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Comment [CC1]: Title Ideas: Turning Garbage into Music A Symphony of Metallic Redemption. A Musical Splash from the Orchestra of Trash. (These are bad, titles are hard!)

The town of Cateura, Paraguay is ruled by its enormous landfill. Nearly everyone who lives there works at the landfill, living in shacks made from corrugated metal and scrap wood found among the garbage. Most people walk around without shoes. Over the years, ton after ton of solid waste flowed down from the capital city, Asuncion, to the landfill in Cateura. Living in one of the poorest cities in Paraguay, the people had no place set aside in which to dispose their own garbage. The trash piled high in the city and filled the lagoon, leaving the water and the land polluted and unsanitary. But out of the ramshackle buildings comes the melody of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The unexpected, beautiful sound of violins and cellos drifts across the landfill into the ears of the workers. The Landfill The majority of Cateura’s 2500 citizens work in the landfill, and even many of the youth must sort through and recycle the 1500 tons of waste that arrives in the landfill every day. This job often keeps teenagers out of school, neglecting an education that would allow them to have a better future. They have no time to participate in extracurricular activities, which are scarce anyway because of the town’s lack of funding.

Consequently, the youth are at high risk for using drugs and joining gangs; one young girl attributes her peers’ lack of study time to drug and alcohol addiction. With no education, no wholesome activities, and no hope for the future, the children of Cateura would have no choice but to remain there, living out their lives confined to the landfill. The Music One man refused to let them succumb to this fate. In April of 2009 Favio Chávez, a music teacher, committed to engage his students in something positive by teaching them to play musical instruments. Luiz Szaran, director of a non-profit organization that establishes music programs in poor areas, aided the cause. Since an average violin was worth more than a student’s house, Chávez let them play with instruments from his own collection. The demand surpassed all of his expectations. The kids loved to play music. “When I listen to the sound of a violin, I feel butterflies in my stomach,” says thirteen-year-old Ada Bordados. “It’s a feeling I don’t know how to explain.” Soon there were not enough instruments for every student who wanted to learn. With only five instruments to share among them, the aspiring musicians grew bored. It seemed that the music school would not prove successful. But Chávez did not give up. The Instruments The landfill workers often sort through the trash to look for anything of value to sell. One of these workers, Nicolas Gomez, could make anythingenjoys making unique trinkets out of the items he finds in the landfill; . Oone day, he came across the battered husk of a violin, and the idea was born. Chávez recruited Gomez to build drums, cellos, violins, saxophones, and more for the music school.

He used anything and everything that could be found in the trash—bottle caps for keys, used x-rays for drumheads, canisters, metal bowls, forks, jelly cans, scrap metal, and any other rubbish that comes into the landfill. A nineteen-year-old boy named Juan Manuel Chavez plays a cello made from oil cans, discarded pieces of wood, and a fork to connect the strings. The tuning pegs are made of pieces of a meat tenderizer and an old gnocchi maker. Szaran says, “People say, ‘This is something I threw away because it is useless.’ But when they see us, they see the same useless materials being transformed into a music[al] instrument.” The Recycled Orchestra This group of about thirty students, led by Chávez, became known as Los Reciclados, or the Recycled Orchestra. The Recycled Orchestra inspired their town with the classical music of Beethoven and Mozart, as well as their own renditions of Beatles hits. The members of the orchestra have inspired each other to value their own lives more. “This [(the music] ) will help some not to start with drugs or other addictions,” says one young musician. “Let the music be your addiction.” Even more impressive is the fact that the current members of the Recycled Orchestra have now learned to build their own violins and guitars. They have genuinely dedicated their lives to their art, and that dedication has paid off exponentially. “My life would be worthless without music,” a young girl says. Slate reporter David Haglund writes of one student’s talent, “If you do not lose it a little when 19-year-old Juan Manuel Chavez starts playing Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 on an instrument ‘made from an oil can, and wood that was thrown away in the garbage,’ then you are made of sterner stuff than I.”

The Performance Word of the beauty of their music and the uniqueness of their instruments spread across cities, regions, and countries. The Recycled Orchestra was invited to perform in various cities in their home country of Paraguay. Eventually they received the opportunity to play in several South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. The students, most of whom had rarely left the borders of Cateura, reveled at the prospect of traveling to Copacabana’s sunny coastlines. The luxuriousness of these locations contrasted greatly with Cateura’s poor and polluted atmosphere. The young performers stay in grand hotels instead of the small wooden shacks they were accustomed to; . they They swim in the sky-blue waters at Rio de Janeiro, something they would not dream of doing in the contaminated streams of their hometown. They are showing the world exactly what it was missing. “The world sends us garbage,” says Favio. “We send back music.” The Documentary The story of the Recycled Orchestra is currently being made into a feature-length documentary, Landfill Harmonic, to be released in 2014. The documentary, produced by Alejandra Nash and Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, focuses on three members of the orchestra. The trailer for Landfill Harmonic has gone viral on Youtube, closing in on almost one million views. The directors hope to show how important it is that the formerly hopeless children have undergone a kind of metamorphosis; these neglected Paraguayan citizens have been carefully polished and fine-tuned into something beautiful, just like the trash they used to create the instruments they play. Szaran believes that people should “put more attention to the things [they] throw away. . . . We shouldn’t throw away people, either.”

Comment [CC2]: You switch from past to present tense here. Just pick one and stick with it.

The original students who first attended Favio Chávez’s music classes have gone on to pursue other dreams; however, their legacy continues as curious new students join the orchestra to discover the magic of music. These students have proven that people can make the most out of what life hands them—even garbage. For more information about the upcoming documentary, go to Like them on Facebook at

Editing Sample 3  

Editing Sample 3

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