The Louis Armstrong Recreation Center in Queens, New York was brimming with kids lugging cellos and other musical instruments twice their size. But the kids weren’t complaining. In fact it was quite the opposite, the kids were racing ahead of their parents to get to work. They were performing at the Museo del Barrio the next day and had less than two hours to rehearse.
It is understandable to see kids get excited on the playing field, but in a rehearsal hall to practice violin and french horn? What is the secret?
Nucleo Corona, a youth orchestra and chorus, founded by Alvaro Rodas. Based on the Venezuelan youth orchestra, El Sistema, Rodas participated in a similar program in his native Guatemala. The orchestra and chorus is used for social change, meaning it teaches kids music, team playing, leadership and other essential skills that can guide a child on the path to becoming a useful member of society.
After he moved to New York from Guatemala City, he received his masters in arts administration at Columbia’s Teachers College. Rodas then moved to Boston to complete a one-year fellowship at the New England Conservatory of Music. There he learned to replicate building youth orchestras based on the El Sistema model. After he finished his stint in Boston, he moved back to New York City and began to build an orchestra and chorus in Queens, NY.
He chose Corona because of the Guatemalan chicken franchise Pollo Campero. He figured the company must have done their market research and found a high concentration of Guatemalans, a population he was keen to target. After further exploration, he found there were not many Guatemalans in Corona, but there was no dearth of Latin American families hungry for a youth orchestra and chorus.
This year they had two, one-week music camps, one in April and the other in August. The Museo del Barrio concert was scheduled to be the culmination of the August session. Because of Hurricane Irene, the concert was postponed to September.
Like many mothers, Ana Reza, enrolled her four-year-old daughter in the free program, to not only develop her daughter’s young brain, but to use music as a way to connect to her new country. Since some immigrant families feel estranged in the US, some parents discover music levels the playing field for their children. No one cares about your command of english or where your from, what matters is the discovery and joy of making sound with your fellow community members.
Rodas founded the program less than one year ago. With no money, he started the orchestra with paper and cardboard instruments. The kids learned to hold the instruments and simulate playing, so when they did receive their donated instruments this past summer, the transition time to learn the instrument would be much quicker.
Watch the video below to hear Rodas’ use of paper instruments as an effective teaching tool for youth.
To get instruments for his kids, Rodas turned to social media, and found donors through Facebook and Twitter. Two organizations, Herricks High School in New York, and another, Southwest Strings, in Arizona, were willing to help. Southwest Strings was looking for an El Sistema-like organization to donate. Alvaro tweeted about his organization, and last summer, they donated over 20 instruments, including two highly prized cellos.
Watch the video below to hear how Alvaro built his orchestra through Twitter and other online resources.
To get involved with Nucleo Corona Youth Orchestra and Chorus, contact Alvaro Rodas at Nucleo Corona.