Brazil: fighting poverty with music


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Brazil's celebrated love for music is playing a key role in the future of many underprivileged kids, especially women. But it isn't samba, forro, funk or any Hollywood-inspired dance moving thousands of Brazilian kids towards success. It is, instead, classical music.

Thanks to a community project supported by the World Bank more than 200 community associations receive funding to finance lessons and instruments for aspiring young musicians –many of whom have found jobs in philharmonic orchestras as a result of this training. Cameraman Romel Simon and I visited the city of Sao Tome in North Eastern Brazil to document the progress of this initiative, as part of a series of videos for our gender campaign.

“It is very unusual to find a woman trumpeter in this region," 20-year-old Luisa Maria De Oliveira told us outright. But she learned to do so at Sao Tome's cultural center where she and about 40 other young musicians, half of them women like herself, form the Sao Tome Philharmonic. "Just because only men study trumpet at university doesn't mean I can't," says Luisa, who has her heart set on someday getting a high degree in the instrument.

Sao Tome is in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, one of Brazil’s poorest and most male-oriented. That made it hard initially for Sao Tome’s Maestra Paula Francinete, the only female conductor in the entire state. When she was hired by the community to start the orchestra, many did not think she would succeed. But she did, and it has been her mission since to introduce as many other women as possible to the world -and profession -of music! This is the video Romel and I did about our visit to Sao Tome.




James Martone

Consultant, Broadcast and Multimedia Unit

Join the Conversation

Victor Galindo
October 14, 2011

This is very inspiring and wonderful project that reminds me of El Sistema program established by Dr. Jose Abreu of Venezuela many years ago.

Programs like this interest me very much because I have a masters in piano as well as a masters in public policy. One day I hope to work with programs that uses the performing arts as a social development tool.

One question I have regarding this video is that I did not see any string instruments in the orchestra, only winds, brass and percussion. Are there plans to expand the ensemble into an orchestra similar to the El Sistema model?

Also, I wonder what are the WB short and long-term goals for this program.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful news!

Fatima Amazonas
September 19, 2011

Fantastic!!! Thank you so much.

September 27, 2011

Ah, loved it! It´s almost like visiting old successful friends!