The youth orchestra was founded in Balanyá in 2003 and consists of children and young people aged from 6 to 26, from the department of Chimaltenango in the highlands of Guatemala. It is a string orchestra with some wind players. They play not only classical and film music but also traditional Guatemalan songs, performing locally and further afield. The orchestra travels regularly to Guatemala City where it has given very well-received concerts at the Italian and German cultural centres and other venues. It also plays in small towns where there are very few cultural opportunities, as part of traditional events such as “maya princess” ceremonies and Christmas celebrations.
Since 2003 the orchestra has given children and young people an opportunity to learn an instrument. This gives them access to a cultural community and helps them learn how to actively shape their future. An important goal of the founder, Edras Patá, is to provide young people with broader opportunities and aspirations beyond the daily round of sleeping, eating, school and work. Through music and teamwork they are encouraged to focus on values and skills.
It is also important that the orchestra is an independent entity. The orchestra started as an entirely grassroots initiative driven by the dreams of a few individuals, and cherishes its autonomy. The charity “El sonido de Balanyá – ein Dorf erklingt e.V.” is a circle of friends of the orchestra who aim to enable the orchestra to remain independent now and in the future.
The Guatemalan Edras Nehemías Patá Sirin is the founder of the orchestra. He and his mother, small-scale farmers like most of their neighbours, used to grow extra crops to buy DVDs on how to learn the various instruments. That is why the orchestra was first called the “vegetable orchestra”.
Edras trained as a primary school teacher. He gave up his career as a teacher in order to run the orchestra on a voluntary basis. His vision created a little miracle in this small rural town.
The students in each new generation first sing in a choir and have group lessons to prepare them for playing in an orchestra. The beginners perform alongside the older members and gradually develop as orchestral musicians while sharing the enriching experiences of playing together on stage.
Every year new youngsters come to the orchestra, and new sections are developing, with French horns, trumpets, clarinets and flutes. Everyone’s dream is to play symphonic pieces with a huge orchestra.