Encouraging Harmony in Development
By admin May 5, 2016


Education is the most important tool in helping people overcome poverty worldwide. In the Global North and the Global South, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) tend to take precedence over the arts and humanities. While there is good reason to invest in the future of science and technology, preserving arts and culture can also contribute to advancing development goals. In fact, some of the most innovative music education programs are originating in the Global South.

One of the most famous youth orchestras in the world is the Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar (FMSB), formerly known as the Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela (FESNOJIV) or “El Sistema.” Musician and conductor José Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema in 1975 as a means of promoting domestic music education in Venezuela by making it more available to those on the bottom of the pyramid. The Venezuelan government soon became a major financial backer for the program, which largely relies on domestic and international funding. While it does produce incredible alumni, including the current Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel, the primary goal of the orchestra is enhanicng the social development of the youth. It is renowned for giving impoverished children hope and opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. Dozens of musical programs in the US, Canada, the UK, and around the world now base themselves on Venezuela’s model.

Other youth music programs that have gained international attention in recent years come out of Paraguay. In 2002, Maestro Luis Szarán created Sonidos de la Tierra  to bring music education to impoverished youth in Paraguay –especially those residing in rural towns – with a special emphasis on Paraguay’s own classical guitar tradition. Since its inception, it has embraced more particular projects, such as H2O Sonidos del Agua to promote sustainable clean water and a program that brings music to prisoners aiding in their societal reintegration.

Additionally, Sonidos de la Tierra aided director Favio Chávez in creating the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, which gained viral popularity due to the documentary called Landfillharmonic, chronicling the creation and development of the program. Cateura is a suburb of Asunción infamous for many of its impoverished residents making livings by picking trash out of the nearby landfill, and the orchestra has become famous for the ingenuous manner in which it has enlisted local talent to create instruments out of trash for the music students. In addition to giving the students the gift of music and new opportunities, the orchestra now performs around the world, sharing its unique look and sound.

Music itself benefits youth cognitively and socially, improves math and reading, encourages critical thinking and leadership skills, fosters self-esteem and community, and generally prepares students to become better citizens and members of society. The aforementioned programs build upon local resources to create unique approaches in order to promote music and the arts within society, as well as adopting sustainable measures that foster care for the environment and the community. As we promote international development, these music programs demonstrate how concentrating on local circumstances and culture can help to create programs that are more viable and enriching.


For more information:

Sonidos de la Tierra

Recycled Orchestra of Cateura

Landfillharmonic Movie

The junk orchestra: making music out of a landfill

In Venezuela, music provides hope for impoverished youth

Music for a Better Future



TED Talks: Jose Antonio Abreu

The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura on 60 Minutes

TED Talks: Favio Chavez







Thanks for sharing !

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