“Music can change the world, because it can change people.” – Bono
More than 60 kids fill the classroom. They are taking notes, participating, and giving all of their attention to Alexis Arango, the musical director of the non-profit Youth Orchestra “Renacer,” or Rebirth.
Their faces say everything, filled with enthusiasm, hope, and happiness. They are discovering their own capacity to learn to play an instrument and belong to a symphonic orchestra at such a young age. This changes them, and their families, too. Some start off shy, reserved, but slowly come out of their shells as they get to know the music, history of art, and spend more time with their classmates. When they perform for public audiences and realize that they can play the musical pieces that they practice every day, confident personalities emerge.
“My daughter used to be very shy. She spoke very quietly, and only wore black clothes. But since she’s started here, it’s changed the way she looks at things, and the way that she is developing. I also really like the way that everyone supports one another. They really are a family,” says Doña Paty, mother of one of the students.
These changes also take over the parents. They believe that their kids are in a place where they learn about music, but also lessons on self-confidence that make them feel strong and empowered. The future is in the seeds that the students water day after day.
More than 86 kids from ages 6 to 16 form the program. All of them come from families in San José Tecoh, San Antonio Xluch, and the deep south of Mérida. They take classes Monday to Friday from 3 pm to 7 pm, in a classroom at the Alborada Community Center. “When they come, we all go to different parts of the gardens so that we can practice,” says Winnie Magaña Soler, master violinist and driving force of the organization.
The selection of instruments includes more than 40 violins as well as violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, clarinets and trumpets. Using these tools, the children learn a repertoire of more than 100 musical pieces in about eight months.
The multi-level classes adapt to incorporate new students when they arrive to the program. The teachers instruct different arrangements for each piece of music from basic to intermediate and advanced, encouraging students to develop solos, which allows them to demonstrate individual talent while gaining more experience and confidence.
The performances feature everything from Yucatecan songs to Disney, classical, and Christmas music, depending on the season or event of the performance. Renacer has been invited to play at schools, “Hogar de Ángeles” orphanage, and recently, Mérida Fest. The young musicians appear as professionals, prepared by discipline, and frequently dressed in regional attire, demonstrating their pride in their Yucatecan roots.
The parents receive loans for the instruments, administrated by the Secretary of Culture and Art of Yucatán. This challenges the students with the responsibility of caring for an instrument and allows them to keep practicing at home. The students cling to the cases of their instruments, which are often bigger than the kids themselves.
The program pushes the students to transform discipline, teamwork, and talent into something bigger, step by step. The students’ performances exude enthusiasm and commitment, exemplifying the process of rebirth that each of them experiences.
Renacer began in 2015 with 10 teachers as a project supported by federal funds. When the federal funds stopped coming, the amazing results allowed the parents and teachers to come together and form a non-profit organization. Since May of 2017, this cultural and educational program keeps moving forward thanks to the volunteer support of three amazing teachers. These teachers insisted that the students can never lose hope, and they mobilized monetary donations and the donation of instruments, equipment, and economic support to be able to pay the teachers.
Today, Renacer is promoting a campaign for the donation of new or used instruments of all kinds, like violins, pianos, or flutes. They will host a concert as a fundraiser to raise money as a symbolic gift for the teachers who have given so much of their time to this cause. They still lack a sufficient space, payment for teachers, transportation for concerts, furniture, and many other things. “The project is ambitious. We want to reach the marginalized communities in Yucatán – not just Mérida. Children in vulnerable conditions deserve access to music, giving them an opportunity to pursue music seriously in the future,” says Alexis.
A hope for this future radiates from the children’s faces.
Facebook: Orquesta Sinfonica Infantil y Juvenil “Renacer” A.C.
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