"In a social context, the orchestra is a tool to foster social inclusion," said José Antonio Abreu, a musician and former Minister of Culture of Venezuela, who sees the orchestra as a cooperative "company". Musica in Gioco (Music in Play) is based on Abreu's "El Sistema" method. It presents a children's orchestra as a solution to the social unrest of young generations living in the urban context.
Supported by the Municipality of Adelfia (IT), the Musica in Gioco association set up a teaching experiment that offers free musical instruments and lessons to children living in the town. Most of the young orchestra members experience social hardship or suffer from disabilities (autism, dyslexia, Down syndrome). To be part of Musica in Gioco, every child makes a pact with the orchestra: to practice their instrument for 15 minutes a day and attend all rehearsals.
Musica in gioco is composed of three orchestras, working on two repertories: classic music and street band. The First Orchestra is composed of 60 kids (12-16 years old). They are the first young people who started this experience in Adelfia, in 2010, so they are now at an advanced level, the second one is composed of 80 kids (7-11 years old), the third is composed of 20 children (3-6 years old). The instruments and music lessons are completely free, but the kids have two tasks: practising with the instrument for 15 minutes a day and attending all rehearsals. The learning methodology is not based on an evaluation of results, but on the level of engagement and participation of each kid. In fact, the orchestra is proposed not as a learning space, but as a community space, where kids could experiment together by playing music in a “cooperative learning” dimension. This is because the methodology is based on the development of motivation that consists in three defined passages: first, experiencing on the instruments, the kid will enjoy, second, practicing with the instrument, the kid will obtain results, third, playing in a concert, the engagement of the kid will be recognized by the community. This means that the kid becomes aware that by the motivation and the engagement, all people can have the same opportunity regardless social and health conditions. In this way Musica in gioco supports the city in spreading the culture of legality and of social inclusion.
Musica in gioco has been developed on an integrated approach. It aims at the social inclusion of disadvantaged kids through music education and through the development of specific competencies in the music for those who want to find a job in the music sector. The orchestras are accessible to kids living in Adelfia. Priority is given to kids referred by social service administration and the schools, coming from poor families or with previous criminal convictions. Moreover, some elements of the orchestras are kids with physical disabilities. Finally, other elements belong to the middle class. In order to develop professional competencies, six teachers from the Conservatorio Nicolò Piccinni, the music academy in Bari, have been involved in managing the orchestra at advanced level (12-16 years old), in order to propose a free course, with a teaching programme similar to that offered to students attending the Conservatorio. Furthermore, some kids of the above-mentioned orchestra, with a specific economic disadvantage, have the opportunity to be tutors of younger children, paid with a small grant. The integrated approach tackles social exclusion through cooperative learning and peers education methodologies, and at the same time, it improves real competence in music, in order to improve socio–educational and professional development, thus creating the basis for future employment in the music sector, while contributing to the reduction of economic and cultural poverty.
Musica in Gioco is supported by a network composed of local and regional institutions, civil society and private stakeholders. It started the orchestra activity in Adelfia in 2010, thanks to the support of Teatro Kismet Opera in Bari. The Municipality of Adelfia, as a local institution that endorses Musica in Gioco, has made an old palace available as a headquarters, and it provides heating and electricity. Furthermore, there is an important collaboration with the social service administration, which identifies the children with economic and social problems to be involved in the orchestra.
The musical instruments have been bought thanks to the sponsorship of a consortium of 60 private companies (Consorzio Costellazione Apulia). The six teachers directing the orchestras as volunteers are official teachers at the Conservatorio Niccolò Piccini in Bari.
Every year, the Apulia Region grants an economic contribution in order to enlarge the orchestras to new children. Musica in Gioco is a member of Sistema delle Orchestra e dei Cori Giovanili e Infantili in Italia, a non-profit network of young orchestras and choirs that permits Musica in Gioco to promote itself nationally and internationally and to organise concerts. Last but not least, the involvement of private citizens is crucial; specifically, the parents of children who are members of the orchestras care for the cleaning of classrooms and bathrooms and cater for all products for cleaning and personal hygiene.
Musica in Gioco started its activities in Adelfia in 2010. In 2012 it had an orchestra of 60 children. Today it has 3 orchestras of 160 members. In 2016 the Municipality of Adelfia and the Musica in Gioco association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU): Adelfia provides a headquarters to the orchestras, whereas the Social Services together with the schools identify the young people and children to be part of the orchestras. Over the last two years, thanks to the project “Harmonies to Health in the Schools” by Musica in Gioco, 20 primary school teachers from Adelfia have been trained in El Sistema Abreu, and 70 students have been trained as a school orchestra that has performed in a final concert. Together with the Sistema delle Orchestra e dei Cori Giovanili e Infantile in Italia, some components of the orchestras of Musica in Gioco have had performances in Italy, the most important of which was the Christmas concert in 2016 at Palazzo Madama before Sergio Mattarella, president of Italy (click here to see more) Social Services, supported by the schools, are now monitoring the impact of the activities implemented. We underline that, after the signature of the MoU, 80% of the young people involved are still playing in the orchestras and their parents participate as volunteers. Moreover, as documented by a resolution of Apulia Region, in the Municipality of Adelfia there is an increase in requests to join the orchestras.
Musica in Gioco is being proposed as a good practice because it contributes to social inclusion and to reducing poverty. Social inclusion is the 9th Thematic Objective of EU Strategy 2020; the goal of EU policy is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 28 countries, thereby creating a more inclusive society.
In EUROSTAT statistics (December 2016) we find the following data: in 20 of 28 EU Member States, children are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion than the total population, with a rate of 26.9%. The highest rate has been observed in Romania, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Slovakia. The main factors affecting child poverty are the labour market situation of the parents (linked to their level of education), the effectiveness of government intervention through income support and the provision of enabling services; there are also more vulnerable groups of children, such as those with migrant parents. Different percentages, different contexts, but the same challenges for European urban areas.
The results obtained by Musica in Gioco practice are evident about the number of children involved and the participatory approach in an Italian town. In Italy, the rate of children at risk of poverty and social exclusion is very high: 28.7% of all Italian children up to 17 years old (EUROSTAT 2017). This means that it could be an interesting good practice to be implemented in other EU cities where, as just described, the rates are higher.