Chulumani Youth Symphony, bringing music to children in Bolivia’s coca-producing area

Posted on: December 11, 2018

“When Mariel Chura joined a youth orchestra at age 14, she did not even know what a viola was,” writes José Arturo Cárdenas in Tuesday’s (12/11) Agence France-Presse. “Seven years later, she loves the instrument, which has offered her an escape from the hardships of everyday life in Bolivia’s biggest coca-producing area. The Chulumani Youth Symphony Orchestra has helped teens avoid the usual pitfalls plaguing the region: drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and family drama, according to the group’s director and conductor Erik Castro…. [Chura] was picked on by classmates. The boys in the group were the targets of homophobic slurs for playing in the orchestra. At age 18, Chura used her income from the coca fields to buy her own her viola for $115—a significant amount of money for her. Now, she is studying engineering at the Higher University of San Andres in La Paz…. The orchestra was founded in 2011 with a combination of support from the city of Chulumani and private organizations. Since then, several students have been awarded scholarships to universities at home and abroad … Castro says.… ‘When music comes into your life, it changes you,’ said 19-year-old violinist Lourdes Sarabia.”

Posted December 11, 2018

Photo of Mariel Chura by Aizar Raldes