifying Units) in communities has facilitated its work, reducing the levels of violence.
Tom Ashe, the founder of Favela Brass, a Rio-based NGO that teaches children from similar communities wind and brass instruments, told The Rio Times that opportunities to perform like this can have a big impact on young people’s lives.
“The big thing in Rio with the favelas is the divide within the city. The first exchange, if you are born in a favela, isn’t with other countries – the first exchange is linking with the rest of the city. Every time the kids get a chance to go down and play in the city, they feel less excluded,” said Ashe.
Ashe believes that these performances are integral to combating prejudice against those who live in favelas. “There’s people who see kids learning to play instruments and playing well, and that gives them a more favorable view of children in favelas and see that it’s worth investing in them,” he added.
Future concerts have yet to be announced, but will be available via the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira website.