I first read about the ingenuity of this orchestra through an associated press article in December 2012. I was so inspired that I kept it. The orchestra is the brain child of its conductor, Fabio Chavez, a music teacher and social worker. At first, he had only five instruments to share among the many interested youngsters. Then, he recruited Tito Romero and Nicolas Gomez to build brass, woodwind and stringed instruments out of the resources brought to the city dump. I testify that the sounds these instruments produce are as authentic as they are unique.
As the conductor allowed various students to introduce themselves and their instruments, the audience was told which raw materials went into each one. A 30 litre can that used to contain vegetable oil forms the body of the cello, while the downspout of an eaves trough, assorted buttons, handles of metal spoons and guarani coins became an alto-saxophone.
|Photo of cello and player courtesy of Rebecca Bertrand|
|Close up of saxophone courtesy of Rebecca Bertrand|
The music performed by this ensemble included Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Henry Mancini and Pachelbel. The conductor, who used head, lip and eye gestures to direct his orchestra, accompanied them on his metal-based guitar (see bottom of next photo). The concert was closed by traditional music from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.
|Foreground: Fabio Chavez, conductor, and 15 year-old player of the upright bass. Photo credit: Rebecca Bertrand.|
Mr. Chavez shared many jokes and insights through a translator, but one thing he said sticks with me. He said, "Talent is evenly distributed among humanity, but opportunity is not." When the audience was invited to contribute an offering instead of an admission fee, they were helping to extend opportunity to the youth in the Cateura slum to have a better future than their parents, who work in the toxic environment of the landfill site.