In 1972, a German architect found 17th century musical scores while renovating a mission church in eastern Bolivia. These days music schools are booming in the eastern lowlands, providing a better future for children.
Playing for their future
The school Paz y Bien is run by a Franciscan parish in San Ignacio de Velasco. Polish priest Adalberto Mazur explains music classes help the children to not only learn how to play an instrument, but also acquire social skills, discipline and how to set goals in life.
Roman Arirepia practices cello at the music school in Urubicha. His dream is to become part of an international traveling orchestra.
A musical refuge
Urubicha, only accessible by unpaved roads, is a dusty Amazon village and home to one of Bolivia’s largest and most famous music schools. The church provides the infrastructure, the government pays the teachers’ salaries and the municipality gives donations.
Songs in the key of life
Olga Papu Claure, 9, is an extremely talented pianist from Urubicha. At a concert in Santa Cruz she met an American music teacher who, impressed by her talent, sent a piano from the US to Bolivia. Unfortunately, insects ate away at the wood, making it almost unplayable.
Practice pays off
The music school in Urubicha is highly regarded internationally. Many of the students who pass their exams become professional musicians or teachers in other music schools in the Chiquitania region.
The school says 689 children are inscribed in the institution. For many children, becoming a musician is their dream. President Evo Morales has given his support and wants to commit more funds to arts, music and traditions. In the rural areas musical education is becoming increasingly recognized and valued.
Take me to church
All the villages also have several choirs and orchestras which play at local fiestas and tour the neighboring towns. This local orchestra is playing in the church of Concepcion.
The original 17th century musical scores are kept in the archive of Concepcion. There is only one original for public display. Even the researchers are only allowed to take digital copies.
Taking a break
Santa Ana, the smallest among the missions, also has it’s own music school. At night you hear violins being played in the streets or in the houses, when the children are practicing their homework.
Samuel Cruz Tancara makes violins based on European models, using tropical woods that can withstand the moisture and heat in Concepcion. Originally from La Paz, he started his business six years ago. He learned by watching and experimenting: “The first violins sounded horrible,” he told DW. Over time he was able to collect technical drawings and learn how to make the exact sizes.