11-25 July 2017 | SALVADOR
In July 2017 we travelled to Bahia State, Brazil, for a two-week field assignment with NEOJIBA, a governmental program inspired by the El Sistema program in Venezuela. NEOJIBA aims to promote social integration through the practice of ensemble-based music and the achievement of artistic excellence. It currently reaches 5700 children in Bahia State, primarily through orchestras and choirs.
During the first week, we led violin and strings sectionals, attended general orchestra rehearsals, and provided feedback to the conductor and the orchestra players. During the second week, we conducted interviews with academic staff and the management committee. Our sources for this case study include interviews with members of NEOJIBA’s teaching staff and management committee; three social maps (reports based on indicators related to socio-economic conditions such as skills, education, income, etc.) from 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, provided by the program; our observations of classes in the núcleos, or regional centers, that we visited; our conversations with students; and published articles.
Upon our arrival in Salvador, we received instructions from the management committee regarding our tasks during the field assignment. We also received information about various activities in which we could participate to better understand the NEOJIBA program. We were asked to replace some teachers that were on tour with Youth Orchestra of Bahia (YOBA) at the time and to participate in the Festival in Teixeira de Freitas organized by Instituto de Cultura, Educação e Desenvolvimento (ICED); ICED is a partner of NEOJIBA in the south of Bahia State. We had the opportunity to work closely with Orquestra Castro Alves (OCA), leading string sectionals, observing general rehearsals, and offering feedback, at the request of conductor Marcos Rangel, on ways in which the orchestra could improve.
After working with OCA students we informed the committee of our interest in offering individual tuition, but the lack of facilities in the Teatro Castro Alves did not allow for this. We also visited 3 different núcleos: CESA/ Simões Filho; SESI Itapagipe; and Federação, which houses the Orquestra Pedagógica Experimental (OPE). We stayed one additional week after the end of the field assignment in order to conduct interviews and gain a broader view of the administrative and cultural aspects of the program. It should be noted that our two-week visit occurred during an atypical period for NEOJIBA, since many teachers were away on tour with YOBA. We were therefore only able to attend lessons given by a small percentage of the teaching staff. Our analysis and recommendations are based on our observations of these teachers’ lessons, and on the sources noted at the beginning of this section.
NEOJIBA (Núcleos Estaduais de Orquestras Juvenis e Infantis da Bahia or State Countries of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Bahia) is an El Sistema-inspired program founded in 2007 by pianist and conductor Ricardo Castro at the request of the Secretary of Culture of the State of Bahia, Brazil. It rapidly achieved great success in its orchestral and choral projects. Its main mission is to create social integration through collective musical practice, and it has become an inspiration to other music education programs throughout the country and the world. The program is administered by a nonprofit institute, the Social Action For the Music Institute (IASPM), through a contract of management with the Government of the Bahia State. In 2009, this institute signed a management agreement with the Secretary of Culture of the State of Bahia to carry out the management of the state program. In 2014, the program passed to the Secretariat of Justice, Human Rights and Social Development of the State of Bahia.
NEOJIBA started in 2007 with 90 students selected, by audition, to become part of the program’s first youth orchestra, Orquestra Juvenil da Bahia or Youth Orchestra of Bahia (YOBA). The orchestra had its concert debut on October 20, 2007. At first, the NEOJIBA staff included members of the Orquestra Sinfónica da Bahia (OSBA) and guest teachers from abroad. During its early years, the program focused on creating a high quality orchestra in a short period of time, in order to gain visibility and develop a solid reputation that would justify state government support. “The results of the work of YOBA were so outstanding that they have set a standard for excellence that was never seen before in the State of Bahia,” stated Mr. Castro in an interview on the history of NEOJIBA. Mr. Castro explained that, when he was a child in Salvador, people had no interest in classical music and no one was playing at a high enough level to be a model for younger players. NEOJIBA has changed that reality and now many children are practicing and working to improve on their instrument so they can join an orchestra. Currently YOBA is made up of the best players from NEOJIBA and represents NEOJIBA in public presentations and on national and international tours. In July 2010, YOBA was the first youth orchestra from Brazil to perform at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
In 2009 NEOJIBA created a second orchestra, Orquestra Castro Alves (OCA), under the supervision of YOBA and with instruction by YOBA members. The members of OCA come from various NEOJIBA regional centers, or Núcleos de Prática Orquestral e Coral (NPOs), and from Rede de Projetos Orquestrais (REDE), NEOJIBA’s partner programs in the interior of the Bahia state. The orchestra’s members are selected through public audition and are some of the most advanced students in NEOJIBA; as of 2017, OCA had 80 members between the ages of 12 and 22. YOBA and OCA rehearsals and activities take place in the Teatro Castro Alves in Salvador, the state capital. The NEOJIBA administrative offices are in the same building, making this theater the core of the program.
In 2011, the first núcleo outside the theater, Centro Educacional Santo Antônio (CESA), was inaugurated. By December 2017, the program served 5700 students across the Bahia State, including 1700 in Salvador. NEOJIBA currently has 12 núcleos in the Salvador metropolitan area. Some offer classes for winds and percussion, while others offer training in choir, strings, or full orchestra. One of the núcleos includes services for disabled students. Although each núcleo is free to choose the classes it offers, all follow the main objective of NEOJIBA: the promotion of social inclusion through collective musical practice. Participants vary in age from 4 to 29, depending on the núcleo or orchestra. All activities, musical instruments, learning materials, and access to transportation for concerts and presentations are free to all participants.
Since its inception, NEOJIBA has grown rapidly and created partnerships with national and international institutions, including the United Nations and The Orchestra of the Americas. In 2017, 8 students from NEOJIBA won auditions with the OSBA, demonstrating the high music quality offered by the program.
With almost 3 million people, Salvador is the capital of Bahia State and the largest city in the Northeast region of Brazil. It was the capital of colonial Brazil and the first slave port in the Americas. Due to the large number of African slaves brought by the Portuguese, the Afro-Brazilian heritage in the region is stronger than in other parts of Brazil. This influence may be found in the traditional cuisine, music, dances, and various forms of artistic expressions. The region has a very diverse population, including not only Afro-Brazilians but also people of Indigenous and European heritage. Salvador is the most important tourism center in the country, followed by Rio de Janeiro. This, in addition to the city’s numerous commercial ports (primarily for the oil and petroleum industries), has made Salvador an economically vibrant location.
Most NEOJIBA students come from situations of vulnerability, both economically and socially. Many live in the suburbs of Salvador or another city in the Bahia State. NEOJIBA has given these students an opportunity to develop their capacities, individually and socially, through collective musical practice. Through the program, students learn values such as respect, teamwork, discipline, and tolerance. These values positively affect students’ relationship with their families. Students may become role models within their families and communities. In an August 3, 2016 article in Bahia Já, a local newspaper, one mother from the São Tomé de Paripe neighborhood of Ferroviário, a suburb of Salvador, stated that “the program has offered so many things, especially with regards to the development of my children.” She said that her son is now more focused at school and that the program had encouraged her daughter to complete her studies.
NEOJIBA does not ask students to become professional musicians but rather to apply the values and skills learned throughout their lives. States Carolina Nascimento, a member of the NEOJIBA Youth Choir, in an interview posted on the program’s website, “NEOJIBA represents a big opportunity to sing, learn new things. When I began I was in the middle school. I really like to sing and to be here but my career plans are somewhat different. I want to get into the Law Faculty. I want to know the laws to be able to defend people from the injustices I see in Brazil.”
The “Mapa Social 2017—Relatório Técnico Setor Desenvolvimento Social,” NEOJIBA’s 2017 social map, was created by the technical team of the program’s Social Development Area and compiles data from 2016 and information from a total of 1542 students active in the program in the city of Salvador in that year. According to this map, 438 (29%) of the students were ages 13 to 17 and 218 (15%) were ages 18 to 24. In other words, the number of students ages 18 to 24 is approximately half that of the number of students ages 13 to 17. Note that, although we had access to social maps for three consecutive years of the program, we were not able to determine the exact number of students who had quit the program because we lacked information on the age of new students enrolling each year and the ages at which returning students had first enrolled in the program. Rather, we conducted interviews with the management committee in order to gather more information on students’ reasons for leaving the program.
We also conducted interviews and surveys with OCA members. Of a total of 39 string players, 35% were ages 10 to 14, 41% were ages 15 to 19, 21% were ages 20 to 24, and only 3% were 25 or older. All had started their musical studies in NEOJIBA. About 5% had studied their instrument for one year or less; 41% for 2–4 years; 38% for 5–7 years; 10% for 8–9 years; and only 5% for 10 years or more. Some of those 18 or older were attending university, while the younger students attended elementary school or high school.
This case study includes data from 2007 through December 2017. Due to ongoing program reforms, some figures may no longer be accurate at the time of publication.