Documentary Photography – Free Classical Music Education In Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá
Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

This documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Photographer Jaime Permuth.

 

From project “El Sistema” by Jaime Permuth

 

Click on any image to see Jaime’s gallery of projects and photographs.

 

Artist Statement:

On March 19th, 2014 I returned from a three-week photographic journey to Guatemala.  I traveled to document the work of Sistema de Orquestas de Guatemala (SOG), a non-profit whose mandate is to create a network of new symphonic orchestras which offer free classical music education for the country’s youth.  This mandate resonated with me. Guatemala is utterly torn-apart by violence and the fellowship and discipline of learning classical music brings hope, self-esteem and the joy of culture to the lives of thousands of children who so desperately need it.

During my trip, I photographed three different orchestras.  The first was located in the small agrarian town of Santa Cruz de Balam Yá.  This orchestra was founded ten years ago by local musician and farmer, Edras Nehemías.  Maestro Nehemías manages to finance this orchestra solely from the proceeds of his yearly crop of vegetables.

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá
Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá
Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá
Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica de Balanyá
Santa Cruz de Balanyá, Guatemala

My second destination was a rural orchestra in a larger town.  This orchestra has 50 musicians and functions under the auspices of the City of Carchá in Alta Verapaz.  Before earning the sponsorship of the city government, a core group of five musicians sold home-made burritos from backpacks in the local marketplace to pay for instruments.

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá
Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá
Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá
Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Carchá
Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

My third and final destination was also the largest orchestra I documented, some 70 musicians strong.  It is made up of students who attend San Judas Tadeo School in the crime-ridden and embattled neighborhood of Santa Fé in Guatemala City.  For several months, this Catholic school has been under siege by local gang members who are trying to extort money from the school. On several occasions students and teachers have been fired upon. The school perimeter is surrounded by razor wire and armed guards.

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo Guatemala City, Guatemala

Orquesta Sinfónica San Judas Tadeo
Guatemala City, Guatemala

“El Sistema” is particularly interested in how the turbulent political life of Guatemala collides with the didactic project and impacts the country’s youth.  However, it is also a testament to the spiritual force of music and how its practice helps elevate humanity above its sometimes desperate condition, bringing hope and light to a broken-down society.

 

See also:

Tarzan Lopez

Vota Asi

By Jaime Permuth


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