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/ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT/ MUSIC-CHILE: Youth Symphony a Hit in Europe

Tito Drago

MADRID, Oct 17 2000 (IPS) - A Chilean symphony orchestra, made up of adolescents ages 13 to 17 from one of the country’s poorest regions, has launched a tour in Spain after receiving accolades in Germany.

The orchestra, which arrived in Spain accompanied by Chile’s First Lady, Luisa Durán de Lagos, originated in 1996 in the village of Curanilahue, in the southern province of Arauco, one of the least developed regions of Chile.

Its members shot to prominence within Chile last Mar. 11 when they performed with the National Orchestra of Chile in a concert for the swearing in of the new president at the Mapocho cultural centre.

“What most moved President Ricardo Lagos was that if one can produce something so sophisticated in a place like Curanilahue, starting from zero, it means we as a country have greater potential than we realised,” said Américo Giusti, the symphony’s conductor.

In Germany, where the musicians arrived in late September at the invitation of the Emsland School of Music and the Roberto Bravo Foundation, they gave concerts in Bonn, Cologne, Siegburg and Frankfurt.

The young symphony also performed at the Riechstag – Germany’s historic parliament in Berlin – and at the World Expo in Hannover.

In Spain, they will play at the Casa de América amphitheatre in Madrid, an d the city auditorium of Cáceres in Extremadura, invited by the government of that Autonomous Community, governed by socialist Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra.

Violinist Pamela Beatriz Ramírez Flores, 11, is the youngest of the group, and Carla Vanesa Contreras Coronado, 17 and also a violinist, is the eldest. Like the other 43 members of the orchestra, they are students at the Curanilahue city schools.

The idea of developing this musical project began in 1995, when the head of the high school, Francisco Ruiz Bardiles, was in Concepción, in southern Chile, arranging for the performance of the city’s university symphony to perform in Curanilahue.

There, Ruiz Bardiles met Giusti, a professor and violinist in that orchestra, and proposed the idea of creating a music course for his young students. Giusti responded by suggesting they create an orchestra as a focal point for musical education in Curanilahue.

Together they prepared a project and presented it to the National Arts Fund of Chile (Fondart), which approved it and provided the start-up resources for purchasing instruments and paying the instructors.

Giusti then assumed control of the project and of the music classes, receiving support from other musicians in the Concepción orchestra, like María Eugenia Muñoz and Oscar Garcés, who continue teaching the young students, making periodic trips to Curanilahue.

The instructors taught the first classes in the rooms at the village parish, but later moved to the secondary school.

In 1998, the teachers began to work with younger students to prepare them to replace the older students, who leave the orchestra upon completing high school. Many of the current musicians are already serving as teachers of the new students.

In Spain, the symphony’s tour is sponsored by the government of Extremadura, the Chilean embassy, and corporations including Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Endesa, Telefónica, Comunica and Informex.

At home in Chile, in addition to Fondart, the orchestra has the backing of the Beethoven and Andes Foundations, the Ministry of Education and the corporations Bosques Arauco and Engaás.

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