Classical Music

Landfill Harmonic

UPDATE 17 NOV 2013: 60 Minutes had a segment this week about the Recycled Orchestra.  Check it out and enjoy!


Recently I wrote about a friend who repurposes musical instruments that are no longer able to be used to make music.  I know some of the folks who read this blog are indeed actual musicians – in symphonies, in schools, in a variety of places.  To you, I specifically ask this:

Imagine if you had no instrument at all.  What would you do?  Would you give up?  Would you try to raise money?   What if raising money for a $3-4,000 French horn or a $5-10,000 bassoon weren’t an option? Would you still try to be a musician, professional or otherwise?

We here in America fight the cutting of arts programs in schools, but what if there were no arts program to begin with?  What if there were no music classes to begin with?

What if there were simply no music?

If you’re hypothetically answering “No.” or “My gosh, I…I really don’t know,” to the original question I posed above, then I invite you to be inspired.  🙂

Recycled Orchestra

What images come to mind when you think of a “Recycled Orchestra?”

In a place where a violin costs more than a house, there’s a group of children living outside of Asunción, Paraguay who have no real access to pre-made instruments, no real access to fundraising, but who are hungry, absolutely hungry to play.  They don’t have access to school instruments, yet they find a way.


Look how excited she is to have that violin!

They literally live on a trash dump, yet they find a way.  Not having instruments is in no way a deterrent to them.  It’s merely something to be overcome.  They find a way.

They don’t have access to Conn or Selmer or Bundy, but they find a way.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

What the people of Asunción throw away has become a source of music for children living in the most difficult of neighborhoods.  Oil cans, bottle caps, old, discarded silverware: to us it may be trash.  To them, it’s a violin or a cello or a clarinet.  Taken from the official website for Landfill Harmonic, a documentary film about these inspirational children and their determined music teacher:

Surrounded by stories of drug-violence, alcoholism and destitution, they make herculean efforts to reaffirm their life and dignity.


This is Mauricio, cellist.

Watch this.  You’ll be convinced – utterly convinced – of the worthiness of music teacher, Favio Chavez’s efforts.  Music is worth this effort. The children are most definitely worth this kind of effort.  Look what he’s done!  I guarantee you’ll be blown away starting about 50 or so seconds in and it’s possibly you might shed real (happy) tears by the time it ends at 3:28.

Landfill Harmonic tells the story of these amazing children and their teacher.  Again, from its website:

A film about a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from a Paraguayan slum who play instruments made entirely of garbage. Landfill Harmonic is a beautiful story about the transformative power of music, which also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution. The story develops in one of the poorest slums in Latin America. Just outside Asunción, Paraguay; Cateura is the city’s trash dump. It is built on a landfill. Here, people live in a sea of garbage. And they live from garbage.

This may bring “Reduce, reuse and recycle” to a whole new level.  FInd an old pipe?  They’ll make a flute.  Have a bottle cap or a small coin? Find a key?  They’ll make them keys on a clarinet.

sax-detailHave an old fork?  They’ll make it the tailpiece for a violin.

violin1And here’s a man to help his neighborhood children see and create an oasis of beauty in the midst of none.


We talk of losing arts programs and yes – we should expend every last ounce of energy on saving them or bringing them back or making them better.  These children and this amazingly determined music teacher however, have found a way to create music from nothing.  They make it from scratch.

Recycled-Orquestra-CateuraWhat better source of inspiration, for if what they do from literally nothing doesn’t drive us to double our own efforts here at home, what ever will?

I’ve borrowed all these pictures from the Landfill Harmonic website.  There are plenty more, so in addition to be inspired by what I’ve included here, I invite you to check them out for even more.  By the time you’ve watched the video above and seen more pictures, I’ll bet you’ll be cheering on a small group of students from South America.  Just look at them.  Creativity can’t be held back.  They’re a testament to its knowing no limits.

Update to add: WOSU’s on air personality, Boyce Lancaster, just let me know that his fellow on-air personality, Jennifer Hambrick also wrote about this wonderful orchestra.  Click here to read what she wrote!

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