HOW AN ORCHESTRA CAN BECOME A TOOL FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION AND INTEGRATION
In November 2017 we gave birth to what had been our dream since the very beginning of El Sistema Greece: we launched an ORCHESTRA!
Having worked with the Venezuelan Sistema and having admired Maestro Abreu’s great creation as our main model, that of starting OUR OWN orchestral programme was our biggest aspiration and major undertaking.
When we kicked off El Sistema Greece by giving classes inside the refugee camp of Skaramagkas, in a small container with limited facilities (we remember the simple pink stools) and with 2 dozens of undisciplined children, that was literally very far away from becoming a reality… but now, it somehow became true!
Today, one year and a half afterwards, we still give classes to (maybe a bit less) undisciplined children in Skaramagkas, but we are now capable of offering them the possibility of making a step forward and joining a real orchestra out of the camp.
With this orchestra, they can rehearse in a real auditorium, play real instruments and finally get to know people of their age, coming from different backgrounds and not only from the refugee communities they live with.
Our orchestra was made up by an open call for young musicians via social media. It is a really democratic and international ensemble, where everybody plays according to their level of studies (including special arrangements for beginners) and where we try to make the sound of the single instruments become a harmonious, unique melody.
We have accurately selected the repertoire in order to reflect the many cultures that our musicians belong to: we not only perform the classical “repertoire” but we also introduce “world” classical music – we have pieces spacing from Greenland to the Middle East – and, of course, Greek repertoire.
Studying, learning and rehearsing together each other’s music is a way of getting to know each other better. The members of our orchestra, who come from the Greek, the migrants and the refugees’ communities, do not only share the space where they rehearse, but also their cultures, history and traditions. Reading the scores on the same music stands, they get closer not only space-wise, but also as human beings.
We are very happy that we have managed to open-up new horizons and new cultural aspirations for our migrant and refugee students, but we are also very proud of our Greek musicians – who are discovering new musical traditions, building bridges in their country and participating in this social inclusion mission through music.
What shall we then say about the families of our students? Families who are not afraid of mixing cultures and who are coming to the rehearsals to enjoy our diverse music: when we see them in the background, sipping coffee while the orchestra rehearse, we really feel we have made some important steps towards integration. For as long as the road may be – at least we have started our path.
As Maestro Abreu has always taught us, an orchestra is a model of society: every single member has a role and everyone is important in the building of the community. All the members have to listen to each other in order to play at their best and to reach the perfect harmony. The conductor is a leading authority, but also a mentor and a listener; the main goal is the same for everyone, BEAUTY, and everyone works hard with team spirit to reach that beauty.
Photo credits: Angel Ballesteros