Chávez got to know these kids and their families over 5 years ago while working on a waste recycling project at the landfill of Cateura. In this area more than 40% of children don’t finish school because their parents need them to work. Being an environmental engineer but with a musical background, one day he decided to help the children by teaching them music lessons. The idea was simply to keep the kids from playing in the landfill.
“At first it was very difficult because we had no place to rehearse and we had to teach in the same place where the parents were working in the trash,” said Chávez. “The children knew nothing about music and it was very difficult to contact parents because many of them do not live with their children.”
Eventually, parents began to see that playing music was keeping their kids out of trouble, some even reclaiming children they had previously abandoned.
Soon there were more children wanting lessons than there were instruments, so Chávez and Nicolas “Cola” one of the garbage pickers experimented with making some out of recycled materials from the landfill. String and wind instruments are made with oil tin cans, forks, bottle caps, and whatever is around. “Eventually the recycled instruments were improved, and in many cases, they now sound better than the wooden Made In China instruments the more able children play on.”
The recycled instruments serve another, more practical purpose: The kids can safely carry them. “For many children, it was impossible to give them a violin to take home because they had nowhere to keep it and their parents were afraid they would be robbed or the instrument would be sold to buy drugs.”
The Orchestra had remained unheard of for many years. The launching of the Landfill harmonic short teaser on the Internet triggered a social media events that changed this. “More things have happened in the last 7 months, than in the last 7 years on our lives”. Since then, the Orchestra has traveled to many places and soon, as we are getting close to finishing our movie, the plans are to align the release, festival and premieres of the film with a tour of the Orchestra in the U.S., Europe and other countries as well.
The Orchestra has grown from just a few musicians to over 35. Their recent fame have peak the interest of the families and children of the community in such way, that many children are now enrolling for music classes. The music school of Cateura, does not have their own building yet, but teaches music and how to build recycled instruments to more than 200 kids of the landfill.