A house without music is like a body without a soul. And so, in the tradition of Saint John “Don” Bosco -- who first observed this truth more than a century ago -- students at La Cisterna (“The Cistern”) Youth House in Santiago, Chile have breathed new life into this Salesian-run program.
First established in 1969, La Cisterna serves economically disadvantaged local and parish youth for whom educational, recreational, and social opportunities are otherwise scarce. Every day, more than 300 children participate in sports, art, dance, and other activities that help develop their self-esteem, confidence, and connections with others. And now, thanks to the initiative of 28 of their peers, they can explore new avenues of expression through an inaugural youth band.
“Although there is much celebration of a band, we actually have five different groups,” says Father Alberto Lorenzelli, provincial of Santiago. “There has been so much interest in the new instruments we have acquired that we wanted to make them available to as many girls and boys as possible.”
Which brings us back to those 28 youth. Inspired by their own interest in music, they spearheaded a fundraising effort this past May to finance the equipment for a proper band. The results of their efforts, combined with a contribution from Salesian Missions, enabled them to purchase two electric guitars, a bass guitar, amplifiers, a set of cymbals, a bass drum, a sound console, a complete set of speakers, and all the necessary accessories. And, an alumnus of La Cisterna has already commissioned the design for a special, acoustically insulated room for practice sessions. Band members plan to raise the additional funds needed to complete the room through future performances.
“Musical participation, and the mutual sharing of artistic talents, can strengthen bonds among youth as they work together toward common goals, such as a public concert,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “And learning to master an instrument helps boys and girls develop confidence and a sense of self-worth -- both of which are so crucial to their success in life. We are pleased to support this project in Santiago, which is only possible thanks to the generosity of our many friends.”
Band members haven’t wasted any time in scheduling or performing public concerts, either. They have already performed in a musical competition honoring Don Bosco’s 201st birthday; have played classic Chilean music before a crowd of 700 during Fiestas Patrias (a Chilean national holiday) in September; and entertained another 600 people during a concert at the Salesian College in Santiago. They also play at Sunday Mass and other youth center and parish-related events.
“While there is a clear benefit to the band members,” says Fr. Alberto, “the greater community benefits as well. It’s a pleasure to see hundreds of local families coming together to enjoy the talents of our youth. In this sense, music is helping to build a better community.”
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