Sometimes you come across a person who you don’t know yet, and, a few moments later, this same person becomes the love of your life. Or you see a little detail that doesn’t seem to have any importance, and later this little detail becomes your motivation to change your life and beliefs. Or perhaps someone tells you a short story that takes ten seconds, but it resonates in your mind for weeks. What if we forget about numbers and start to focus on these special little stories?
I would like to tell a one such short story, the story of Glauciene, a nine-year-old girl who happens to be one of the 22,000 students of Musica nas Escola, an El Sistema-inspired program in near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Recently, visiting violinist Diane Cline (director of El Sistema Somerville) and I came to watch Glauciene’s violin lesson. We saw the challenge of how to grip the bow when you start violin, and how pleasurable it is to play your first tune. At the end of her lesson, we gave her some compliments and invited her to see the concert of the most advanced orchestra that was happening on the same day.
A few hours later, we saw her again at the concert, dressed up and clearly having fun by seeing the orchestra performing Wagner and Verdi. When the concert was done, we came to talk to her and Isaias, her father. The man was very proud of his daughter. He, an amateur musician himself, told us that his dream is to see Glauciene playing in that orchestra. He told us that he comes from a family of amateur musicians who play in church services, but he would not have the financial capacity of supporting the violin lessons that Glauciene receives for free thanks to Musica nas Escolas. This makes me feel that we are on the right track and meeting our mission, but that’s not why I am writing this article.
Isaias said that his daughter is so excited about the violin that she is teaching what she learns to her older sister. I said, “That’s great! Why don’t you bring your older daughter to our program? We can arrange some classes for her as well!” Then he said, "there is just a minor detail, my older daughter is deaf.”
That “minor detail” resonated in my mind for few seconds. I thought, nobody told Glauciene that her older sister cannot play violin. If they play with dolls, why can't they play with violins? After these few seconds, I told the father that there is a way she can make music: a White Hands Choir. Long story short, with the support of Musica nas Escolas, Isaias is now putting together such a choir with twelve hearing-impaired children.
The story of our lives is made of little stories. While numbers may justify a war between two nations, a short story of a mom who lost her son justifies peace. Sometimes, a short story like this one about Glauciene’s family tells us that we are heading to the right direction, and this bring us down to the earth, where details really matter.
Diogo Pereira, Sistema Fellow '13, with Diane Cline, Director, El Sistema Somerville