The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura – a musical ensemble consisting of young musicians from Paraguay – were three songs into their concert at Paradise Park on Sunday when the sky opened up and it started to pour.
The event was relocated to the gym at the Key Biscayne Community Center.
There, the crowd sung in unison as the orchestra played “Imagine” by John Lennon, wrapping arms around each other. Conductor Favio Chávez looked around in awe as he saw everyone united under his orchestra’s melodies.
“I have a great responsibility. I’m not just directing the music, but I am directing the children as well,” said Chávez, “And I am happy to do so.”
These talented children create music using instruments crafted from discarded materials gathered at the Cateura landfill in Asunción. The Recycled Orchestra also performed on Saturday in Key Biscayne – though the weather cooperated that evening.
“I never thought I would make it here. With everything we’ve done and continue to do, I’ve already had so many dreams come true today. It’s so many of these children’s first time in the United States.” said 20-year-old cellist William Wilson Lopez.
They are visiting South Florida even though catastrophic floods have impacted Cateura and their school.
The performance began with the orchestra playing Argentinian composer Astor Piazzollo’s “Libertango”.
After “Libertango”, the crowd was introduced to violinist Cynthia, who studies with a scholarship for orchestra at her university. “In any other person’s hands, it is trash. In Cynthia’s hands, it stops being trash,” Chavez said about her violin made of a tin can.
After a Coldplay song and a Brazilian piece, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation presented a $5,000 check – which was matched by donors for a $10,000 total donation. The orchestra was brought to Key Biscayne through the work of It Takes A Village KB – a group of parents with disabled children – and the foundation.
Once relocated to the community center, Pablo Benegas’ “Soy de Mi Tierra”, meaning “I’m from my land”, was played. This patriotic Paraguayan anthem had the crowd jumping from their seats and dancing alongside the orchestra.
“A dream. I cannot say anything more but a dream because you will see the story today. It is more than an orchestra, it is a story of a human spirit. There are no limits to what someone could do,” said Chiara Bergonzi, 49-year-old resident from Paraguay and a co-founder of It Takes A Village KB.
Melissa White, executive director for the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, said it was striking to see student musicians from a town built on a landfill playing on an island thousands of miles away in a park named paradise.
She hoped their music inspired those “who have won the lottery of birth” to be grateful.
“Their story speaks to the triumph of the human spirit,” she said. “It speaks to how much can be accomplished when a teacher is a change-maker to hundreds of students and their families.”
ANASTASIA IVANOVA is a junior at the School for Advanced Studies and is part of the Key Biscayne Independent's student journalism program. She earlier attended MAST Academy and was a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon, and loves traveling, appreciating art, consuming and producing writing, and developing a greater understanding of the world.