Landfill Harmonic: An Inspirational Story

In Cateura, Paraguay (South America) there is extreme poverty.  The people make most of their living from collecting sellable items from the huge landfill near their town, and drug addictions and gang violence are common among the youth.  One day two orchestra directors, Luis Szarán (Sonidos de la Tierra) and Favio Hernán Chávez Morán (Recycled Orchestra), got a “hair-brained” idea to give free music lessons to the poor children in Paraguay.


“Music is the smile of the soul” said Director Szarán.


The directors wanted to give purpose to Paraguay’s children to help prevent some of the social issues associated with extreme poverty. They teamed up with Creative Visions and started in Cateura with five violins.  Fifty children showed up for lessons.


How did the directors get instruments to all the students? 


Favio met with Colá (a farmer and trash re-seller) who said he could make a violin from trash.  With careful measurements Colá copied the structure of a violin and used materials from the landfill.  The first violin was made mostly of aluminum cans.  Other instruments made include:

  • Cello: oil drum, wood, and old cooking tools
  • Bass: chemical drum and wood
  • Saxophone: spoons and buttons
  • Flute: water pipe, coins, cutlery parts, and lock parts
The string instruments sound almost like their wooden originals and the woodwind instruments which are typically made from metal sound exactly like one made from new metal parts.


In 2014, a documentary will be released that tells the story of these two directors and the children’s lives they have impacted.  Watch the trailer for the documentary about the Landfill Harmonic project on YouTube.  As the year comes to a close and you consider resolutions for 2013, remember what the people of this community have achieved and ask yourself what you can do to reduce waste and reuse our limited resources.

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