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Sinfonía por el Perú, an Experience of Social Innovation
César Oré Rocca, Executive Board Member, Sinfonía por el Perú
Sinfonía por el Perú is a non-profit organization that aims to foster human development through music. Founded in 2011 by the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, the organization has many teaching centers spread throughout the country: 23 music centers, two central symphony orchestras and two choirs (one for children and one for youth), and three luthier workshops. More than thirty thousand beneficiaries have been reached over the years, and each day thousands of children participate in one of the organization’s music programs: music initiation, choir, orchestra, big band, Peruvian band, special education program for children with disabilities, and luthier workshops.
Juan Diego Flórez had experienced the power of music in his own life, but it wasn’t until 2009 that he got to know the work of the Maestro José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela. After that, he became convinced that it was possible to share everything he felt about music with hundreds of children and youth in Perú. He founded Sinfonía por el Perú as a grassroots program that offered young people free access to ensemble music education. Right away, during the program’s first year, positive effects were obvious. In fact, the music’s potential seemed to go beyond the ability to learn a new skill or develop cognitively; it seemed like a means to tackle all sorts of issues—self-esteem, tolerance, cooperation, communication, dialogue, self-care, self-determination, and so much more.
Having observed these positive effects over the years, we wanted to create the ability to measure them through scientific research. In 2012, we implemented four music teaching centers, ensuring that each had the characteristics necessary to support an experimental study measuring our impact. We created a systematic approach that all centers would follow, focusing on the design of the intervention as well as calls for participation, awareness campaigns, the creation of musical ensembles, and more. Furthermore, out of a large pool of potential beneficiaries, we randomly assigned students to an intervention group and to a control group that did not take part in these intervention programs. Each group comprised 400 students.
Two years later, in 2014, we conducted the first experimental impact study. The results were extraordinarily positive, with apparent benefits in educational, familial, and personal contexts. To mention just a few: children’s self-esteem increased by 30%, their motivation to do schoolwork increased by 34%, and family violence reduced by 34%.
In 2018, we finished the second experimental study with the same group. It showed that the early intervention had made a lasting impact. Focusing on students who had grown into adolescence, the study showed a 33% decrease in severe risk behaviors among female participants, a 75% decrease in adolescent pregnancy, and a 29% increase in students who aspired to carry out postgraduate or specialization studies. A report about both studies can be read on our website.
Given Perú’s complex and ever-changing social landscape, these results prompted us to reflect more deeply on our role as agents of social change. First, we reaffirmed our objectives in working with children. Then we thought critically about the social problems faced by children and youth in the short-, medium-, and long-term, attempting to identify all the elements and activities that had played a role in our studies’ findings.
From this vantage point, some ideas emerged. We realized that certain strategies in our intervention model need to comprise the foundation of our work: strategic coordination with families, development of safe spaces to ensure our students’ wellbeing, complementary (and complimentary) teacher and staff training, involvement of different arts disciplines, and an emphasis on community work and citizenship education.
In addition to interrogating our institutional awareness, we have implemented some new activities. For instance, we held our first open-reflection meeting on Music for Development, inviting different stakeholders such as beneficiaries, sponsors, youth development experts, and experts in wellbeing and safeguarding. We created an annual artistic residency called “Transforma,” in which beneficiaries, teachers, and invited guests develop tools and ideas to help our young musicians, through workshops designed by artists from several arts disciplines, and to work on our formative principles. In 2022, we concluded our first European tour, where our young musicians, alongside Juan Diego Flórez, interpreted a repertoire that sought to connect them with the European audiences of the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, the Lucerne Festival, and the Salzburg Festival.
If we remain mindful of our development goals, the challenges facing humanity today, and the importance of cross-discipline collaboration, we know that our music for social innovation model can only grow stronger. Our commitment now is to work with other organizations, to get to know other experiences, and to explore new collaboration strategies. We believe that this is the key to helping children and youth overcome the challenges of the world.