Music School for Disadvantaged Children of Tor Pignattara Rome, Italy

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2012-009
Beneficiary: Associazione Culturale Musica e altre cose

Time span for this Final Report: July 2014 - July 2015

At its third year, the project because of its innovative social, educational, artistic and multicultural features was able to attract the attention of new partners. The increase in the number of donors - crucial for the life of the project in view of the multiplication of its objectives and activities - proves the importance and the necessity of the work done up to now.
The Association has managed to involve the Foundation Alta Mane Italy (AMI) which, although already partner during the last annuity, has decided to increase its financial contribution. As an evidence of the social importance of the work done it is worth emphasizing that AMI is primarily involved in projects that use artistic languages to prevent and promote wellbeing.
Another major donor was the Open Society Foundations which is interested in the project and decided to support it. Another very interesting and prestigious involvement was that of the Società Italiana Autori ed Editori (Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE) which has decided to sponsor the project, sharing the goals and encouraging the creativity of the kids. It should be emphasized that the SIAE, the first institutional partner, aims to protect the creativity of art; this proves that the project is able to speak convincingly not only through its social content but also through music and art.
In view of its social and educational scope, the project was able to catch the attention of important institutions and associations with which the Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara has started to partner with. Among these it is worth mentioning Save The Children, an institution operating internationally for the protection of minors, and MEDU - Doctors for Human Rights -, an Italian organization that operates internationally for the protection and the promotion of the right to health (not exclusively). The project managers were also invited to speak at the Roma Tre University, Department of Education Sciences, in a seminar dedicated to issues related to the education of children and legality.
The project received great attention by the national press which has featured in many interviews and insights made by major newspapers (BBC, RAI DUE, RAI TRE, and many others listed in the Annex).
Start up - project planning and talks
The restart of the activities prompted the staff to reflect on designing the educational and musical path. In particular, it was considered to work on the awareness of the musical path of the kids, on their knowledge, natural inclinations, skills and individual limits and it seemed appropriate to start making the kids more active and protagonist. These aspects were addressed primarily through music, not only in itself but also as a metaphor of existence and growth. In this way it was possible to address issues completely detached from the musical path, especially in the most fragile and delicate cases.
This work was done, firstly, through individual interviews, conducted by the staff of the project, in order to invest some time on each kid, which is not easily feasible during the orchestral rehearsals, especially for the less extroverted kids. In many cases conflicts and ambivalences related to parent /child relationship emerged. As a matter of fact, the orchestra members are all facing adolescence troubles and the difficulties of the process of autonomy/detection. It was possible to talk about these difficulties and provide them a cushion that, in some cases, has been further analysed in individual meetings with the psychologist.
In particular, a fairly fragile situation of alcohol abuse by the father of one of the boys has emerged, this resulting in situations of tensions at home, the conflict in the parental couple, that, although not resulted in acts of overt violence, has alarmed the kid, who had to intervene to contain his father's drunkenness. A huge work was done with him focussing on the possibility of expression, on the analysis of the affective elements of his experience and a realistic analysis of the risks. The kid was firstly helped in seeking strategies to address the situation and secondly in thinking on how music could be a powerful tool to stimulate the creation of texts and music contents.
Individual interviews with each of the parental couple were also held. These were conducted both to explain the path of the new year and to get their point of view on the group and on the kids, in such a delicate moment of their growth. In general, the initial talks have provided a more complete picture of the potential of the individuals and of the moment that they are living, helping the staff to set the musical path, the type and the commitment to ask everyone.
The laboratories
The convocations of the kids at the orchestra rehearsals were planned very carefully and took into account several aspects: the musical level, the type of work to be done, the individual motivation, the relationships and the balance between the different members of the group.
In the first phase the work was organised in modules, which were originally separated and then put together in the middle phase of the year towards the construction of a musical proposal that would integrate the diversity of the members of the orchestra. At first moment of synthesis occurred during the concert held in December; it was a moment shared by all in a very warm context such as the Pisacane School.
The evidence and most of the meetings took place in the halls of JazzLab Alexandrino; during the rehearsals with all the kids it was preffered to use a larger room, the school Percento Musica. It remains that - in view of the number of meetings and the number of users - it is increasingly urgent to find a bigger space at the disposal of the project. In this regard some work is being done by seeking a dialogue with the Administration of the City of Rome.
Scouting and newcomers: some stories
At the same time, the scouting work continued by searching in different social, aggregation, musical contexts and social services for minors. With regard to the search criteria, as for last year, the staff invited those kids who showed interest and talent and/or knowledge of music and/or an instrument, who were within the age group and had a socio-cultural background different from each other.
Particular attention was paid to the most fragile situations (the ones hosted in foster homes, delicate family situations, but also socio-economic disadvantage or significant cultural gap). Unfortunately it is not easy for these structures (i.e. foster homes) to deepen their knowledge of aspects of the so-called "second level" (as the passions and predispositions of the kids), as their major task is meeting basic needs (initial reception, obtaining documents, health needs, linguistic mediation, acceptance of the context) and being forced to work often in emergency situations or in a rather tense atmosphere (think of the uproar had by the stories involving foreign children in the centres of the Tor Sapienza district).
In the foster home "Borgo Don Bosco" the staff met A., 13, of Polish origin who plays the flute. She is guest of the foster home as she was taken from the protection of her parents. A. has a great passion for music and, although technically has still much to learn, she learns quickly. Her entrance was fairly straightforward, and has been welcome in a particular way by E., who plays the flute in the orchestra since the beginning and is one of the most talented of the group. Although there is a wide difference in level between the two E. devoted attention to A., fully grasping the request made by the staff to take her under his "wing". E. is one of the people with whom was tried an approach of peer-education, where the oldest and the most experienced gradually begin to have a role for the others. This is still an embryonic path that could be particularly interesting in the future development of the project, as some kids grow in the orchestra and some new ones arrive.
Another channel through which new kids have joined the orchestra was the buzz among the kids of the group. In this way have joined the orchestra L. (16 years old, Italian, drummer) and V. a 16 year old girl, of Colombian origin, with a passion for singing, whose family seems to experience a disadvantaged economic condition. V. is a cheerful girl, she loves to sing and has carried out the activities in the orchestra with enthusiasm, taking the opportunity to have a social experience important at a time of delicate transition. V. had to interrupt the relationships that she had established in Colombia and is now building new ones in a new context.
Through word of mouth the staff also met M., a 13 year old boy especially gifted and talented in playing the piano. M. despite being the youngest has immediately integrated into the group and his musical skills, passion and naturalness with which he plays enabled him to immediately take on an important role in the orchestra, also acknowledged by the "older" elements (by age or period of membership in the orchestra).
During the first part of the year two sisters aged 13 and 16 years arrived, of Tunisian origin by mother's side and Egyptian by father's side. Two singers, who became fully comfortable in the group, starting to socialise with the others from the beginning. The mother has divorced from the father of the girls, she does not seem to experience an economic situations particularly advantageous and is growing the two girls on her own in a foreign country.
Another interesting encounter occurred with Ma., a 13 year old girl from China. She lives in the neighborhood of Tor Pignattara and both her parents speak very little Italian. She is very shy, both for cultural reasons and attitude, but she has integrated into the orchestra, albeit very gradually. Working with her was constant and led to her participation at the last concert of the year.
An important contact was the one with E., an Albanian, unaccompanied foreign guest of the foster home "La Margherita" who has a very unique and interesting perspective for the project: he would like to write texts to be sung by others. This is quite interesting because it is rare in the experience of the Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara. Unfortunately it was not possible to use this talent immediately, because writing lyrics for songs is a rather complex and delicate job. However, the staff has maintained a relationship with the kid and with the hosting structure, with the idea to help him cultivate this skill and involve him in the next annuity.
In general while scouting was tried to explore completely different contexts, in a way to intercept guys with very diversified experiences. Therefore, in addition to cultural and community centres, music schools and social projects, also other contexts with migrant children were explored, including occupations for housing purpose. In particular it was possible to get in touch with "Metropoliz", a space occupied by migrant families in collaboration with the "Blocchi Precari Metropolitani"(Metropolitan Precarious Blocks) that hosts the "MAAM - Museo dell'Altro e dell'Altrove (Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere). For the same purpose the staff contacted the Association of Volunteers Captain Ultimo, a polyhedral structure that houses a foster home and a series of workshops and work related activities operated by and for migrants.
Another interesting channel has been established with the Social Service Office for Minors which provides assistance to young offenders, accompanying them, once within the penal system, in paths of suspension of the sentence and probation. After a series of preliminary contacts the staff came in contact with a guy who has been granted a "test measure" (which consists of a series of socially useful activities and commitments that the kid must follow to avoid criminal measures) . Unfortunately the request arrived at the end of the year and, thus, it was impossible to welcome the kid from the start and he was given an appointment at the beginning of the new year of activity.
In this third year was also tested another scouting strategy that it's plan to continue: the organization of hip-hop "contests", small events open to all, during which young rappers challenge each other through rhymes. These events have worked well, were attended by several children, who competed with each other while the public was deciding the winner. On these occasions several contacts with children interested in participating in the orchestra were established, including MO, 15 years old, of Senegalese origin who lives with his family in Rome. He does not sing but he likes to create rhythm tracks with the computer. He would like to actively participate in the orchestra, he has watched several rehearsals and has brought some tracks created by himself. It would be interesting to make him "play" with the young musicians of the project. MO no longer has its own computer to create his tracks and the family cannot buy a new one. He is using the computer to an aggregation centre he attends. There were several meetings in which the staff has explained to him how he could bring his musical and human contribution. However with him it is necessary to start an ad hoc path. This will also start from the beginning of the year, trying to make a deal with he and making available a personal computer that the staff would like to buy.
This aspect of the purchase of tools for people who cannot afford them has emerged several times during the year, particularly with C., the Filipino girl who is with us from last year. In her case, she was given an amplified guitar and it was necessary to buy an ukulele. It was explained to her that the instruments belong to the orchestra but are available to her, so as not to create precedents nor embarrassments with the other kids. Her family does not experience the best economic conditions, indeed, they have to share the apartment in which they live with another family from Philippines.
Other important contacts established through the scouting were the ones with the association "21 July " and with "Termini Underground ". With the first a cooperation with the kids of the Roma camps with whom the association has initiated break-dance and music laboratories is envisaged. Also the project " Termini Underground" deals mainly with hip-hop and break-dance in a multicultural context. Several meetings with their staff and with some of their kids were held, there seem to be the conditions for an interesting collaboration, thinking about the choreography to be included during the concerts.
Concerts and media
The kids of the orchestra are were very much into playing for the audience and shared with others the job done in the rehearsal room. At the same time the staff received many requests for concerts and invitation to events from many different subjects. Unfortunately it is not possible to accept all the invitations.
The Orchestra tried to participate in those concerts likely to stimulate the students to think about music and performances not only as a way to show themselves, grow and feel satisfied of their efforts, but also as a tool, with a big communicative power, useful to the others and to support important causes. It seemed important to stress this point, given the current trend - strengthened by the media and many "talent shows" - to conceive art as a simple expression of talent and of the individual profile, rather than as a tool to convey contents, based on the collective effort and the promotion of wellbeing. This narrow view and individualistic art is the opposite of what the staff is trying to convey through the work in the Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara, where the effort is collective and is the result of the combination of the individual differences, both musical and personal, and conveys content more that giving visibility to the individual.
The first concert was held at the Carlo Pisacane School, in the heart of Tor Pignattara, a symbol not only for the neighborhood but for the whole city: a few years ago most of the students were of foreign origin and Italians represented an "ethnic minority". The staff of the project has chosen this school for the first public exhibition to give a clear signal, also to the neighborhood itself, where in the recent months numerous acts of intolerance and racist violence (in one case even resulted in a murder) were registered, and where the Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara had never performed before. The concert was organized to celebrate "The global day of action against racism", an important moment, bearing a strong symbolic value. At the concert to play all the kids who attend the laboratories were invited and even those who had recently joined the orchestra were all present, just to make everyone feel themselves as a part of a whole.
In the second part of the year different concerts were held to allow kids to exhibit more frequently before the audience and with live performances in different contexts. In February, the Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara played as part of an event organized by a network of associations of the Tor Pignattara neighborhood. It was an important test: the kids performed in an open area, in the square, not in theatres or "protected" contexts coping well with the "hardships" and contingency of an outdoor performance on the street (no dressing cabins, or stage, or backstage and then the rain just before the concert).
The second concert was rather new as the kids were invited to play by "MEDU - Doctors for Human Rights" for a fundraising event. It was an important step to be invited by an external association to support, with the music, a specific cause. For this reason the staff has brainstormed with the kids about the features that music and art can have in addition to the pleasure of playing and to the entertainment. Some members of MEDU were directly invited in the room, so that the kids could know the association and understand the meaning of the action to which they were contributing.
The third concert was instead held upon invitation of "Save the Children", as part of an initiative aimed at children from all over Italy and it was done in a very important cultural set, the MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome. In this case the children have understood the importance of performing in an prestige institutional setting, before a different audience and invited by another important association, which deals with important social issues.
In June the closing concert of the laboratory was held at the Central Preneste Theatre. The guys participated with great enthusiasm and despite some last-minute absences due to health issues, they played anyway, in a great manner, all the songs. This year's repertoire focused mostly on songs that had love as the central theme, intended in various forms (couple love, love for people, love for a friend, family etc.). It was chosen to work on this issue not only because it is strongly felt by teenagers but mostly because the project's staff wanted to focus on emotions; to push through the idea, simple but not obvious, that behind every story of migration there is a person, real, with his emotions. The Piccola Orchestra di Tor Pignattara seeks to convey an idea of migration and dialogue between cultures, in a positive and cheerful way, to show, through the joy of music, the beauty that arises from the differences.
The disc
In the last phase of the project the kids have been busy with the recording of a disc which includes the songs produced during the year. Also at this stage differences with regard to the approach of the kids emerged: the most talented and careful ones faced with the disk with consciousness and using it as an opportunity for further growth; for the less mature and less ready ones it certainly represented an important moment for getting in touch with various professionals and with new and interesting dynamics of art creation. The disc will be published after the summer.


Associazione Culturale Musica e altre cose
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