It was not known what to call it. There was no acronym, no logo. Governor Ricardo Coutinho had a vision of installing in Paraiba a program modeled after Bahia's NEOJIBA, which is itself a project inspired by Venezuela's superb FESNOJIV, commonly known as "El Sistema" of youth orchestras. There were differences. Paraiba's program was to be based on state public schools rather than in a theater or conservatory. Coutinho called Alex Klein to launch the Program and be its General/Artistic Director. As part of the launching, Coutinho committed the state to pay for an instrumental lot fit for 10 orchestras. When added to music stands, strings, reeds, metronomes, tuners and other accessories this amounted to nearly 7000 items. 

Paraiba is located on the northeastern coast of Brazil, boasts beautiful beaches and historic buildings, has wealth but it is poorly distributed. The state's per capita GDP ranks 24th among Brazil's 27 states. When you consider that the mostly-forested Amazonian region has 7 states, and that a few of those have a higher GDP per capita than Paraiba you begin to understand what we were up against, how big the effort was to build the program, and how important it was to avert an eventual social collapse. Paraiba's economy comprises just 0.8% of Brazil's (2004, Wikipedia). Some of its cities and neighborhoods are listed among Brazil's most dangerous, crime infested and its residents increasingly more excluded from the benefits of a growing democracy.

MOSAIC 4: An evening at the Cabedelo music center, PRIMA's first. Like other port cities in the world, so does Cabedelo suffers the consequences of inequality, crime and poverty. Orchestra rehearsals were held at the Anibal Moura State School in an open space between classrooms, by the water fountains, announcements and bathrooms. The inspiring happy faces seem to hide a sad human reality. All of these young people have seen murders, had family or friends being victims of crime, yet, somehow, overcame the emotional confinement of those images and set out to make music, learn, work hard and look towards the future. One of the teachers shown in these pictures was dismissed for inappropriate behavior.  The piece being rehearsed was "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition". In some pictures it appears that students are practicing with open doors. Actually, those classrooms had no doors. Students would also graduate without having teachers available for all subjects either. On one High School student's account, they went an entire year without a Physical Education, English and Mathematics teacher, and had to share the same Portuguese teacher with the class next door. When it rained it was necessary to use an umbrella inside classrooms. Each student here has a story of resilience worth telling, but perhaps one of the the most touching ones is that of our dear Toni, the horn player on the right (on the picture with two horn players). When PRIMA won a National Award for "Education Map" we chose Toni to represent all students at the ceremony in Brasilia. "There was no hope, nor much to do", he said, until he met PRIMA. He loved the horn and became an excellent player. One night following a concert the Cabedelo students were walking back to the Anibal Moura school carrying instruments and music stands, when Toni's former street friends saw him and called him to join them at some affair. Toni looked at his PRIMA colleagues and had to make a choice right there. He apologized to his old friends, saying that he needed to stay with his music colleagues at that moment to put instruments and stands away and finish the evening on the proper note, and so they parted ways. That choice was a key example of the importance of PRIMA for Paraiba's at-risk communities. Months later, in Brasilia, as PRIMA accepted the award, Toni played beautifully and then said, to everyone's shock, that at that very moment his old friends were in police custody for robbery and attempted murder. This story, multiplied by the thousands of kids served by PRIMA, exemplifies the importance and power of a socio-orchestral program like PRIMA in giving young people from these communities a choice in life.