an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

More heartbreak at the Landfill Harmonic

Favio Chavez, director of the orchestra of recycled instruments on a Paraguayan landfill, and his luthier Nicolas Gomez have just posted a photo of their latest visit to the landfill site in Catuera, where little children aspire through music to rise from a life of danger and misery. The film they are making is touching millions of hearts. Watch a trailer here. It could make you rethink your life in music.

And here‘s some more information about the site and the film:

The town of Cateura was built virtually on top of a landfill. Situated along the banks of the Paraguay River, the landfill receives over 1,500 more tons of solid waste each day. Poor management of the waste has caused critical pollution to the most important water source in the country and threatens the health of its residents.

There are seven different neighborhoods built around the landfill, accounting for over 2500 families living in close proximity to dangerous waste.

Most of the families, including children, are employed by the landfill as recyclers. The poverty has forced children to work in the landfills, neglecting any education that might lead them to a better life.

Working beside the families for years Chávez eventually made friends and became acutely aware that the children needed something positive in their lives. He was inspired to do something to help. He began using the trash in the landfill to create instruments for the children. Chávez explains:

“One day it occurred to me to teach music to the children of the recyclers and use my personal instruments,” explains 36 year-old Chávez, who worked as an ecological technician at the landfill. “But it got to the point that there were too many students and not enough supply. So that’s when I decided to experiment and try to actually create a few.”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. This is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. Norman, do you know of a way to donate directly to the people running this program? The movie is great, but helping them directly would be even better.

    • I have asked, Waldo. I’ll post as soon as I have it.

      • Noman and Waldo, according to the producers of the film, there is an outreach program that will take place once the film is released. This program will include presentations by the Recycled Orchestra and educational workshops all over the world. The more people know about it, the more we share it, the greater the impact it will have. They have a Facebook page under the name Landfill Harmonic that you can visit. It is really interesting the support that they are receiving from people all over the world.

        • Larry Jelf says:

          I have a repaired guitar that I would gladly contribute. it will need a bit of touch up paint but I can’t play it . A message at my email would start things.

          • Jeff, would you be able to ship your guitar for the Recycled Orchestra to this address?

            The Landfill Harmonic Project
            Eureka Productions Inc.
            3419 E. University Dr. Phoenix, AZ 85034

            Thank you!

          • Yep, me too, anyone the guitar needs to be addressed to specifically?

          • Mark, it should be address to Rodolfo Madero, Executive Producer

    • lucy cowan says:

      I’m a violin teacher in NE England I, and I know my students too,will gladly support/fundraise for this once this the means for doing this is set up and in the meantime will spread the word…this is hugely important for all sorts of reasons – could have a wide-ranging impact and bring the world’s attention to the thousands globally who live on similar dumps scratching a living. No human should have to live this way. These children are wonderful, and Favio Chavez is a total hero. He should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

      • Beautifully said, Lucy! Thanks for your support!

        • Hola Mirtha, I’m amazed by the level of knowledge you have on the orchestra and the project. Could you please contact me? We need help with our social media! Everything happened so fast that we are really behind on getting back to all the kind people that has left comments and asked questions about the project. Please email me at:

  2. Thanks!

  3. Inspiring and uplifting – thanks for posting this. It really puts my Monday blues into perspective.

  4. I watched the trailer in tears, profoundly touch by it. I couldn’t help it, I am a Paraguayan. But even if I were not, my heart will still be rejoiced today because I witnessed this universal story of triumph over adversity. It showed me that creativity can flourish even in the oddest places, that music can positively impact social disadvantaged kids, that recycling and reusing is a real solution for our planet, that these struggling people just need a little bit of help and a few opportunities to thrive. I feel that the inspiring Recycled Orchestra of Cateura have really sparked in me this urge to create something beautiful to share with the entire world.

  5. There is another interesting project in Paraguay, called Sonidos de mi Tierra, Sound of the land. For 10 years they have been teaching music to kids from all over Paraguay that otherwise will never have access to a musical instrument or music lessons. I believe they have reached 20,000 children and youth at least. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, they played a Rolling Stones song. You can watched it in You Tube under #OrqueStone -10 anhos de Sonidos de la Tierra.

    • Mirtha, the Recycled Orchestra is actually part of the Sonidos de la Tierra project, which began in 2002. It was begun by Luis Szaran, the conductor of the Asuncion Symphony. Here’s a link to his website:


      • ¡Hola Ana Lisa!
        Thank you for posting the link to Sonidos de la Tierra. I wondered if the two projects were related, and thanks to you now I am aware they are. I know Luis Szarán personally, from the time that I was living in Paraguay. I interviewed him at his Aregua home while working as a journalist in Asuncion, and attended several concerts that he conducted. I left Paraguay twelve years ago, before the project started, but I managed to reconnect with Luis thanks to social media. I was really moved when he shared the Rolling Stones clip for the first time. Paraguay is a country of musicians that are trained by ear and learn to play an instrument from one generation to another without reading music. I thought that this project fits perfectly with the musicality of our culture. ¡Un abrazo!

  6. With the worldwide exposure they have these days a crowdfunding campaign would possibly be a good way of fundraising. I just closed down my own crowdfunding website but e.g. Kickstarter seems to be a good platform for an international audience. Very willing to assist if needed.

    • Thanks for sharing the info about Kickstarter. I will passed it on to the Paraguayan people in charge of fundrising for these projects.

      • Mirtha – If they wish to share further information, I am happy to post it on Slipped Disc.

        • I will contact them right away Norman. Thanks for offering your help!

        • Mirtha & Norman,

          Crowdfunding doesn’t come easy. Lot’s of work designing an appealing project and marketing through social media. I have some experience, that’s why I would love to help and prevent pitfalls.

          BTW, I’m involved in the planning of a worldwide peace concert ( in Cairo in 2014. Me and another team member would love to involve some members of this orchestra, the famous Kinshasa youth orchestra & the Simon Bolivar Orchestra ( El Systema, Venezuela) and maybe more. Also maybe invite Dudamel as a conductor. Do you think the Lanfill Harmonic would be willing to cooperate? I can’t give any guarantees so far. We are in early stages of planning but seem to be pretty successful up to now.

          • Arthur, your help will be invaluable because you know all the tricks of the trade regarding crowdfunding. I am sure they will appreciate your guidance. Regarding the worldwide peace concert, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids. They will need some kind or financial support from the Paraguayan government or some companies because the rountrip airfare from Asuncion to Cairo is around $2,500 per passenger.

          • Arthur, the Recycled Orchestra performed outside Paraguay three times already. They traveled to Argentina, Brasil and Germany.

        • Norman, I know that the people that is making the movie is now accepting instruments donations that they are going to ship to Paraguay. The response has been overwhelming. If someone has an used instrument that want to donate, please send them to
          The Landfill Harmonic Project
          Eureka Productions Inc.
          3419 E. University Dr. Phoenix, AZ 85034

        • Norman, the people from the movie is trying to go to the finals of the Focus Forward Filmmakers Competition. If any of us can watch the teaser and vote for Landfill Harmonic in this link they will have the chance to stay in the running to win $100,000 in funding.

        • Norman, I shared your info with them, and with Luis Szarán too (who is now in Rome and travelling to other european cities). I hope someone contacts you tomorrow.

  7. Dave Maier says:

    I was so moved and inspired by this clip I decided to send a donation. If you would like to donate: Go to and select “Donate”.

    • Thank you for your generosity. This donation will help the producers to finish the movie. A film like this will be really key to gain international exposure. I hope that at some point some of the money that is collected goes directly to the Recycled Orchestra and the Cateura kids to create an school of music there, hire local music teachers, offer living expenses covered for international teachers, buy real instruments, etc.

      • Larry Jelf says:

        The attraction of this group is the creativity of instruments made from refuse. don’t change this. It is a miraculous attraction. It gives the world the reality that creativity comes comes from the heart. As I wrote before, I have a useable guitar to contribute.

        • Larry, the Recycled Orchestra will always be an strong and unique part of the Mother-Project Sonidos de la Tierra. Sonidos is creating new opportunities for young musicians, the best ones will continue performing, others with charisma will commit to teaching, and others that are detail oriented will learn how to be luthiers. In the South east region of my country there is a man who builds beautiful traditional violins and he is already having many apprentices under his wings. So, by no means the donations of intruments is going to kill the Recycled Orchestra. It will give the chance to own an instrument to a kid from the Paraguayan countryside or from a place like Cateura. I bet that all of those kids feature in the film dream with playing and owning a real instrument. They live among trash, and they create beautiful things with it, but they know that a real instrument will be a validation of all of their effort. It will be for them a precious thing that otherwise they will never be able to afford in their lifetime.

  8. leslie schaye says:

    do you ever sell the instruments?

    • Leslie, as I understand they are not currently selling the instruments. It is not a bad idea to consider. What I know is that they are going to donate a bunch of instruments to the Museum of Musical Instruments in Phoenix, Arizona. They are planning to perform there too.

  9. Mirtha, maybe continue the conversation through regular email?

  10. Pat W. Martin says:

    Lovely, lovely souls. Seems like a very worthy effort we’d be honored to support. Thanks for this!

  11. Jennifer Grube

    Jennifer Grube writes:
    Last summer in the Dominican Republic, I helped workers sort plastic
    in the landfill and was inspired by their tenacity, positive
    attitudes, and ability to find joy in what seemed to be desolation. I
    cannot wait to see this film! There is a program where I live called
    Gifts for a Better World that sells fair trade items and wondered if
    recycled instruments can be bought in support of the Landfill Harmonic
    program? Promoting projects like this to assist in the success of the
    world’s youth is something dear to my heart.

  12. I saw this clip via a cast member of the show stomp. The creator of that show, Luke cresswell, created a new production called the lost and found orchestra. Right now it is only in England, but just seems like a match made in heaven. :0)

  13. When my friend was diagnosed with cancer in June his brother set up a Facebook page to spread the word so he could meet the cast of his favorite show and with in a week it was confirmed that it was going to happen (and it did by sep.). I share this with you because that is the power of the Internet! This video speaks for itself! (And he is now cancer free!) the kids are an inspiration, and I second the Nobel peace prize!

  14. The video was impressive. People would give to support things like this where people are pulling themselves out of the mire. So, why not a website ? And a place to donate ? Even the video would make advertising revenue. I even found it difficult to find out where in the world it was. Many missed opportunities here. And someone has the ability to do all these things. The video will go viral – silly word. But these kids (and the villiage) could benefit

  15. I have seen many landfills and indeed seen young people so poor they build their instruments from junk. To perform a concert would be an amazing achievement. It would lift the whole community to do this and the guy who has the skill and talebt to do this has my admiration.

  16. The Recycled Orchestra is no longer part of Sonidos de la Tierra. You can find the information on the filmmakers Facebook to contact the orchestra. Los Reciclados are now independent. Producer Juliana Penaranda and executive producers Alejandra Amarilla Nash (who is from Paraguay) and Rodolfo Madero are making the documentary Landfill Harmonic about the orchestra and started the Facebook page which went global. Seems that they are raising funds to complete production. There is an interview posted in Matador Network which was in twitter.

  17. I thought for sure there was a kickstarter program but now I cannot locate it. anyone? and I also read it wasnt gonna be completed until april 2014 and now I see April 2013.. does anyone know where one can get definitive information in english? thanks!!!
    Rather than using TUGG, people ought to screen the films themselves. its very easy with the technology we have already..

    • I don’t know about the kickstarter project but offered to support a crowdfunding project earlier. As a former crowdfunding website owner I know a bit of the ins and outs. I would be happy to support in setting up a new crowdfunding kickstarter project. But you have to be aware that quiet a lot of effort always has to come from the project owner. Project owners have to actively approach their contacts to make a crowdfunding project on any crowdfunding website successfull.
      Also me and one of my collegues in the programming team are dreaming to get the orchestra involved in the 2014 peace concert in Cairo. No guarantees yet. We are still busy finding sufficient funding. Pls check the website and get back on both items: crowdfunding and mastepeace concert.

  18. Sharon Bohen Riley says:

    A friend and I — both amateur musicians — were very moved by the story of the Landfill Harmonic and are interested in helping.

    I may have an instrument to donate, but we are also interested in purchasing a few of their instruments. This would not only bring income to the group but would also provide jobs for local people.

    Are they interested in selling any instruments? We might also be able to develop a small market for them here in New York City.

    Thank you,

  19. Happy Holidays to all of you! This is dedicated to all the people that like the Recycled Orchestra Project. This video shows the performance by the Recycled Orchestra with the Paraguayan classical guitarrist Berta Rojas as a soloist. The song is “Villancico” (“Christmas Carol”) by Augstín Barrios, the great Paraguayan composer for classical guitar.

  20. “Without Music, Life Would be a Mistake”. – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

    There were 2 stories which touch my heart this holidays, Favio Chavez Landfill Harmonic and Lou Xiaoying the woman who saved 30 babies from trash in China.( No cards nor gifts ever came close second.

    Lou, who was born in 1924 in Fujian Province, collected and recycled garbage to make a living. She and her husband, who died 17 years ago, had two biological children, a daughter and a son.

    Over the years of scavenging, Lou found 30 children who had been abandoned, mostly as a result of China’s strict one-child policy. She and her husband adopted three daughters while the remaining children, mostly girls, were passed to other people to start new lives.

    I wish we all in the western society felt what I felt, and stop buying useless things and throwing it away. And learn to recycle like Favio Chavez and Lou Xiaoying. They idealize what is truly to be a human spirit.

    “Human nature is to be compassionate, to have mercy and compassion, that is love, human nature is love.” – Master Chen

    Without Love and Spirituality, Life would be a mistake. Like Leonard Cohen song goes, “Ain’t No Cure For Love”.

  21. Is there ANYWHERE that the instruments are available for purchase? I would LOVE to have one and share this heartfelt music with my children.

an ArtsJournal blog