Growing Seeds in Tetuán
Carlos Fontán, Orchestral Area Coordinator, Acción por la Música Foundation; Alumnus, Global Leaders Program
Turina Youth Orchestra of the Acción por la Música Foundation is a clear example of how values of the human spirit can be developed through music. It is here that, through orchestral rehearsals, resilience, trust, social justice, kindness, beauty, and compassion grow.
Acción por la Música Foundation creates orchestras and choirs as spaces for social transformation in Madrid. Its social purpose is to transform the lives of young people through musical teamwork and the development of cognitive, social, and soft skills that contribute to self-improvement and self-esteem.
Another of its objectives is community integration. Its musical groups are actively present in the life of the neighborhood, using their music to create spaces where everyone belongs.
From the Classroom to the Stage
The Foundation has worked with inclusive orchestras and choirs in the Tetuán neighborhood since 2013. Over the years, many of the participating children grew into teenagers, who demanded more repertoire and artistic training. It was then that a quartet of string players were offered weekly rehearsals, where they began improving their technique through new and diverse repertoire.
That initial quartet grew, adding new members every month, until in February 2017 Camerata Tetuán was officially born during an event at the Botín Foundation called “El Secreto de la Inclusión.”
The group would never have developed as they did without a diverse repertoire; in fact, their desire to play different kinds of music was one of the main criteria for even starting the group. As a result, they have been collaborating with International Jazz Day Madrid since 2018 and had the opportunity to take the stage at the Festival Jazz Palacio Real in July 2020.
The young artists of the Camerata Tetuán are a testament to effort and excellence, having played on stages such as the “Música que Transforma” concert and the “Músicos con Unicef” charity gala at the National Auditorium. Other unforgettable experiences have been participation in the festival “Noches de Ramadán” in the Matadero, the concert “Haz Que Suene La Plaza de la Remonta,” and a television experience on Got Talent.
The Orchestra Grows
By September 2020, with Camerata Tetuán having already reached 42 young artists and counting, the group was renamed the Joven Orquesta Turina de Acción por la Música (JOTAM, or the Turina Youth Orchestra). At that time, the program lowered the minimum age to participate; rather than just teenagers, we now teach young artists from ages 8 to 18.
In this space of musical cooperation, it is interesting to see how different generations coexist, each contributing their own richness. This richness is not only intergenerational but also intercultural, with families representing over 15 different nationalities.
Developing a Pedagogical Plan
Our performances and musical samples are the manifestations of students’ classroom development. Because of that, we developed specific pedagogical plans for each of our ensembles: beginner, intermediate, and advanced string orchestras; percussion ensembles; brass ensembles; our adult choir. To help us in this process, we brought in pedagogical experts to observe our classes during the 2019-20 season. At the end of that season, we began building a pedagogical plan using their observations. In particular, the Turina Youth Orchestra played a leading role in the testing.
Unique in this design process has been the collaboration between an artistic team and a psychosocial team. Both groups have made it possible to monitor and experiment with a wide range of indicators, such as postural habits or expression and communication skills. Our goal is to ensure that students are comfortable and eager to participate. It is very important for us that this group become a reference for those who came after them, modeling kind and conscious behavior that allows them all to enjoy what they do to the fullest.
Out of this collaboration came several new strategies. For one, we open and close music rehearsals by making time to discover what feelings appear before, during, or after the session. In these spaces, students uncover both their strengths and what things they need to improve. Students also love planning rehearsals, another newly implemented dynamic. With a chosen repertoire, they decide which scales they need to prepare for the musical pieces, or how much time they need, depending on factors such as difficulty. Thanks to this pedagogical plan, the young musicians have also been able to develop their sight-reading and memory skills, essential practices for complete musical development.
This pandemic year has also led us to include important new artistic objectives for our ensembles, such as performing without a conductor, holding our first soloist concert, and teaching self-management so that students can create chamber groups that feature repertoires of their own choosing.
Through their training and performance opportunities, children in the orchestra are meant to feel a sense of belonging even when they feel isolated in their everyday lives. This is, of course, especially true during a global pandemic; each member of the orchestra recognizes their personal and social responsibility in the creation of a “we” through which we cultivate an environment of shared values. Our goal is to encourage young artists to overcome individualism, make healthy use of their time to prevent risky situations outside of the classroom, and to stand in solidarity with the other members of the orchestra. Now and always, Turina Youth Orchestra students work to better understand their social environment and to promote much-needed change in our society.