In the heart of the Misiones

The children stay at the music school all day, often organising themselves into groups and learning from each other.Wednesday 30th april – San Ignacio
Before the (long) return journey towards Santa Cruz, this early morning we visit the third music school during our two days in an Ignacio, FASSIV, which is impressive in a very special way.

In FASSIV – Fundacion de Ayuda Social San Ignacio de Velasco; “Foundation for social aid”, children with physical and mental handicaps sit next to non-handicapped children in an orchestra. This is part of the care FASSIV provides for people with special need, and like at the schools for the children of poor families, playing violin, cello, clarinet or percussion, or even conducting the orchestra, gives these children an opportunity to be equal with everybody else. As the administrator of FASSIV quite rightly puts it: “In music, we are all equal”. As usual, we set up a concert with NBE and the orchestra, each playing some of their own repertorie, before joining forces in a traditional Bolivan folk tune that all the children in this region knows. The concert ends with the orchestra, for the occation enforced with a 10 piece brass section and one extra percussionist, performing the choral from Beethoven’s 9th symphony, conducted by a young man with Cerebral Palsy.

Yesterday was an eventful day, with visits to the orchestra of San Fransisco church’s brass department and later the strings of Santa Ana, before our festival concert in the magical setting of the gorgeous Santa Ana Cathedral.

Music schools with orchestras like the ones in San Ignacio, San Jose and Santa Ana are to be found in almost every little town and village in Chiquitania. All pupils play with the orchestra right from the beginning, learning from watching their older friends as well as from their teacher. Most places, the children stay in the schools all day, six days a week. Consequently, despite the constant challenges of good quality instruments, nescessary equipment and capable teachers, they advance at an extraordinary pace compared to children in our own countries, who typically recieve about 20 minutes with a teacher per week, and seldom play in bigger ensembles or orchestras with more advanced pupils until they have played for several years.

Quality is not the most important aspect in these orchestras. Bolivia is a country with extreme differences, poverty and inequality. The main idea behind this social project, which is the true nature of the music schools, is to provide every child with an equal opportunity to learn to play and to express and develop him- og herself through music; regardless of background, colour, origin, status, money, or even amount of talent.