“The people united will never be defeated!”
This is the battle cry, originally from a famous Chilean protest song of the seventies, that resonates in the streets of Chile in recent weeks. The Chilean people occupied public spaces to demand a fairer state and to fight against inequality and social injustice. The rest of the world watches, shocked, at the tragic occurrences unfolding in the protests, and condemns the violence. As, of course, do I.
I cannot stop reflecting on my personal experience a few months ago in that beautiful country, in San Antonio, a seaport city about 120 kilometers west of Santiago. It was there that I saw firsthand a group of people join forces to achieve change in their community by sharing a unique orchestral experience.
From the orchestral practice of San Antonio, I know that it is possible to fulfill the dream of a united people. Beyond political, religious, or social differences, it happens through the combination of music with strong convictions, respect, empathy, and tolerance.
The Centro Cultural San Antonio (CCSA) has been working since 2013 to promote the arts and integration of its community, offering a variety of artistic and educational programs. This past summer, the Centro teamed up with six other small neighborhood projects to generate a substantial social, cultural, and educational impact in the area. Since the organization lacked experience with this kind of event, the biggest challenge was the “how.“
The great attitude and willingness to collaborate, on the part of the directors and teaching artists of the seven orchestral projects, made everything easier. Everyone focused on the opportunities and the benefits an event like this might offer. From this union of efforts, plus the contribution of my professional experience and the enormous support of the CCSA, the Primer Encuentro Formativo de Orquestas Infantiles y Juveniles de la Provincia de San Antonio was born. It included about 70 children and teens of different ages and technical levels joining to play together.
As a representative of the Global Leaders Program (GLP), I was invited to oversee the string orchestra. I felt honored and happy to be part of this great initiative and to share my professional experiences as a teaching artist in different projects throughout Latin America and Europe. We practiced playful musical activities to encourage the development of human values and social skills such as collaboration and active group participation. Our goals were to create and strengthen bonds of friendship and camaraderie and to encourage communication and interaction. This strengthens the capacity to solve problems as a team and to meet common goals through integration and empathy toward others.
All of this went hand in hand with the pursuit of musical excellence and beauty through collaborative learning. In a short time, we selected a new repertoire and culminated the encuentro in a marvelous open-air concert with a beautiful view of the San Antonio port as our background. At the end, many parents expressed their satisfaction and described the event as something deeply positive. The children and teens had spent their free time doing something useful, creative, and beautiful while avoiding the risks of the street.
After the encuentro, I provided an analysis of growth opportunities that offered recommendations and tools to improve the planning and development of future encuentros. These ideas and strategies aimed to guarantee greater operational excellence. They offered a solution to the eternal problem of centralization that occurs in Chile: it is difficult to provide the highest quality of education and richness of cultural activities without moving to the capitals. In this way, we battle the false preconception that artistic excellence can only be found in the big cities or abroad.
I hope this change happens soon, through the vision of organizations like the CCSA and through other alliances between projects around the world.
All of us who work in musical-social projects believe in the value and power of music to generate social change. The people united—by music—will never be defeated!