Monday, July 18, 2011

Instituto Bacarelli

Think of Brazilian music, and you probably think of the samba…

…played on instruments like the pandeiro

…the reco-reco…

and the cuica.

But Brazil is nothing if not diverse.

And, in a favela in São Paulo, there’s a group of young people playing an altogether different kind of music.

They prefer violins, and violas and cellos.
And the melodies of Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky.

Here’s the guy responsible for all that:

His name is Silvio Bacarelli, and he’s a Brazilian conductor.
For years, he’d harbored a dream to teach kids from underprivileged neighborhoods about the joys of classical music.
And, in 1996, he made it happen.

He went to Vila Heliópolis, São Paulo’s largest slum, and founded the Center for Music Education, now called the Instituto Bacarelli.

Eight years later, his students had progressed to the point where he was able to establish an orchestra.

He called it the Sinfônica Heliópolis, the Heliópolis Symphony Orchestra.

Some of the musicians were (and are) as young as 13.

And now, fifteen years on, many musicians he trained, kids from one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of Brazil, are earning a living as classical musicians, and performing in orchestras all over the country.

Here’s a recording from a few years ago in which the Sinfônica Heliópolis performed Beethoven’s 5th under the direction of one of the world’s greatest conductors, Zubin Mehta:

The musical portion is tagged with an interview by Mr. Mehta himself.

Leighton - Monday


  1. For so long the conventional wisdom was that a true appreciation of the arts, in any form, was the result of a genteel upbringing in which exposure to the finer things was a part of normal life. A lot of people were convinced that if one didn't have money, those interests were beyond the pale.

    There are truly good things to the ubiquitous presence of the media. The weekly broadcast of an opera from the Metropolitan in New York and the frequent programming of opera, jazz, symphonies and the spring time broadcasts of the Boston Pops became an experience of learning and one of appreciation for those who had television. PBS has always been free.

    Music feeds the imagination and lightens the soul. Neither are restricted to the rich. Talent is a gift and who receives the gift is the decision of the giver.

  2. So exciting to see things like this. Lovely post.


  3. From a favela to symphony houses...inspiring thank you for this post Leighton

  4. Just wonderful, and moving. Those children were given a gift by Bacarelli. To see and hear so much after coming from much poverty. Brazil continues to fascinate. Thank you.

  5. How do you continually come up with these terrific pieces? One week beetles, the next week Beatles. [It's really bugs and Brahms, but you get the literary license idea.]