ACAPULCO, Mexico – With just a few instruments, most of them on loan, 35 eager children and teens in Acapulco have formed the city’s first young people’s orchestra, a move designed to get them away from the street violence that exists in this Mexican city and put “an instrument in their hands instead of a weapon.”
Children between the ages of 7-18 comprise this small orchestra, created six months ago and in which stringed instruments like the violin, viola and cello predominate.
“We’re not going to make more musicians, we’re going to make better human beings through music,” orchestra director, Olimpio Pineda Casas, told EFE looking proudly at the kids from the Progreso housing development, one of the port city’s most violent areas.
He said that this is “a training school,” and his aim is for the kids not to make contact with “negative” things, and to “have an instrument in their hands instead of a weapon.”
“It’s about changing that image through music, for the kids to have that chance,” he said regarding the violence in Acapulco, which is, according to the list prepared annually by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, the world’s second-most-violent city, after Caracas.
Some 150 kids came to the orchestra auditions, but because of the lack of equipment and other materials just 35 were accepted.
“I never imagined that so many children would come. Something that fills me with satisfaction is that so many of them came voluntarily. That’s the most difficult thing, getting them to fall in love with their instruments, with music,” Pineda said.
Each orchestra participant’s story is different. Some of them have music in their family and others have never had the chance to learn how to play an instrument, such as Anayatzin Rumbo Ruiz, an 11-year-old girl whose said her hands were tired from practicing her viola so much.
Although she is young, she thinks that the best advice she can give other kids is “for them to get interested in an instrument, since it will be the best tool they will have to do something like adults.”
The parents have also gotten involved in the new project.
Patsy Estrada, the mother of Hector, one of the orchestra’s youngest members, told EFE that seeing her son there is “emotional” and makes her feel proud.
In addition, when Hector began studying the viola, he also upped his performance in school. “It’s thanks to this stimulus of music. It really does help them a lot,” she said.
In addition to learning about playing instruments and music, the 35 kids in the orchestra are also inculcating values such as discipline, respect, teamwork and perseverance, all important elements in both orchestral work and in life.