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Updated Apr 29, 2013 - 11:34 am

The Recycled Orchestra: From trash to music

(Musical Instrument Museum)

Young musicians from South America are going from the slums to the biggest stages of classical music by turning trash into melody.

The group is tuning up for a concert in the Valley this summer.

Garbage pickers in a slum in Paraguay are finding new uses for the millions of pounds of waste found in landfills in the poverty stricken country.

In the town of Cateura families make ends meet by picking garbage from the landfill and selling recyclable items. Around 2,500 families live in the town, along with about 1,500 tons of waste that are dumped in the landfill each day, according to UNICEF.

It was the originality of Favio Chavez, an ecological technician who worked at the landfill in Paraguay, who came up with the idea of using scraps from the trash and using them to create musical instruments. Those musical instruments became a way out of the slums for dozens of kids.

By providing musical instruments made of trash, the Recycled Orchestra was born. A documentary film highlighting the creation of the orchestra, explains the idea came from an initiative to bring music to kids in poverty in that region. The Landfill Harmonic shows the deplorable conditions in which a single violin can be worth more money than a house.

Musical instruments are built from garbage. A cello can be made of oilcans, scraps of wood, old spoons and clunky pieces of a meat grinder. Violins are built from metal glue canisters, recycled wood and tuning pegs. Rusty forks hold the strings together. When putting together a tin water pipe, metal bottle caps, plastic buttons, a metal spoon and fork handles, a clarinet is created.

Flutes, trumpets and clarinets created out of garbage are just some of the instruments you can find in a special exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

The museum is looking to bring 24 students from the Recycled Orchestra to the Valley in August.

"There would be an intensive instrument-making workshop," Daniel Piper, curator at MIM, said. "We're anticipating that some of the local musicians would be able to learn a piece and join the Recycle Orchestra from Paraguay."

Piper hopes to set up two public concerts and a family day at the museum.

"There would be a variety of activities, a public tour, and an inauguration of the new exhibit with the orchestra present," Piper said.

The Musical Instrument Museum is currently raising funds to tune up the details of the Recycled Orchestra's visit to the Valley. To make a contribution or learn more about what the museum is doing you can find information here.

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About the Author


Martha is the traffic controller in the KTAR newsroom. Her full time role is that of Assignment and Breaking News Editor of KTAR News. She oversees daily Breaking News planning and over-the air execution, and puts together the elements that make it happen. She gathers and distributes daily news assignments to reporters and editors. She also reports on a daily basis, anchors news afternoons 1-2p and fills in as anchor occasionally during other time slots. She began working at KTAR in the winter of 2012 as Desk Editor and was promoted to oversee Assignments and Breaking News in 2014. During that time, she received two awards as a journalist. The first was the 2013 APTRA Awards, where she took home 2nd place for Best Serious Future in the "Recycled Orchestra." The second was a 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for her collaboration in KTAR's Voice for a Better Arizona Series: Immigration - seeking solutions. In her piece, Martha profiled two Arizona sisters looking for the DREAM. Martha was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. She moved to Arizona in 1996 with her parents and younger sister and has lived here since. She attended Barry Goldwater High School in Phoenix and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University in Tempe. Prior to working at KTAR news she worked in news and production at Univision Arizona in Phoenix. She also supervised the marketing, catering and public relations department at Hotel Araiza, 5-star hotel in Mexicali, Mexico. She has also been a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. When she isn't in the newsroom or behind the microphone Martha is an avid gym-goer and marathoner. She trains for two races a year and enjoys taking group exercise classes, such as kickboxing, indoor cycling and weight lifting. Martha is married and lives in Surprise, AZ with 2 dogs, Tasha and Elsa, and a cat, Sammy.

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