The small moments are the greatest joy of my Peace Corps service: Azalea’s sheepish smile above the chin rest of her violin when she gets lost, the look of determination in Diana’s eyes as her fingers fly through a fast passage of Mozart, Fausto’s utter concentration as he flips between timpani, the tears that form in Martín’s eyes when 14-year-old Sandra plays Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons. As part of the 2006 season, the orchestra performed a modernized Magic Flute, complete with a drum set and acrobats. Sitting among the nearly 1,500 Salvadorans who came to the three nights of performances, I realized my musical education had come full circle: Kids whom I had helped in theory class were now performing the very opera that had inspired my life-long love of music.
When they play, these young musicians inhabit their own world — a world where they are all equal. In a sense, the orchestra is a kind of social experiment: Can these young people use music to bridge the gaps of education and opportunity so ingrained in their country? Can they transmit their new world to their audience? Research has shown that musical activities provide children with discipline, concentration, and focus. Participation in the orchestra is also teaching these children that they matter, and that they are capable of achieving greatness. In a disjointed and chaotic nation, the children of the National Youth Orchestra of El Salvador are creating the foundation for a world of peace and harmony. (Rest of the article)