Monday, March 18, 2013

Venezuela 6: Despedida de Barquisimeto

Our last night in Barquisimeto we had a despedida (a goodbye party) in which we received the surprise gift of Venezuelan jackets and I heard a lot of wonderful life stories. My colleague Elaine said "These past few days we haven't been talking about El Sistema. We've been hearing how music entered people's lives and their life stories." She's so right and reminded me that's the point, not making generalizations about the movement. And how important it is to not make generalizations based off of a life story, but to take that story for what is, as an individual's account and real firsthand experience.

I'd like to tell you a few of them below, which in turn did make me learn some things about the "secrets" of El Sistema and understanding the context of Venezuela, but first and foremost I want to tell you life stories. After seeing the length of this one, this is going to be a series of blogs.

The first is of my new friend Rafael, a violinist and singer, who is now the orchestra director at Santa Rosa, a nucleo that is based at a plaza where students literally have lessons in different corners of the park. After finishing high school where he was enrolled at the conservatory, he went to study music in Caracas. But after two years, he began working as a nucleo director and didn't finish his degree. He emphasized to me how the value of experience is far greater than any title or degree, which prompted a discussion about how different this is in the US. How on job descriptions it always says "Master's Degree preferred, B.A. required," and experience is secondary. Especially being a kinesthetic learner, experience is the best way to learn. What better way than to do instead of sitting in a classroom talking about doing. He then went on to tell me he was a nucleo director for nine years where he worked definitely six days a week and most often seven and that was the reason he left to take a job in Spain; he needed a break. But now he's back in the System, in the same line of work that caused him to burn out. He explained that despite the hard work that is required, there is no substitute for the feeling that occurs at a concert when kids nail pieces. And that's what brought him back. He's now finishing his studies obtaining his licensure.

A curiosity of mine has been what the coveted job is and the turnover rate. I learned the most important job is not actually the orchestra director, but the preparador translated as the preparer and a Venezuelan-created position. This person not only directs the orchestra, but is responsible for the teaching of every instrument and the needed techniques and theory needed to play the pieces. Once you become a preparer, you can also become a director, a manager, etc. but this preparing is at the base. As to my question, I found out it's not the job, but rather the salaried position of the job.
Jobs here always begin on the hourly rate and you literally have to fight for yourself, proving yourself, and demonstrating you deserve not a raise, but a contracted, salaried position. It also makes sense why people stay in the same position for so long since you have to start hourly each time (And I thought seniority/tenure was bad). Obtaining this is rare, which gave me that much more respect for the meticulous, arduous work 7,000 employees put forth every day to make a difference in these kids' lives where probably only 1% of those are salaried. I also learned that new directors usually occur because they didn't exist prior; in other words jobs are created, not replaced.

I also mentioned to Rafael my amazement with how quiet kids were while directors worked with students for long amounts of time one-on-one or by row despite the fact it was in a full orchestra rehearsal. He explained it's the discipline that is instilled in them from the beginning. Strict, military (and sometimes fear-filled) discipline, but never directed at one individual. Notice the idea of ensemble, even in discipline. I think this idea is overlooked in the US, we're so concerned with being nice to children, that we forget children need structure/consequence to thrive. One day when students continued to talk after several reminders, Rafael just got up and left rehearsal. The students assumed he had gone to the office or somewhere briefly, but he had actually gone home. An hr later, a student called him and asked where he was. He told them, "Only call me when you are ready to work. Until then you are wasting my time." The students were never unruly again.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahahaha muy bueno.... muchas gracias Sara
    Todo el éxito del mundo para ti y tus compañeros, en todas las metas que se propongan en la vida. tanto musical como personal.