Luis Szarán

Sonidos de la Tierra

Sonidos de la Tierra uses music to reduce poverty and promote citizenship, social transformation and community integration.

Focus: Education, Culture, Youth Geographic Area of Impact: Paraguay
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 14,000 (2013)
Annual Budget: USD $759,352 (2013)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 9%

The legacy of General Alfredo Stroessner’s 35 yearlong dictatorship regime left Paraguay in devastating conditions. As a consequence, the country today is characterized by poor institutions, a lack of trust in public policies, and weak citizen participation that affects the transition to democracy and the country’s economic, social and political development. As a result, overcoming social problems is probably the biggest political and economic challenge of the region.

Innovation and Activities
Sonidos de la Tierra uses music as a tool for social and community integration in Paraguay. It was founded in the year 2002 by Luis Szarán, under the idea that “the kid who plays Mozart during the day doesn’t break shop windows at night.” This innovative idea was born out of the necessity of creating social capital in a country that was coming out of 35 yearlong dictatorship with extremely deteriorated human values.

Music schools and youth orchestras are currently carrying on their activities and work in over 170 cities, towns, rural communities and slums. Beneficiaries of Sonidos de la Tierra compose the largest physical, social network in the country, where they manage the program in their communities, generating 88% of the financial resources by their own means, with the remaining budget filled by donor contributions. About 60% of the music professors hired by Sonidos de la Tierra learned to play their instruments within the program, and 30% of the members of professional Paraguayan orchestras are former students who won their seats by audition. In addition, Sonidos trained independent micro-entrepreneurs as lutiers, and they make a living repairing and maintaining instruments in their communities.

Sonidos de la Tierra has contributed to the resurgence of the Paraguayan harp with more than 500 new interpreters in the country; the program supports the strengthening of national identity while promoting and recuperating cultural manifestations and fundamental traditions values of the towns.
Sonidos founded an international orchestra named Welweite Klänge (Sounds of the World) in Nuremberg, Germany in 2006, uniting talented youth from America, Europe, Africa and China. Welweite Klänge has performed over 200 concerts in Europe alone.

In 2012, they launched a new program: the H2O Orchestra, with instruments made of bottles, hoses, pipes and funnels, to promote water conservation. This ensemble is the emblem of H2O: Clean Water, a nation-wide environmental education program that has the objective of using orchestras to educate about water conservation.

Furthermore, in 2013 Sonidos broke the Guinness World Record for the largest harp ensemble - 420 Paraguayan harpists doubled the previous record of 201 musicians set in Edinburgh in 2006.

Sonidos de la Tierra, through the numerous juvenile orchestras, has been conducting different social and civil education campaigns throughout the years in alliance with other organizations.

The Entrepreneur
Luis Szarán is an internationally known composer, conductor and musicologist. He is Director of the Symphonic Orchestra of Asunción, Paraguay, and has also directed symphonic and chamber orchestras all over the world. For his work in culture, Luis received numerous awards and recognitions such as: Official Knight of the Republic of Italy, National Order of Arts and Letters by the Ministry of Culture of France, National Order of Merit in the degree of Commander by the Republic of Paraguay, Rotary Club's Ovenbird Award, Paraguayan Congress's Innovation, Creativity and Scientific Investigation Medal, UNESCO's Orbis Guaraniticus and Silver Eye Awards, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, among others.