In the northern industrial town of Torreón, Coahuila, one organization is working to make a difference in the lives of marginalized children and adults, contributing to their personal development — and keeping them off the streets — with music.
And what began as a simple choir has grown into orchestras.
Founded in 2011 by artistic director Miguel Ángel García, DIME (comprehensive youth development) helps children and teens from poor communities develop physically, socially and psychologically through music.
The original idea was to create a children’s choir in Ejido Allende, one of thousands of farm communities with few economic opportunities.
While working with the choir, the idea emerged to add instruments. They began with seven violins, found the money to buy seven more and later bought cellos. This became much more popular than the choir idea, which eventually gave way to orchestras.
As the program grew, one challenge became finding more music teachers willing to work with students from poor and troubled homes. This not only required technical skills but also a special kind of personality. At first there was high turnover, but today the situation has stabilized to 15 teachers working with 670 children between the ages of 6 and 15.
They belong to three fully-formed orchestras, as well as a fourth in development, operating in six ejidos, along with a children’s home, the municipality of Chavez and the Carolinas neighborhood in Torreón.
Eight of the 15 teachers are former child participants who can demonstrate the importance the program has had on their lives. About 30 students so far have earned music scholarships from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Torreón, as well as from the Rotary Club.
DIME’s success has prompted it to work with another vulnerable population – prison inmates. It has partnered with the state’s Center for Social Rehabilitation, an adult facility with a number of highly dangerous individuals, but one with programs and services not available in other parts of the country.
While still in the development stage, it is DIME’s most ambitious project by far, soliciting interest from over half the prison’s inmates. About 100-115 will be selected to participate, based on interest, talent and behavior. The main goal of the program is to foster self-esteem and a sense of community among inmates and is believed to be the first attempt at something like it in Mexico.
The program is soliciting donations of musical instruments such as those that are sitting unused in people’s homes.
More information about DIME can be found on its Facebook page.