Sonidos de la Tierra

About the Project

This project is one of the 2016 WISE Awards finalists.

Sonidos de la Tierra creates social capital through the running of orchestras as schools for life. This project was born out of the necessity of creating an active civil society in a country that was coming out of long dictatorship with extremely deteriorated human values. Sonidos de la Tierra has become Paraguay’s most emblematic social project.

Although great musicians emerge from this project, Sonidos’s main objective is to create good citizens. The program touches the roots of poverty, the low level of formal education, and the high incidence of corruption by motivating children and youth to do better in school and complete their educations; by providing adults (who generally do not have much formal education themselves) the organizational and fundraising skills they need to create more opportunities in their communities. The innovative Conservatory on Wheels methodology has allowed the program to be present in 16 of the 17 departments of Paraguay, and its multiplier effect to the project winning several awards.

Context and Issue

The legacy of a 35 year-long dictatorship left Paraguay devastated. As a consequence, the country is characterized by poor institutions, a lack of trust in public policies, and weak citizen participation that affects the transition to democracy and the country’s economic, social and political development. This lack of trust leads to a strong sense of individualism and fragmentation, weak social capital and a disbelief in the common good.

Paraguay is experiencing and important demographic boom that is only expected to last 40 years. Sonidos de la Tierra sees this as a unique opportunity to give the workforce the tools to advance their communities, and offer safe spaces for complementary education. In rural communities, schools are located in isolated areas and children have to walk long distances to attend classes. Rain and extreme temperatures are barriers to education, unless students have something to look forward to after school, such as music lessons.

Solution and Impact

Sonidos de la Tierra uses music to foster social entrepreneurship while producing a multiplier effect through which students pass on what they learned to other communities. Through a system called Conservatory on Wheels, a team of itinerant professors teaches the greatest number of rural communities, marginal neighborhoods and indigenous settlements at the lowest cost. Instead of giving scale-based music classes, instructors use games to make lessons easier and more attractive.

Sonidos is not a music conservatory, but rather uses orchestras as schools for life, where a person becomes member of the orchestra — on and off stage — the minute he/she plays the first note. This methodology has an empowering effect on the individual and develops values such as discipline, democratic attitudes, honesty, solidarity, tolerance and respect, exercised as members of the orchestra.

Sonidos de la Tierra contributes to the social and economic development of Paraguay by generating social capital. Just as music changed personal attitudes and modified behaviors, entire communities developed surrounding local orchestras. For example, the city of Caacupé didn’t have a concert hall so it raised funds to build a professional theatre, which eventually became a cultural center that also offers ballet and art lessons. To accompany this paradigm shift, Sonidos also developed workshops for adults on fundraising, finance, marketing, organization of events and interpersonal skills.

Inspired by the concept of educating through art, during the last 14 years the program has allowed direct access to music education and community development to more than 16,000 children and youth and 2,000 adults in 205 underprivileged communities through music schools, choirs, orchestras, cultural associations and instrument workshops.

Future Developments

The organization is financed through donations of international foundations and the sponsorship of local businesses. Currently, Sonidos is launching the third year of the H2O Sounds of Water Project, which aims to raise awareness about the responsible use of water through the creation of 50 H2O orchestras, with instruments constructed with recycled materials related to water.
April 26, 2016 (last update 12-31-2020)