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From the Middle

Music Matters

Doug Layman

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 • 7:22pm

At a recent school concert I shared with the audience a story that I saw on 60 Minutes.  A story that, on many levels, presents important lessons for our students- whether they are musicians or not.

The story is about a group of children, middleschoolers included, who live in an impoverished community in Paraguay.  In fact, the community only came into existence because a garbage dump, or landfill, was developed there.  The program (linked below) describes how these children, under the guidance of a few thoughtful and creative adults, use music to enrich their lives.  A remarkable aspect of the story is how this group of musicians is able to use instruments that were built using items found in the landfill; thus they call themselves the "Recycled Orchestra". 

It is a story of hope.  Hope that, at first glance, should not exist in a community with little to no electricity, no plumbing or safe drinking water and the harsh realities of extreme poverty. 

It is a story of perseverance.  How when you set your mind to something, that when you commit to something you believe in that good fortune and opportunity can come your way. 

And it is a story of the power of music.  A power that can shine light on a community that was once cloaked in darkness.

Says fifteen year-old Ada, on what playing her violin (made with a discarded oven tray among other landfill finds) means to her: "When I play...I feel like I am somewhere else.  I imagine that I'm alone in my own world and forget about everything else around me and I feel transported to a beautiful place...completely different to where I am now.  I has clear skies, open fields and I see lots of green.  It's clean with no trash. There is no contamination where we live.  It's just me alone playing my violin."

The transformative power of music.

Related Resources:
A movie about the group:

The 60 Minutes story:


Doug Layman is entering his fourth year as principal of Sparta Middle School.  He was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and he vividly remembers his days at Valley Forge Middle School.  Mr. Layman resides in Sparta and enjoys taking advantage of the many outdoor pursuits and activities that make Sparta a great place to work and live.  

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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