Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where young musicians play instruments made from trash. For more information about the film, please visit: facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie
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One person's trash is another's violin in this slum built on a landfill in Paraguay. Here in Asuncion, a group of young musicians come together to play everything from Beethoven and Mozart, to Frank Sinatra and The Beatles—on instruments made entirely from trash.
The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments from Cateura got its start here five years ago when a teacher, Favio Chavez, decided to teach kids living near this garbage dump how to play musical instruments.
Lacking money to buy enough instruments, he recruited the help of residents who make a living picking through and recycling trash.
Soon, with the community's help, Chavez and his students had their instruments —all made from recycled materials from the dump. They include guitars made from cans, cellos from metal drums, and brass instruments, like 18-year-old Andres Riveros's saxophone, made from house gutters.
[Andres Riveros, Saxophonist]: "The instrument is made of galvanized pipe used in house gutters. Then this is made with caps, coins and these are keys from doors."
Chavez said he started the music group to keep the children out of trouble.
[Favio Chavez, Director of the Orchestra]: "There are a lot of drugs, a lot of drug use, alcohol, violence, child labor. A lot of situations that you wouldn't think are favorable for kids to learn values. However, they have a spot in the orchestra, like an island within the community, a place where they can develop these values. We see that they are not just changing their own lives, but those of their families too. We've seen cases where parents with addiction problems have quit taking drugs to go their kid's concert. And in a lot of cases the parents have gone back to finish school because their kids are being seen all over and they think, 'they are going forward, I want to too.' They're not only changing their lives, but the lives of their families and their community,"
Myriam Cardozo said she once dreamt of being a singer or musician. When she heard about the music program, she enrolled her 14-year-old granddaughter, Ada Rios.
[Myriam Cardozo, Grandmother of Violinist Ada Rios]: "I went to sign her up. I didn't care what my daughter-in-law said because I was doing it for my granddaughter and if she got mad, let her get mad or deal with it. And then they were astonished because I signed her up and it happened. And now my granddaughter is fulfilling my dream. It makes me so happy. That is why I can die happy."
Ada, now a violinist in the orchestra, lights up when she talks about her experiences, including performing in three countries this year.
[Ada Rios, Violinist]: "The people can't believe it. They have to see it to believe it because they don't believe it is trash. I've been to three countries: Brazil, Panama and Colombia and I never thought I'd leave the country."
The orchestra hopes to perform in Arizona in 2013.