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Tyneside music educators show Brazilians a thing or two

Music education experts from Brazil will be getting a taste of traditional North East folk today, as David Whetstone reports

The Brazilian music educators who have been spending time on Tyneside
The Brazilian music educators who have been spending time on Tyneside

In football the general assumption is that Brazil can usually show England a clean pair of heels – but in the rarefied field of music education it seems the countries are on more of an equal footing.

But having said that, it was to the North East in particular that a party of music educators from Brazil headed a few days ago.

Ten Brazilian musicians and educators from an organisation called Santa Marcelina Cultura (SMC) are on a 10-day visit to the region to share music ideas and experiences with their opposite numbers at Sage Gateshead.

It follows a visit that members of the Sage’s own learning and participation team made to Brazil last October when they saw how SMC uses inclusion and excellence in music education in its work with around 13,000 young people in São Paulo.

Last weekend the Brazilians joined members of the Sage’s regional youth ensembles, Jambone and Folkestra, to offer tuition in choro music, instrumental form of Brazilian pop music involving a mix of instruments and characterised by virtuosity and improvisation.

The group have also done some sightseeing, visiting Holy Island and Tynemouth market, and today they will be at the Hexham Gathering, the annual celebration of folk music which attracts leading performers to the Northumberland town.

SMC is a social organisation set up by the state government back home in Brazil. It brings together specialists in music, community and arts education who use music to improve conditions for people in often deprived groups.

The exchange programme was set up after Katherine Zeserson, Sage Gateshead’s outgoing director of learning and participation, met SMC leaders at the International Scoiety for the Performing Arts conference in Brazil five years ago.

“We are thrilled to welcome our Brazilian colleagues to Sage Gateshead for their second of three annual visits,” she said.

“They bring us fresh energy and ideas and I know that they find our programme inspiring and stimulating in equal measure.

“We can learn a great deal from each other in support of our common purpose, harnessing the great power of music to bring about positive transformation in young people’s lives.”

The Brazilian visitors have been attending music-making seminars and workshops at the Sage and other venues across the region. They have also visited schools where Sage staff already conduct regular sessions.

A vital part of the visit has seen the Brazilian visitors observing how Sage educators use music to help young people to tackle issues such as exclusion and crime in deprived areas.

By the end of their visit tomorrow the Brazilians will have also visited Sunderland, Durham and Teesside and experienced a traditional ceilidh.

The exchange programme, funded by the British Council through a programme called Transform, was designed to benefit the educators from both countries by enabling them to learn new ways of using the proven, transformational power of music.

The idea is that it will also have a beneficial knock-on effect on those being educated.

Brazil is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of inclusion and excellence in music education. particularly for young people living in challenging circumstances.

Sage Gateshead, under Katherine Zeserson, who has announced her intention to leave at the end of the year, has also become recognised as one of this country’s top practitioners in music education.

This weekend’s Hexham Gathering attractions include free concerts, participation sessions and ceilidh dancing outside in the Abbey grounds and gigs indoors at the Queen’s Hall. Folkestra will bring proceedings to a close at 2.30pm with a concert also featuring Irish folk The Jeremiahs.

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