Blog of Howard Ionascu

Junior Academy visits Instituto Baccerelli in Brazil

Howard Ionascu - Posted on 07.11.2017

Last Saturday was a typically exciting and rewarding day at Junior Academy, beginning with choral workshops in the morning with Ralph Allwood. In the afternoon, the Symphony Orchestra made headway with Respighi ‘Pines of Rome’, followed by an amazingly high standard of Duke’s Hall Concert auditions.

The next afternoon I experienced equally fantastic youth music-making from committed young instrumentalists and singers, but this time in an entirely different location. After a 12-hour flight I listened to students from Instituto Baccerelli, an organisation which draws its 2000 student body entirely from Heliópolis, Brazil’s second largest favela, and the largest in São Paulo. So began a truly fascinating and inspirational week for myself and Junior Academy Violin Tutor Nicole Wilson.

I spent two full days at the Institute working with choirs and string players respectively. The students’ hunger for instruction and desire to improve as musicians was incredible, and all this with Heliópolis right outside the window. Seeing the favela (and even driving into it one afternoon) was a wake-up call to these students’ home lives.

Instituto Baccerelli was established by Silvio Baccarelli in 1996, when he began to teach music to young people in the community who had been affected by a fire in Heliópolis as a way to reduce suffering and increase self-esteem. Several decades later, and brothers Edilson and Edmilson Venturelli (originally participants in the project) have been developing and expanding the organisation into an educational institution encompassing five orchestras, 14 choirs, 23 music educations groups, six chamber groups and two ensembles, as well as group and individual lessons given by 68 teachers.

On day three we were part of a ‘first’ in São Paulo; a collaboration between the Institute and St Paul’s School, the leading independent school in Brazil. The following day concluded the trip with a joint concert. Social boundaries and economic backgrounds all seemed to be forgotten about as we explored in the universal language of music, a truly inspiring experience.

The warmth of welcome we received was extraordinary, the passion and keenness from the students and the dedication and commitment from the Baccarelli staff was incredible. We returned to the UK not only inspired but seriously considering what next steps we might take to foster an ongoing relationship with the Baccarelli and support its primary aim: social transformation through the arts.