Sunday, 7 August 2016

Two Appearances on the BBC in one week!

They say that lighting doesn't strike twice, but Favela Brass has just appeared on the BBC two times within the space of three days!

The first was playing own samba version of "Chariots of Fire right at the end of BBC One's primetime program "Countdown to Rio", which ran from 8:30pm to 10pm, before the opening ceremony of the Olympics:

And then the second was a piece specifically about our project this morning on BBC Breakfast, which is broadcast simultaneously on BBC One and BBC News:

It's an amazing moment for the project and we're all incredibly happy that the Olympics really did provide us with opportunity that we were all hoping for in terms of spreading the word about our project.

The task now is to find a way to convert all of this fantastic publicity into music lessons for our kids.

On that note, if anyone who hasn't done so already would like to contribute financially, our Just Giving page will remain open for the duration of the Olympics. All pounds/dollars/euros donated are much appreciated and will go a long way.

Thanks guys!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

An Olympic Dream Come True?

This time last year we had absolutely no links with the Olympics. No contacts, no shows, no nothing. Then our French percussion teacher Yann Vathelet had an idea:

"No, but wait, maybe the fact that you guys don't have anything IS your Olympic story, maybe it's all about the struggle of the kids and the teachers to get included in the Olympics over the next year."

So we set ourselves a concrete goal and shared it openly with the children: we were going to try to get Favela Brass involved in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We shared videos about our objective, got out in streets playing shows and publicising it, and pestered all of our contacts mercilessly.

The idea was that either way the kids would hopefully gain a valuable life lesson from the experience: if we didn't get it, the kids would learn that having a dream and working hard towards it is worth it, even if it doesn't come about exactly as you had planned - because even without the opening ceremony all that training and playing in public had to take us somewhere. On the other hand if we did make it, it would teach the children that if you really go for stuff, there's a good chance you will make it.

As it happened, we didn't make the opening ceremony of the Olympics. So we regrouped and came up with a plan to take the project to the streets with an program of 16 shows in 16 days for Rio 2016. We didn't get the opening ceremony, but we weren't going to be left out.

Then on Tuesday I received a message from my friend, Curry Clube regular and top-flight journalist Donna Bowater:

"Beeb producer just got in touch asking for contacts for the "great Favela Brass" that I have on my Instagram." (referring, presumably to a short video that Donna posted of our recent unpaid public performance outside the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio's city centre)

Contact was indeed made, and today the BBC filmed a clip of our children playing the same tune in various locations. It was an extremely proud day for me. The kids played absolutely out of their skins and I think it's fair to say that the team from the beeb were suitably impressed.

Towards the end of the day I popped the question: "So, when and where exactly will this air?" - I was expecting something on the lines of "Well, we might need some standby material for BBC Alba between 4am and 5am next Monday morning..." so the actual answer took me aback:

"It's for the end of the BBC 1 show tomorrow night for the opening of the Olympics - because of the time difference, the opening ceremony starts at midnight in the UK so not that many people will watch it. Your bit will go on just before 10pm so you'll probably hit a much bigger audience."

Many are the slip between cup and lip. The material still has to be edited in time and it presumably has to be approved, but there is now a good chance that the BBC's prime time 8:30pm "Countdown to Rio" show tomorrow night will end with our kids playing a familiar Olympics-related tune to their own uniquely Brazilian beat. That for me would be even better than us participating in the opening ceremony.

Of course it may not happen. Even if it doesn't I'm still immensely proud of the kids, and we'll make our mark on the Olympics whatever.

...but wouldn't it be nice?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Mardi Gras 2016 - Thank You!!!

Great news! The The Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Mardi Gras 2016 has raised £4385, smashing last year's total and making a HUGE contribution to our ability to sustain Favela Brass. This is an ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE boost to the project!

Not only that, the Stompers also managed to secure a donation of 3 plastic trumpets (pTrumpets) and 2 plastic trombones (pBones) from Warwick music - with a total UK value of £835. That means that all told a value of £5,220 was raised for the project - an amazing feat! (and donations are still trickling in)

Favela Brass has had quite a bit of media attention recently, and a variation of the same question generally comes up every time: "how does a Yorkshire man end up running a music school for kids in a favela in Rio de Janeiro?" It seems a bit bizarre at first glance, but there is a link.

I benefited from a great music education, courtesy of Doncaster Music Service and Doncaster Youth Jazz Association and have come to realize, even more with hindsight, the incredible value of music education for children, whatever their background - both for the children involved and for their local communities.

That is what eventually led me to start a music school in a favela and I have no doubt that it is exactly the same feeling that inspired the 8 professional musician friends that make up the Sandhouse Stompers to clear two weeks of their diary to walk and play their way across the UK to raise money for Favela Brass, and inspired such a generous response from our donors.

On behalf of the children, teachers and families of the Favela Brass, then, I would like to thank the walkers, the special guests, all who helped along the way, all those who kindly donated and came along to support the walkers during their shows, all who helped to arrange the pre and post-walk fundraisers, UK charity Volunteer in Brazil for their support, and especially Stuart Garside for creating and organizing the whole event. This really will make a HUGE difference!

Some debts of gratitude are impossible to repay, and this clearly falls under that category. The best I can do is run Favela Brass to the best of my ability and see that the money is used in the best possible way to provide the kind of opportunity that we had to a group of Brazilian children who sorely need it.

I only hope that the story of Favela Brass can one day justice to your generosity.

Thank you all,


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Stomp 2016

To donate to the Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Stomp 2016, please visit our Just Giving page:

Following the success of last year's event, which raised £4,064 for Favela Brass, in just 4 days' time the Sandhouse Stompers are going to do it all over again, with the support of Lancaster-based UK charity Volunteer in Brazil. From the Sandhouse Stompers Facebook Page:

"On the 20th July 2016, 9 intrepid explorers, musicians, friends, aka The Sandhouse Stompers will be embarking upon a 2nd epic journey. From West coast to East coast, Morecambe to Whitby, over 9 days, this musical troupe will be walking, busking, grumbling, serenading, eating and drinking their way across the country...

We hope to raise as much money as possible for Favela Brass through sponsorship, musical performances and impromptu busking en-route, but we need your help! If you can offer us a field to pitch our tents, can provide us with pies or frosty libations, we would love to hear from you. If you want to walk with us, play with us or rattle some collection boxes for us you are more than welcome to join us."

Here is a list of the shows that the Stompers will be playing along the way:

20th July The Black Bull at Bentham
21st July Knights Satinforth
21nd July Victoria Hall, Settle
22rd July Foresters Arms, Grassington
23rd July The Crown Inn, Pately Bridge
24th July The One Eyed Rat, Ripon
25th July Thrisk Royal British Legion
26th July Helmsley Brewing Co.
27th July Coach House Inn, Rosedale
28th July Abbey Wharf, Whitby

The Sandhouse Stompers are (from left to right):

Mark Ellis (Sax)
Gareth Smith (Trumpet)
Paul Grady (Trumpet)
Neil Morley (Trumpet)
Stuart Garside (Trombone)
Mark Kerrigan (Drums)
Jim Stretton (Tuba)
Rowena Smith (Trombone)

Even before the walk has started the Stompers have already managed to secure a donation from the instrument manufacturer pBone of 2 plastic trombones and 3 plastic trumpets, which will be winging their way over Rio and into the hands of our students shortly - what an amazing start to a fantastic fundraising initiative!

A huge thank you also to UK Charity Volunteer in Brazil for supporting this event.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Favela Brass on BBC World Service

A big thank you to Benjie Guy and Jon Bithrey for coming to visit our show last weekend and producing this lovely piece about us in the run up to the Olympics.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Vintage Fair in Doncaster

Great news - yesterday's Vintage Fair at the Doncaster Jazz Centre raised £390 for Favela Brass!

From everyone at Favela Brass we would like to say a huge thank you to Jane Miles, Stuart Garside & the Sandhouse Stompers and all of those involved in making it a success.

Favela Brass is completely dependent on these kind of initiatives, they are what allow us to continue our work, and we cannot thank those who dedicate their time and energy to making them happen enough. The money raised will now be used to purchase 100 Favela Brass T-Shirts for sale on the upcoming Coast to Coast Mardi Gras with the Sandhouse Stompers.

What a cracking result !!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Favela Brass in a New Orleans Groove

The healthy evolution of live music depends, and has always depended, on the mixture of existing traditions. Both jazz and samba emerged from the musical melting pot, combining styles which had extremely widely dispersed geographical roots. A central objective of the Favela Brass project is to teach our children the musical traditions of Rio de Janeiro and of New Orleans, hopefully laying the ground for the creation of new musical combinations further down the line

To that end, we recently hired a new teacher, French professional jazz drummer Emile Saubole, with a very specific mission - to research and analyse the traditional and more modern New Orleans brass band rhythms and pass this knowledge on to the children. The result of this focused teaching was evident yesterday during our show at the Junta Local food fair, where the children absolutely nailed the authentic New Orleans swing, playing the rhythms of a musical tradition that until now was pretty much unknown in Brazil as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Appeal For Funds

Favela Brass is expanding, and we have a new second premises which will allow us to teach even more children in difficult circumstances to learn to play instruments.

In order to make the most of this opportunity we need to increase our number of weekly teaching hours, and cover maintenance and overhead costs.

Please help us to give even more children the gift of music
with a monthly or one-off donation to Favela Brass

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Painting the New Site on Good Deeds Day

On Saturday morning, 16 volunteers arrived at the project to paint our new second home at the College of the Assunção-Cenam centre. This kind and generous act was organised as part of International Goods Deeds Day, the volunteers putting themselves forward to help via the site of a Brazilian NGO called Atados.

The painting was a great success and the house, which previously was looking distinctly abandoned, is now looking smart. The sisters of the Assunção-Cenam centre laid on a lovely lunch for everyone involved and the whole job was prepared and organised to perfection by local professional painter Eliezer from the Pereira da Silva favela. We also had help from Roberto and Regivaldo who work at the Assunção-Cenam Centre.

As can be seen from the photos the school is very big and it was a great team effort to prepare and paint all of the green parts of the building in just one day. It was a very enjoyable day and many of the group have resolved to come back next Saturday to paint the white parts of the building.

We would like to say a big thank you to all of the people who were involved in this very special day and we would also like to thank UK charity Volunteer in Brazil Lancashire, Atados and Thamyrys Paz for the financial help in buying the painting materials.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the improved appearance of the school will help us to attract a new group of students from neighbouring favelas Fallet, Fogueteiro and Morro dos Prazeres. In other words, this means even more youngsters learning to play trumpet, clarinet, percussion, jazz and samba in Santa Teresa!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Favela Brass + Junta Local

On Saturday our brass band, comprising 9 of our most advanced students, played at craft food market Junta Local, held this time in an abandoned old chocolate factory in the city centre. Our performances went down really well with the public (those following the project closely may notice from the video that the kids have taken quite a leap forward over the last couple of months), we sold lots of T-shirts, the kids enjoyed themselves, and although we didn't manage to sell them on the organic falafel or shitake mushroom and gruyere wraps, they weren't above a good old fashioned bratwurst or two!

The show came out of a conversation with Tom Le Mesurier, author of food blog Eat Rio (highly recommended to anyone visiting Rio or living here). I only so much as mentioned that craft food markets might be a good little niche for us, and within a few days I received an e-mail from Thiago Gomide Nasser, who organizes Junta Local, inviting us to play at their next edition. So big thanks due to Tom and Thiago for giving our kids a chance to show off their talents in what turned out to be a pretty much ideal environment.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Merci Beaucoup à Lycée Molière

We have just received a large donation from local French school Lycée Molière!

In November the children at the school did a fun-run at the American school in Rio's Gávea neighbourhood, to raise money for Favela Brass and the NGO Onda Solidaria. In the end they raised R$3,308.50 for each project, and we were invited to receive the cheques at the school on Thursday.

We are very grateful to the children, parents and teachers of the Lycée for this kind and generous act. The Lycée is situated right at the entrance to our favela, and it was great to discover that this desire to help and integrate with our children exists.

We too really want to get to know and integrate more with our neighbours, and on Thursday we had a very interesting conversation around the possibilities of future partnerships between the Lycée and Favela Brass - watch this space!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Hopeful Olympic News!!

We entered a selection process by Rio city hall to choose acts to play on the cultural stages around the city during the Olympics, and today they released the results of the first round of classification. Not only is Favela Brass through to the next round, but our point score on the first round put us in 46-50th place for that round (140 projects will be chosen in the end).

Fingers crossed!!!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Goodbye, Sigrún!

It has been a week of goodbyes. On Monday we said goodbye to UK trumpet player Chris Caulfield and yesterday we said goodbye to Icelandic trombonist and violinist Sigrún K. Jónstdóttir.

Sigrún is now a familiar face at the project, having already spent 3 months here in 2015. This time she was here for just over a month. On her last day of lessons she made food for the children and we had a little leaving party.

What's great is that the students that Sigrún inspired back in 2015 are pretty much all still at the project so they really appreciated it when she came back to the project this time.

Even while Sigrún wasn't in Brazil, she was still busy helping us by picking up important musical accessories, a set of melodicas and even a tablet computer for the project, as she toured the world with Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men.

I think it's fair to say that it was pretty tough for everyone saying goodbye yesterday. We will all miss you Sigrún and are extremely grateful for all of the help that you continue to give us!

Até a próxima!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Thank you, Chris Caulfield!

For the last two months, London-based (originally from Yorkshire) professional trumpet player Chris Caulfield has been giving lessons on a voluntary basis at the project.

The language barrier didn't stop Chris from getting on great with the kids and his lessons were a huge help to us. To get children off on the right foot with learning a musical instrument, individual attention is extremely important, so to have a world-class trumpet-player like Chris helping the kids take their first steps was a great luxury for us!

As well as giving lessons at the project Chris also got involved in the music scene in Rio and played New Orleans Second Line music with the São Jorge Brass Band at Lavradio Jazz Festival, as part of Rio Carnival.

Not only were Chris' musical talents put to good use during his stay at the project, but he also helped to paint the school and even did a spot of rewiring for us!

I think it's fair to say that Chris enjoyed his time in Rio, and is at least thinking about coming back next year. If that happened it would be great news for us - but in any case we are very grateful indeed to Chris for donating his time and talents so generously to the project over the last couple of months.

Thanks ever so much Chris and happy gigging back in London!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Thank you to Alison Hawthorne, Vivace Strings and Solihull Music Service

It has been said before and it needs saying again: Favela Brass has great friends!

Professional double bass player and Doncaster Youth Jazz Association alumnus Alison Hawthorn now runs Vivace Strings, a youth orchestra, as part of Solihull Music Service. Just before Christmas Alison organized a public concert and a cake sale with staff and parents to raise money for Favela Brass. The events not only raised £230, but also yielded a donation of a trumpet to the project from Solihull Music Service!

Our success as a project is totally dependent on acts of kindness such as these. All of the shows, recordings and parades only become possible if the children are receiving the tuition necessary to learn to play their instruments, which in turn requires funding: with funding we can buy in local professional teachers to cover the gaps that we can't meet with our volunteer staff, and with funding we can also attract more volunteer teachers by offering them a better deal in terms of help with accommodation and living costs.

Clearly, then, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Alison Hawthorne, the parents and staff at Vivace Strings, Solihull Music Service, and indeed to all of our donors and partners, for collectively making the project a viable long-term proposition.

We can't thank you all enough for your kindness and generosity.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Filming with Lonelyleap Productions

Favela Brass will soon be featured in a 2-minute video clip for a major technology company, the main character in which will be budding trumpet player Gabriela.

The production company tasked with making the video, New York-based Lonelyleap Productions, came to the favela to film all day on Monday and yesterday. Filming involved all of the older children and lots of people from the community as well.

Although filming was a long process, the children really enjoyed the experience and there were a lot of laughs along the way.

The main classroom of the project was transformed for the filming and the changes that they made look great, so we're keeping them - bonus!

Perhaps the most gratifying part was that when time came to actually make music, the kids played out of their skins - showing absolutely no signs of being fazed by the presence of all the cameras, microphones, lights and film crew.

Thank you to Lonelyleap and the major technology company (to be revealed at a later date) for choosing our project and thank you to the children and community for helping to make the filming such a success.

A special thank you also to Sister Regina for letting us use the football court at the Centro Assunção-Cenam at short notice and also to Claudio at ABCD restaurant for letting us use the restaurant as a filming location at the last minute.

We are all looking forward very much to seeing the video now!!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Happy 2nd Birthday Favela Brass!

Yesterday we celebrated 2 years of the Favela Brass project with a party at local restaurant ABCD.

As well as letting us use their space and providing food for the children, restaurant ABCD secretly created a cake especially for the occasion (thank you Dona Maria and Mariane!)

Following a cracking show by the children, we also had samba band Samba de Lei to keep the party going into the night!

Big thanks to Claudio and all of the staff at restaurant ABCD, Samba de Lei, and to everyone who has helped make our first two years of existence a success - congratulations team Favela Brass!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Thank you Roman Sielert!

On Friday we said goodbye to our German volunteer percussion teacher Roman Sielert.

On face value, a European teaching Brazilian percussion to Brazilian children may seem unusual, but it's hard to imagine a better candidate for the job than Roman - he plays and understands Brazilian percussion to such a high level that he could easily work as professional percussionist in Rio, he speaks Portuguese fluently, and most importantly he gets on great with kids.

During his 3 months at the project Roman both worked alongside our permanent Brazilian percussion teacher, Mangueirinha, in large group percussion lessons and also gave private and small-group percussion lessons. He also helped out with a million things outside of the lessons, from lugging keyboards up the hill to playing snare drum at our performances.

Roman is now back in Germany and today auditions for the chance to return to Brazil (São Paulo, unfortunately for us) to further his studies of Brazilian percussion at a university there.

Roman, we thank you ever so much for all your help over the past three months and are rooting for you in the audition today.

Um grande abraço e volte logo!