Peace Children’s Orchestra provides quality art education to children

Peace Children’s Orchestra Conservation and Development Association (Barış Çocuk Orkestrası Koruma ve Geliştirme Derneği) received grant support from our Donor-Advised Fund to cover the maintenance costs of the orchestra’s existing instruments, to purchase new instruments and to cover the association’s human resources expenses.

Read below our interview:

We know that your activities are based on the El Sistema model. Can you tell us about this model and how it is applied?

Peace Children’s Orchestra conducts its activities by adopting the El Sistema model. El Sistema is a publicly funded music education programme founded in Venezuela in 1975 by Venezuelan educator, musician, and activist José Antonio Abreu. It later adopted the slogan Music for Social Change. 

El Sistema is a music project initiated for children, whether they are talented in music or not, to prevent their tendency to commit a crime. We do not look for musical talent in any of the children who apply to us, we endeavour to create equal opportunities based on the principle that every child should benefit from arts education.

In the region that we work in, drug use and crime rates among children are very high. We set out believing in the power of music to keep them away from the dangers of the streets. Our aim is not to train musicians, but to protect these children from danger so they can contribute to society. So, music is just a tool, a powerful tool.

It is important for these children to go on stage and be applauded. It is also crucial for their families to watch the children and be proud of them. This way, a new life begins for the children; they become artists and gain respect and a future, even if they are little children.

The best way to keep children away from drugs and violence is to contribute to their psychosocial development through the arts. Our only and most important difference from the practice in Venezuela is that we do not have state support.

Our aim is not to train musicians, but to protect these children from danger so they can contribute to society.

You collaborate with civil society organisations and public institutions. Can you tell us about the scope of these collaborations and their contribution to your work?

The public institutions we cooperate with are as follows: Izmir Metropolitan Municipality allocated a hall free of charge for our annual concert. Konak District Municipality allocated halls free of charge for some of our special rehearsals, transferred the children to the concert hall, and provided rations for children on concert days. Our orchestra was introduced to Izmir residents with an open-air concert within the scope of Yaşar University’s İzmir’de İyilik Var project supported by the United Nations).

The civil society organisations we cooperate with are as follows: Turkish Education Volunteers Foundation (Türk Eğitim Gönüllüleri Vakfı-TEGV) supported our project by opening their classrooms to our orchestra in the first days of our establishment. We had joint concerts with the children’s choir of the Theatre Opera and Ballet Foundation (Devlet Tiyatroları Opera ve Balesi Çalışanları Yardımlaşma Vakfı-TOBAV). In 2018, we received the Tülay Aktaş Voluntary Organisations Unpaid Service Award organised by the Tülay Aktaş Voluntary Organisations Power Union.

During the pandemic, our instrument lessons continued online. Izmir Women’s Organisations Union contributed to our project by providing free internet to our students. By organising a joint study with the Association for the Protection of Street Children Children are Our Future, students were selected for the brass section of our orchestra.

We also realised the Girls Playing Violin project in cooperation with the Izmir Soroptimist Club. 20 girls received training for three months from us. The Club donated 20 violins to our association.

Studies in the field of children’s rights are an investment in the future.

Can you tell us about the work you have carried out with the grant support we provided under the Donor-Advised Fund?

With the TRY 45,000 grant we received, we purchased an instrument (Horn) that we needed very urgently. With the joy of having partially satisfied an important need, the music education of a new horn student started. Since our human resource expenses for teachers were challenging for us, the remaining amount of the grant was used as a contribution to meet these expenses and relieved us for a short time.

How has the grant support contributed to your association and your work? Why do you think it is important for donors to support the field of children’s rights? 

Studies in the field of children’s rights are an investment in the future. As in every subject related to children, the studies carried out for developing their artistic skills are just as valuable. The psychosocial development to be provided through quality art education will contribute to their success in other areas. For these and similar reasons, it is essential to support these projects.

Can you tell us about the plans and priorities of the Peace Children’s Orchestra Conservation and Development Association for 2023?

Our primary goal is not to turn away any child. However, due to the economic conditions and our inability to find sufficient financial support, we were very upset that we could not take on new students in 2022 (except for one horn student and the 20 violin students with the support of the Izmir Soroptimist Club). We had to turn down the applications by stating that our registrations stopped for a while.

We have barely turned the wheel with our existing 150 students. For 2023, we hope to evaluate all grant calls, apply for all appropriate ones and get positive results. Our goal is to create a youth orchestra without letting the older children down and to continue the children’s orchestra with the younger ones. Seven years of work should not go to waste. 

The psychosocial development to be provided through quality art education will contribute to their success in other areas.

The concerts we organise for fundraising will continue. We will also focus on increasing our visibility. The fact that we still have not been able to create a website due to lack of funds, affects us negatively (our search for a volunteer web designer continues).

It is very pleasing for us that we have been asked to participate in the Culture Route Festival organised by the Ministry of Culture at the end of April. We will increase our activities, thinking that our increased visibility through concerts and different activities will bring new supporters.

About Peace Children’s Orchestra

Peace Children’s Orchestra, established in Izmir, aims to provide free music education to especially socioeconomically disadvantaged children who live in the ghetto areas of Izmir where crime rates are high and the education and income rates of families are low.