In Brazil, the Joyful Noise of a Hundred Teachers Learning Together

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In Brazil, the Joyful Noise of a Hundred Teachers Learning Together

Susan Siman, International Consultant in Music Education


Susan Siman with teaching artists.

Teaching artists learning to make paper violins.

There are not many cities—even world capitals—that have a government-supported program to develop children’s orchestras and choirs in public schools. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one city that does have such a program: IBME, Instituto Brasileiro de Música e Educação, which helps to support youth and children’s ensembles in over fifty schools throughout the city.

Last month, I had the privilege of working with over 100 Brazilian teaching artists who work with these ensembles. I was inspired to see so many committed maestros and their orchestras! And I was fascinated to work with these teachers in group sessions. Interaction between teaching artists is extremely important; music is an art that thrives on collaboration, teamwork, and constant feedback.

Most of these teachers understood the basic principle of the orchestra system in Venezuela, as developed for 48 years: that all music learning begins with, and flows from, the experience of playing in ensemble. But they were encountering challenges in implementing this principle in their own teaching. Our sessions together were fluid and dynamic interactions that allowed me to perceive the talent, commitment, and passion of each teacher, as well as their pedagogical strengths and weaknesses.

Teaching artist ensemble culminating concert.

My specialty is early childhood music education; throughout my long career as the director of the Montalban Núcleo in Venezuela, and then as an international consultant for developing youth and children’s orchestras and choirs, I’ve concentrated on musical pedagogy for very young children. In Rio, I worked with the teachers on creating a full instrumental ensemble from instruments made entirely from recyclable material. Many of them had never built a musical instrument out of trash! I showed them how to do this with children, which is great fun and makes it easy for kids to fall in love with music at a very young age. Benefits of music learning for very young children include better cognitive development, language, motor skills, and emotional and creative development.

My sessions with the teachers were warm and friendly. The teachers welcomed me with joy, and bonds of friendship were formed from the very first day. As always, music and its benefits made language barriers disappear, and we were able to recognize who we are in the world: committed social musicians, creating a better world together with the power of music.


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