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Making Music Out Of Trash: Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Much has been made over the past few centuries of the amazing quality of the stringed instruments created by the Stradivarius family. Speculation still rages about exactly how the amazing instruments were made. Juan Manuel Chavez Plays A Cello Made From Trash (You Tube Image)Juan Manuel Chavez Plays A Cello Made From Trash (You Tube Image)However, there is a new contention for the most valuable instruments out there. They are the instruments belonging to a group of young musicians from Paraguay who perform together as the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra. Their instruments are made from the trash that they live with every day.

These young people all come from Cateura, a slum of the capital city of Asuncion. Their homes are built on the trash dump site for the area. Their lives are economically impoverished and difficult. Music has been their saving grace thanks to Favio Chavez, a local musician. 

Musical instruments are expensive and these kids do not have the money for such luxuries. A violin alone can cost more than a house in this place. Chavez looked at where they were living as saw possibilities. 

A Landfill Harmonic Orchestra Violin (You Tuve Image)A Landfill Harmonic Orchestra Violin (You Tuve Image)Chavez got together with Nicolas Gomez, a garbage picker, to recreate items from the landfill into musical instruments -- cellos, violins, flutes and many others. The cello played by Juan Manuel Chavez is made from an oil can, a tool for tenderizing meat, and an old pasta making gadget. A saxophone can be made from old tin pipes, buttons, bottle caps, and the handles of spoons and forks.

These instruments may not look at all like what you would expect, but they sound like the real deal. Who said they all had to be made of wood and brass?

There are currently about 20 kids in the orchestra, ranging in age from 11 to 19. As with any orchestra they play classical music, but they have also learned to play some contemporary Latin music and some Beatles music. The music is lifting these young people up out of the garbage they have been living in, giving them new skills, and opening new doors. They have already made trips to Brazil and Colombia. They have been invited to play in many more countries.Landfill Harmonic Orchestra Flute and Horn (You Tube Image)Landfill Harmonic Orchestra Flute and Horn (You Tube Image)

One of the musicians has already moved on to play for the national orchestra of Paraguay. The Miami Symphony Orchestra has also offered scholarships to two more of the musicians.

Two film producers, Alejandra Amarilla Nash and Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, have been working on a documentary to trace the life of the orchestra. Their Kickstarter project to find funding for their film exceeded their request. Now in addition to the film, they plan to use the extra funds to take these young musicians on a world tour and fund expansion of the Landfill Harmonic Movement.

The message of the movement is not just one of music and hope, but of how much more we can do with recycling -- for the planet and the people who live on it.

Sources: Huffington Post, Mother Jones