Former sponsored child makes Guatemala's national orchestra

The 2013 bloggers trip to Guatemala is next week! Eight bloggers and I leave on Monday to visit World Vision's programs and witness child sponsorship at work firsthand.

At a community in San Juan Sacatepéquez, we will visit World Vision’s Children’s Center for Artistic Development and music program. As a sponsored child in this program, Hector began playing the cello. Now, he plays with Guatemala's national orchestra!

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The first time Hector held a cello, he was 11 and had been invited to participate in a new music program launching in his hometown near Guatemala City.

“When they gave me the instrument, I thought it was nice,” the former World Vision sponsored child says. “I had never seen one before.”

That moment ignited Hector’s passion for music that helped him eventually earn a spot in Guatemala’s National Symphonic Orchestra at age 18.

“I was very nervous at the audition,” Hector says. After performing six pieces for the judges, “I waited around three hours, and then they informed me I was chosen. I was so happy; it was a great achievement for me and my family.”

For seven years leading up to his life-changing audition, he struggled with doubts about his future. Hector relied on his parents and his music teachers at World Vision’s Children’s Center for Artistic Development to hone his skills, and he persevered, even when his friends lost their drive.

“Some parents discouraged their children by telling them that they don't earn money with music, or musicians are lazy because they don’t work,” Hector says. “Many of those children left the center.”

Hector comes from San Juan Sacatepéquez, about 10 miles northwest of Guatemala City. His family’s home is made of cement and sheet metal. His father is a tailor and mother a maid at a local medical center. They always knew Hector had an ear for music.

He had played other instruments, such as drums, guitar, and electric bass, since he was 6 years old. He and his father played worship music at their small church.

To join World Vision’s music program, Hector auditioned with children three years older than him. He was accepted in the group for children 14 and older.

“Although Hector is just 18 years old, his sound is sweet and expressive,” says Martin Corleto, the center’s director. “There is maturity in his music. Anytime a guest director or teacher comes, they are surprised by how well he plays.”

World Vision founded the center in 2004. In this community lacking basic services and amenities, it provides a safe place for children and youth to develop skills in the arts. The teaching method promotes critical thinking, memorization, and mathematical and motor skills, as well as discipline and self-esteem.

Instructors motivate parents to participate in their children’s musical development, too. Many of them accompany their children to the center every Saturday, helping with the activities. Currently, about 200 youth participate in the program.

At first, people had doubts about the new program, since most youth are expected to start working at a young age. But Hector’s parents supported his pursuit.

Today, Hector has little free time. In addition to his mornings with the National Symphony, studies in the afternoon at the conservatory, and night classes to be a music teacher, friends and colleagues are always asking to play with him.

And he never misses a Saturday to give cello lessons to the children and play in World Vision’s Sonidos de Esperanza (Sounds of Hope) Orchestra at the center.

“He is deeply committed to music -- music is his life,” says Martin. “He’s generous when he plays, and he always does it with all his energy and passion, attentive and respectful of his directors, colleagues, and peers.”

Big dreams motivate Hector. He currently combines his high school studies with a specialization in cello at the National Conservatory of Music. He has performed five concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra.

“For me [this experience] means a lot. It’s a great step for my career. However, it is not the limit. I have a lot to achieve,” he says. “I want to get my diploma as a music teacher from the National Music Conservatory.”

He hopes to obtain a scholarship to study abroad.

“In the long term, I want to get a spot in a foreign orchestra and be a teacher in the conservatory or in San Juan Sacatepéquez to help the community,” he says.

Growing up in San Juan Sacatepéquez, Hector may not have had other opportunities to succeed. His experience with the youth orchestra gave him something to work toward. It gave him and his family hope.

“World Vision is a blessing. I’m grateful for them,” Hector says. “This project has changed lives, families, and children.”

Having worked with Hector since he joined the music program, Martin has seen the profound role the cello has played in Hector’s development as a young man.

“When he encountered the cello, there were hardly opportunities for him. Now he’s a professional musician, and his life has completely changed,” says Martin. “I believe every child can excel in whatever they were meant to do, but the opportunity to play an instrument, without a doubt, changed Hector’s life. He is amazing, but it was crucial that the cello came into his life.”

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Alice Contreras is World Vision's communications officer in Guatemala. World Vision U.S. writer Chris Huber contributed to this report.


Join the World Vision bloggers in Guatemala! Check back next week, and subscribe to our blog to follow the trip.

Consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala from the very community we’ll be visiting!

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