Young musicians put ‘Friendship in Action’ to celebrate US-El Salvador relationship

By Evelyn Rupert

June 22, 2017

Salvadoran girl playing violin.

 

 

In communities across El Salvador, music is helping hundreds of at-risk youth to steer clear of a life of gangs and crime. The philharmonic youth orchestras are part of the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project’s holistic approach to prevent crime and violence and spread opportunity.

Young musicians from around El Salvador will take the stage in late June as part of a weeklong celebration of the friendship between El Salvador and the United States.

The concert series, which is part of a larger Friendship in Action Festival promoted by the U.S. Embassy, will take place June 23 to 29 in different cities around El Salvador.

Kicking off each of the six public concerts will be youth philharmonic orchestras, established by the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project. The five-year program to reduce youths’ risk of engaging in gangs and violence is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

Tito Antonio Alvarez, who has helped coordinate the philharmonic orchestra in the city of Ilobasco, says youth in his community are building self-esteem and keeping busy through practices and performances, rather than spending time on the streets where they are more vulnerable to violence.

He adds that for communities like his, the youth musical groups are a novel but popular phenomenon.

Youth philharmonic orchestra, El Salvador.
A youth philharmonic orchestra performs at the inauguration of a new community space in Usulutan, El Salvador. Photos by Erick Gibson.

“In this country, having a local philharmonic is something completely new. You’d see that in Europe, in other places, but not here,” says Alvarez. “But now, what we have accomplished in such a short time, well, that makes me really happy.”

As part of its work to create more opportunities and safer communities in some of the country’s most dangerous areas, the project has established more than 160 youth Outreach Centers, organized recreational activities, offered vocational training courses, established sports leagues, and more.

Philharmonic orchestras and string ensembles for youth have been created in 11 municipalities as part of the Collective Practice of Music program, one of more than 40 crime prevention tools at work.

Harold Sibaja, Chief of Party for the project, says the orchestras allow youth to develop important values such as teamwork, discipline, and fellowship while also strengthening relationships between parents and children, local pride and municipalities’ artistic offerings.

“This tool engages and encourages vulnerable youth to play an instrument, interact with positive peers and gain a positive identity through being part of the Municipal Philharmonics,” he says.

More than 970 youth are currently members of the nine philharmonic orchestras and two string ensembles that will perform, and the project plans to develop musical groups in eight more locations in the future.

Celebrating the US-El Salvador relationship

June 15 marked the first annual Day of Friendship between the United States and El Salvador, and the Friendship in Action Festival celebrates the relationship between the two countries through music and other activities.

The free concerts will be headlined by the prestigious U.S. Symphony of the Americas and will also feature the Youth Chorus and Symphonic Orchestra from Polígono Industrial Don Bosco, a youth crime and violence prevention initiative whose music program has benefitted more than 4,000 young people.

Throughout the month of June, the Friendship in Action campaign has encouraged Salvadorans to give back and highlighted the ways in which Salvadoran and U.S. partners are working together to strengthen communities around the country.

Follow the Friendship in Action Festival on Twitter at #AmistadEnAccion

With reporting from Rene Urrutia.

Salvadoran girl playing violin.

 

 

In communities across El Salvador, music is helping hundreds of at-risk youth to steer clear of a life of gangs and crime. The philharmonic youth orchestras are part of the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project’s holistic approach to prevent crime and violence and spread opportunity.

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