A unique social project in Peru is changing the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children – by teaching them music.
"Sinfonia por el Peru" is the initiative of Peru’s famous tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who was inspired by a similar program he saw on a visit to Venezuela.
The project offers free music education to children from poor backgrounds and is having remarkable results.
A new study shows the significant impact that Sinfonia por el Peru has on the children.
Fifteen-year-old Matías Montalván has been playing the violin for three years and practises for five hours a day.
A year ago he earned a coveted place in the main youth orchestra, which has 120 members.
Bullied at school, he says music has changed his life, teaching him the power of solidarity.
“Sinfonía por el Perú means a family, my future, the place where I learned to be a better person and a better musician,” he told Euronews.
Nicole Revoredo, 17, has been playing the double bass for six years and made it into the main orchestra the year she started.
She says Sinfonia has taught her the value of punctuality, respect and teamwork.
“For me it is like my second home and an opportunity for a better future," she said.
"I was a very shy girl, always keeping my head down. My dad is old, he is retired, we have financial problems. By playing music and focusing on an orchestra, it makes you let go. Music is so extraordinary that anything is possible.”
Flórez says the mission of Sinfonía por el Perú is “to improve and transform society with the power of music”.
"There are a lot of personal stories. There are kids telling me how difficult their lives are. Some of them want to stay there and even sleep in the orchestra.”
More than 8,000 children throughout the country practise almost every day for several hours in one of 26 music schools, called núcleos, created especially for the project.
"The núcleos are shelters, they are oases of peace, oases of happiness and hope,” said Flórez.
Striving for musical excellence, the main youth symphony orchestra is led by artistic director Hugo Carrio.
He said: “When we really look into each other's eyes, and we see that the music and the energy flows between us, sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh – these are magical moments and the children are the most important thing in my life.”
In July, the orchestra performed before a crowd of nearly 20,000 in Lima’s main square.
It was a dream come true for the young musicians – and their mentor Flórez.
"Now I know that music can be a life changer for the poorest and most disadvantaged kids,” he said.
"My dream with Sinfonia is that it continues to grow. I would like to get to one million kids. I know this sounds very ambitious but a million is my aim.”
It’s hoped the orchestra will play at the World Expo in Dubai next year and at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2021.