Bravo students brave the crowds and the heat as they open for Oregon Symphony’s Waterfront Concert.
BRAVO Youth Orchestras is inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s national system of social change through music. The program started in the barrios of Venezuela in 1975 and combines rigorous classical music education with a mission to improve the lives and outcomes of low income children. El Sistema has spread to over 50 countries, including over 60 programs in the US. Oregon’s first El Sistema-inspired program started in 2012 at Rosa Parks Elementary, Portland’s poorest public school. I had the honor to photograph the students throughout the year as they devoted 2 hours after school every day to learning an instrument and playing in an orchestra.
And now, we’re making a documentary. These “journals” are small vignettes of our journey that will culminate into a longer documentary that will premiere in Portland, Oregon November 2015. Ultimately, this short documentary will be the foundation for a longer-term, feature length film that will continue to explore the stories of the selected students through their high school graduation. In addition, I will collect assets and stories from other successful arts programs nationally and internationally with hopes to develop a deeper understanding of how an intensive discipline in the arts can shape a child’s entire life.
Only one year into the program, the transformation in the lives of these children is already visible. Most students come from single parent families, some have a parent who is incarcerated, and others are dealing with domestic violence. BRAVO doesn’t see itself as a counseling program, rather they know the music itself is the therapy. It is astounding to see the degree with which these children have already responded and made it their own. Students who were once known as introverted are now leaders in their classes. Self-esteem and engagement in academics is growing. Families are coming together with enthusiasm as they see their children invest so much of themselves toward a positive end. While Portland is making the case to restore arts education, it is my hope that “Music Changes Everything” will demonstrate the powerful impact the arts has on all of our lives.
Story, camera and edit: Kimberly Warner
2nd cameras: Mia Allen and David McLaughlin
Music: Bravo Youth Orchestra (live)
Recording: Tim Boot