A Brazil Out of Tune

     A Brazil Out of Tune

    Musical instruction
    in the public schools is not a priority for those
    responsible for education in Brazil. In the first four grades, the
    teaching of arts, and of music as one of them, is done by the class
    teacher. From fifth to eighth grade, there’s a teacher of artistic
    education who may not have specific training in music.
    by: Flávio

    Between October 25 and November 21, 2002, the Orquestra Sinfônica do
    Estado de São Paulo (Osesp) has performed in the United States, on
    a tour that included 18 cities, from Los Angeles to New York.

    This series of concerts
    gave a stamp of international recognition to the restoration work begun by
    conductor John Neschling in 1997, with innovations on and off stage, which
    brought the Osesp to the level of the good orchestras of Europe and North

    A knowledge of the hurdles
    which had to be overcome in order to reach this objective helps to understand
    the scope of the problems which Brazil is still facing in the area of training
    for musicians and for musical education for the general population.

    Neschling says that when
    he arrived the orchestra had been totally abandoned, with musicians poorly
    paid, and rehearsals taking place in whatever space could be arranged, such
    as the restaurant of the Memorial da América Latina.

    According to the conductor,
    the goals set in 1997 have been more than fulfilled, and concerts have gone
    from one per month to twice a week. Neschling’s work has not been limited
    to the Osesp. He has also created the symphonic, chamber and children’s choruses,
    as well as a center of documentation and a publisher of Brazilian works.

    But the most important
    changes have taken place in the orchestra itself, which has begun to make
    recordings for its own label, and is also preparing a series of ten CDs to
    be issued by the Swedish label BIS, devoted exclusively to Brazilian works,
    distributed worldwide.

    For the public, the orchestra
    has set up a system of "packages" of concerts, which has already
    sold more than 5000 subscriptions. Nevertheless, one of the measures taken
    by Neschling, perhaps the most important one, created a controversy: renewing
    the band of instrumentalists that makes up the Osesp, and hiring a number
    of foreign musicians.

    "Unfortunately, we
    have never had a tradition of musical instruction in Brazil, nor a solid school,
    particularly for strings. We were always limited to a few good teachers—many
    of them immigrants—who trained individual talents", explains the

    From his point of view,
    instruction in music is not limited to learning the instrument, but includes
    an entire musical culture which must be transmitted and stimulated. And at
    the point when the orchestra was looking for a standard of quality, there
    was a lack of appropriate musicians living in Brazil.

    The answer, then, was
    to recruit abroad, and there was significant interest on the part of a good
    number of high-level musicians—principally Brazilians residing abroad
    and musicians from Eastern Europe.

    Difficulty in finding
    qualified Brazilian instrumentalists had also been a problem for conductor
    Júlio Medaglia, in 1977, in putting together a new orchestra—the
    Amazonas Sinfônica. In the auditions which he held in Manaus—a
    city which in the rubber epoch maintained a busy musical life—he only
    managed to find two musicians.

    According to the conductor,
    there are first-rate musicians in Brazilian orchestras, but they are all already
    employed, and thus it is really necessary to bring people from outside Brazil.

    In spite of problems at
    the start, Medaglia emphasizes the multiplier effect of a good orchestra,
    citing the case of what has been happening in Manaus, where, four years after
    the creation of the Amazonas Sinfônica, there are already four youth

    "Presently, you can
    see these kids from the outskirts studying with musicians who were trained
    in St. Petersburg, which produces the best string players in the world. Each
    one of the Russians who came here has about 20 students by now", the
    conductor says.

    Difficulties in Instruction

    In the thirties, during
    the administration of Getúlio Vargas, the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos
    developed, with the help of the educator Anísio Teixeira, a project
    for musical education based on orpheonic singing, which became a compulsory
    subject in the school curricula.

    In 1961, the Lei de Diretrizes
    e Bases da Educação Nacional (LDB, Basic Educational Law) replaced
    orpheonic song with musical education: music was to be heard, played, danced,
    as well as sung. In 1971, a new LDB ended musical education and incorporated
    musical instruction into artistic education.

    The pianist and musical
    educator Teca Alencar Britto, who lived through this change, says that this
    produced the multi-skilled teacher, who, within the undergraduate curriculum,
    was to have a little introduction to all the artistic languages, with a little
    music, a little theater, a little visual art, and then going to work directly
    with the students.

    "For years I taught
    at the undergraduate level in artistic education, and saw what the reality
    was," says Teca. She says that there were students with no musical experience
    whatever, and that in two years, those who were taking the shorter program
    for certification had to go through the stages of introduction and a process
    of musicalization, as one does with children.

    "Except for the fact
    that they would graduate and would have to be responsible for the arts classes,
    which in the early grades, included music", she adds.

    With the redemocratization
    of Brazil, and the introduction of the Constitution of 1988, discussions began
    that would lead to the LDB of 1996, which considered art to be an obligatory
    part of the curriculum of basic education, highlighting music as one of the
    artistic languages to be taught in school, along with the visual arts, dance
    and theater.

    Presently, in the first
    four grades, the teaching of arts, and of music as one of them, is the responsibility
    of the teacher of the class—just one—in a system which, in order
    to function adequately, would require significant investment in the training
    of its educators.

    From fifth to eighth grade,
    the classes are provided by a teacher of artistic education—who may not
    have specific training in music. According to Teca Alencar, this is the reality
    of public education.

    It seems clear that musical
    instruction in the public schools is not a priority for those responsible
    for education in Brazil, although it is well known to all that learning music,
    in addition to increasing cerebral activity and improving school performance
    for students, as has been shown by research and experiments, contributes to
    integrating the individual into society.

    This is what Kilsen Girotto
    thinks. She was 9 years old when she began to study violin at the Maestro
    Tom Jobim State Center for Musical Studies Tom Jobim (CEM)—the former
    Free University of Music (Universidade Livre de Música, ULM).

    Now 18, she says that
    any form of art which is begun at a young age provides a different view of
    the world and a change in behavior. "I began music early, in the same
    school where I am today. That way there is no reason to start being aggressive,
    rebellious, because there is something that is awakening your sensitivity",
    she affirms.

    Search for Talent

    Roberto Dante Cavalheiro,
    teacher of music theory at the Escola Municipal de Música in São
    Paulo, a traditional public institution dedicated to the training of orchestral
    players, points to the lack of a good structure for musical instruction as
    a serious problem, which negatively influences the preparation of Brazilian

    In his opinion, there
    are areas in which the person can begin study at 18, but in music one must
    begin earlier. "You cannot learn to be a orchestral musician at the undergraduate
    level," says Cavalheiro, who suggests the creation of disciplines to
    provide incentives for the study of dance and music intended for orchestral

    According to him, an important
    source of instrumentalists in recent years were the evangelical church, many
    of which have their own orchestras which play during the services.

    But those who think that
    good training is a guarantee of a successful career as a musician are mistaken.
    Priscila Bastos de Souza, for example, a 24-year old violinist, who studied
    for five years at the Fundação das Artes de São Caetano
    do Sul and later received a diploma from the Universidade Estadual Paulista
    (Unesp), complains about how hard it is to find work. She says that she began
    to play at 15 and regrets not having had the opportunity to begin earlier.

    Cláudio Cruz, first
    violin for the Osesp and conductor of the Sinfônica of Ribeirão
    Preto (SP), agrees that there are many problems, but for him, the most important

    one is the fact that there are not enough schools of music at the introductory
    level, and so there are many beginners entering the universities, while in
    other countries instruction begins at 12 or 13.

    "We are not able
    to fill our orchestras with 90 percent Brazilian musicians because, when they
    finish undergraduate school, they are not ready", says the maestro.

    Cruz, who always studied
    privately, and completed his training outside Brazil, explains that the choice
    of teachers has to do with the level of the students, and that for this reason
    great musicians are not hired to teach, since the students are beginners.

    In his opinion, if all
    Brazilian orchestras have problems with the strings, it is because instruction
    in Brazil is lagging, due to the lack of teachers. "Famous musicians
    give private lessons, they don’t teach in school", he says.

    "I wanted to be hired,
    but since the university only hired professors with doctorates, I was unsuccessful,
    since I didn’t have the credential. I think that we ought to follow the example
    of the United States, where instead of a credential they look for a profile.
    In the area of music, at the moment, the musical level is the most important
    thing", he adds.

    The director of the Institute
    of Arts of Unesp, Marisa Trench de Oliveira Fonterrada, disagrees in some
    places with what Cruz has to say. She recalls that the 1996 LDB says that
    public universities must give preference to professors with the doctorate.

    Only in exceptional cases
    are teachers admitted who only have a bachelor’s degree. According to the
    director, as far as music is concerned, there are fewer professors with advanced
    degrees than in other areas, but this does not mean that great musicians are
    left in the cold, since they can enter graduate programs. It is not an impossible
    task, and a considerable number of competent musicians are on this track.

    Marisa Trench explains
    that the university is dedicated not only to instruction, but to the triad
    of instruction/research/extension, and thus the teacher with credential has
    a better possibility of stimulating research among the students than one who
    is not accustomed to the rules of the university.

    As to the statement that
    only beginners come to the university, she retorts: "I can only answer
    for the institution that I direct, but I believe that other public universities
    will agree with me when I affirm that students must pass specific tests and
    face stiff competition in seeking a place, which makes the admission of beginners
    quite difficult".

    If it is commonly known
    that Brazilian orchestras, in general, are lacking in good string players,
    yet in the area of winds and percussion, talent is not lacking, with musicians
    coming by and large from the wind bands which have a firm tradition in Brazil.

    Flowers in the Asphalt

    One experiment considered
    to have been successful in training musicians is that of the former Free University
    of Music (presently the CEM), created 10 years ago by the government of the
    state of São Paulo with the aim of offering courses to the general
    population, without requiring high school or college diplomas.

    The coordinator of pedagogy
    for the courses of popular music offered by the CRM, saxophonist, conductor
    and professor Roberto Sion, explains that freedom is the principal characteristic
    of the school, since the students can choose to study either music in the
    classical or popular tradition. For him, one of the problems of instruction
    in Brazil is the fact that the conservatories, by and large, teach the musical
    tradition of the nineteenth century, while at present the job market has more
    room for contemporary compositions. "If a school can add the classical
    tradition to the training of a popular musician, the result is a more versatile
    professional", he says.

    The gaps in the area of
    musical instruction in the schools have also stimulated the appearance of
    alternative means of training teachers. Carlos Kater, president of the NGO
    Atravez, together with his wife, Aude, is developing a project for training
    in music and creativity for educators, principally those of the public school

    The project assists more
    than 40 teachers from the area of Heliópolis (one of the largest favelas
    in São Paulo), who are working in municipal kindergartens and elementary
    schools, in child-care center, and with paroled juveniles. According to Kater,
    the objective is to increase musical knowledge among those who certainly need
    it: teachers that work in the slums, regions where access to this kind of
    information is quite difficult.

    "In areas where families
    have fallen apart, and where life is precarious, in general people only have
    access to music through the media, and in most cases find themselves uprooted
    culturally", says Kater.

    For him, it is exactly
    these people who have the greatest need for music and exercising their creativity,
    activities that can contribute to reducing violence, low self-esteem, social
    and cultural marginality.

    An important initiative,
    also having the objective of broadening the universe of cultural benefits
    to previously marginalized segments of society, is the Projeto Guri of the
    Secretary for Culture of the State of São Paulo.

    The program, directed
    to children and adolescents from 8 to 18, works with centers of musical instruction
    that use the methodology of group study of strings and winds, leading to the
    formation of school orchestras.

    Begun in 1995 at the Amácio
    Mazzaropi Cultural Workshop with 180 children participating, the project was
    moved the following year to Febem, with the formation of an orchestra in which
    300 children had the opportunity to get to know and to learn music. This success
    broadened horizons, and today 8,000 children participate in 36 centers spread
    throughout the state.

    Another project which
    deserves to be highlighted is the regular courses in beginning music at Sesc
    (Serviço Social do Comércio—Commerce’s Social Service),
    with programs developed at Consolação and Vila Mariana neighborhoods,
    in São Paulo, which offer about 1,900 spots to merchants, dependents
    and users in various age brackets.

    Andrea Nogueira, director
    of the Centro de Música of Sesc Vila Mariana, explains that the proposal
    is based on group instruction, and does not have professional training in
    mind, but music appreciation, with the advantage of making instruments available
    to the students.

    Symphony of Deficiencies

    The Academia Brasileira
    de Música (ABM), located in Rio de Janeiro, directed at the moment
    by Edino Krieger, carried out in 2001, with the support of the Ministry of
    Education, a census of orchestras active in Brazil, and identified 124, seven
    in the North, ten in the Northeast, five in the Center-West, 84 in the Southeast,
    and 18 in the South.

    A study done by the ABM
    with 66 orchestras pointed out various problems, such as the difficulty of
    gaining access to scores, problems with publicity, lack of resources, and
    above all, deficiencies in the qualifications of the musicians, the academic
    training of which is concentrated in the capitals.

    In the North this was
    only possible in Belém. In the Northeast only Natal, João Pessoa,
    Recife and Salvador offer the bachelor’s degree in an instrument. In the Center-West,
    only Brasília and Goiânia have upper-level courses for training
    orchestral instrumentalists.

    The Southeast and South
    are the only regions that, in addition to making musical instruction available
    in all the capitals, also train musicians in cities of the interior, such
    as São Carlos (São Paulo state), Uberlândia (Minas Gerais)
    and Santa Maria (Rio Grande do Sul).

    The study by the ABM served
    as a basis for the discussions which took place at the First Forum of Brazilian
    Orchestras, held in Brasília in May 2001. Among the conclusions reached
    at the meeting, presented to the Minister of Culture, Francisco Weffort, was
    the obligatory inclusion of the discipline of musical education at the elementary
    and middle levels of instruction.

    Until this happens, Abemúsica,
    a private entity which represents the manufacturers of musical instruments,
    decided to invest 400,000 reais (US$ 130,000) in the musical training of teachers
    of artistic education—from the first to the fourth grades—in the
    state system of the capital of São Paulo.

    The aim of this initiative,
    which will not burden the public budget, and is supported by the state departments
    of education and culture, is to increase sales in the sector, which fell considerably
    after music abandoned the classrooms.

    Flávio Carrança is a Brazilian journalist. You can email him
    at revistapb@sescsp.org.br.

    Translated from
    the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and
    culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French,
    Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. He is the librarian
    for music, modern languages and media at The College of New Jersey. Comments
    welcome at mooret@tcnj.edu.

    This article appeared
    originally in Portuguese, in the magazine Problemas Brasileiros—

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