Garbage In: Music Out. A Review of Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.”- Favio Chavez

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

You can head to any garage sale and find this true. What one person is willing to sell for a dime, another finds a true bargain and takes it home; sometimes transforming it into a greater purpose.

Ada’s Violin is the story of making treasure out of trash- by recycling materials from the landfill to create instruments.

When Ada’s grandmother sends her to string lessons, the children are frustrated because there are not enough string instruments to go around. How are they supposed to learn, let alone practice?

But Favio Chavez is a man of possibility. Susan Hood so wonderfully tells the story of how Favio creates instruments out of treasures found at the landfill.

The band gets together to learn- and they need some practice, but with practice, hard work, determination, and pride, they go farther beyond their wildest dreams ever imagined. Susan Hood tells their story wonderfully, coupled with Sally Wern Comport’s illustrations.

Susan Hood had this to say about the story in an earlier interview I did with her:

It’s the true story of children living on a landfill in Paraguay who formed the Recycled Orchestra, playing instruments made from recycled trash. You may have seen them profiled on 60 Minutes or in the trailer for the Landfill Harmonic documentary movie that went viral on social media.

It all started when a man named Favio Chávez came to the landfill as an environmental engineer. He couldn’t bear to see the children playing in the trash and polluted water, so he decided to offer music lessons. He had five instruments to share, but 10 kids showed up. And there was a bigger problem. It wasn’t safe to be seen with an expensive instrument in a town where a violin is worth more than a house. Chávez hit upon the genius idea to create musical instruments from the trash: flutes from drain pipes, cellos from oil drums, and violins from baking sheets. He taught the kids to play Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart, AND a few other things—discipline, dedication to an art, respect for themselves and for each other. In the stinking, sweltering slum they called home, he gave them something to be proud of.

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Photo courtesy of www.landfillharmonicmovie.com.

Today, the orchestra is touring the world; they recently played for the Pope! Funds earned from their concerts go back to their town of Cateura, where they are building new homes and lifting up the entire community.

I interviewed Conductor Favio Chávez for the book as well as the orchestra’s first violinist, young Ada Ríos. The illustrations in the book are gorgeous mixed-media collages by gifted artist Sally Wern Comport; they perfectly mirror the recycled instruments and the world of the landfill.

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The English and Spanish edition came out simultaneously on May 3 from Simon and Schuster. You’ll want a copy of your own.

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