Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Making music from trash lifts children

Originator, students perform in city

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
Teenage musicians Tania Vera and Tobias Armoa from Cateura, Paraguay, were in Winnipeg to play their instruments made from trash found on a landfill, in a concert at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church Sunday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Teenage musicians Tania Vera and Tobias Armoa from Cateura, Paraguay, were in Winnipeg to play their instruments made from trash found on a landfill, in a concert at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church Sunday. Photo Store

Somebody tossed away an empty fruit can in Paraguay awhile back -- never dreaming it would make incredible music in North Kildonan Sunday evening.

Favio Chavez turned two large, discarded fruit cans, some scrap wood, a few nails and fishing line into a guitar.

And along the way over the past decade, he transformed 200 kids who scavenge a huge landfill in the slums of Cateura, Paraguay, into musicians.

Sunday night, Chavez led 15 members of the Recycled Orchestra in a concert at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church on Gateway Road.

'It was something like magic for them. They never imagined their children could produce such beautiful sounds'

-- Fabio Chavez on parents first hearing their children make music

Music from garbage -- believe it.

An agronomist and a musician, Chavez was working as a technologist at the landfill when the idea came to him to turn those scraps into musical instruments and teach the kids to play them.

"They're all very poor, and their homes are very precarious," Chavez said through translator Rudolf Duerksen, a member of the congregation and of the tour sponsor the Global Family Foundation.

As the kids learned, they formed an orchestra. "The spirit and the willingness of the kids to make the effort to achieve something, the music permits that," Chavez said.

Metal, wire, pipes, whatever scrap they can find -- the Recycled Orchestra has made them into instruments such as a violin, cello, double bass, flute, trumpet and trombone.

The piano used Sunday night came not from a landfill -- that one belonged to the church.

Originally, it was difficult to convince the impoverished Paraguayan parents that teaching their kids music was good for them, Chavez said. "Why would they learn music? That doesn't bring them money for food to eat," they argued.

"Child labour is a very big problem" in Paraguay and families send their kids into the landfill to find whatever they can.

But once the children played, it was the same effect for the parents in Paraguay as for the 1,500 people lucky enough to have been in the church Sunday.

"It was something like magic for them. They never imagined their children could produce such beautiful sounds," Chavez said.

The Recycled Orchestra performed Sunday along with the concert band from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute.

Sponsors covered the costs of bringing the orchestra to Canada for the cross-country fundraising tour. The Global Family Foundation will use the money raised to establish a community education centre and start a scholarship fund in Cateura.

Already, said Chavez, some children have used their musical experience to go on to university or to perform professionally.

"The doors to our music school are open all year long," he said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2014 A7

History

Updated on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 11:52 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of name.

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