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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