Musica En Los Barrios

The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra & Chorus has provided thousands of students culturally responsive and youth oriented programming that integrates music education into academics through performance, direct instruction and building the capacity of local music programs in the communities served. The organization has been the resident orchestra at the Adda Clevenger Junior Preparatory and Theater School for Children in San Francisco since 1995. Internationally, the organization is a key partner with Pan y Arte Foundation in Bremen, Germany providing leadership and funding to community based music education programs in low-income areas of Nicaragua through Musica en los Barrios in Managua and Casa de los Tres Mundos in Granada, Nicaragua.

In 1988 Dorothy Barnhouse arrived in Managua to teach English in the Agricultural University. In this moment, she never thought that music could help a country where the primary worry was to supply the basic needs of the population; but in 1991 she began to give weekend classes in singing and piano to a small group of children from barrio René Cisneros, and formed a small chorus.

Two years later, a Spanish flautist named Judith Rivas began to work with the children-teaching recorder (flute). More and more children wanted to join the classes and soon children from other neighborhoods arrived asking for choruses on their own. This same year she met Father Angel Torrres from Batahola Norte who had 10 years experience teaching music to children and together they formed the Batahola Chorus that still carries that name today. Soon Dorothy asked herself if some of these students couldn’t teach music to other children in other neighborhoods. She began turning students into teachers and in May of 1993 these students turned teachers traveled to four different neighbors and Musica en los Barrios was born. By 1995 there were already 20 professors working in 10 neighborhoods teaching a total of 150 children.

In 1995, the German music educator Luise Scherf joined MelB and started workshops for teachers called “Playing and Learning with Music” in which exercises in games, dances, rhythm, music, and song are shown to be very effective in communicating with children. Since then they have performed these workshops for more than 1200 professors in Managua and beyond. Luise Scherf is know the Co – Director of MelB and helps to raise money through the Pan Y arte Foundation in Germany.

In 1997, before returning to the United States, Dorothy taught the young teachers administrative responsibilities so they could continue the program without her. Urs Leonhardt Steiner arrived a year later to teach the group music theory and directing. Urs visualized a very successful Musica en los Barrios, with teachers with advanced musical capacity. He decided to intensify classes with the group and began arriving three times a year as well as fundraising to help ensure the successful continuation of the program.

The development of the program has been tremendous. MelB is now teaching in 12 barrios in Managua in 3 Barrios as well as the Casa de los Tres Mundos in Granada. Most recently through a Grant from the Swiss Development Agency COSUDE Melb was able to expand the program to 8 additional communities. The organization professionalized its Administration and has its own office in Managua. Pan Y Arte, Germany, Casa de los tres Mundos, Granada, the SF Sinfonietta, supports Melb and Private Donors like you.