The Italian helping street children through music

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Violinist Sara Michieletto has swapped concert halls for audiences of children around the world. Photo: Elisabetta Zavoli/AFP
11:39 CET+01:00
Italian violinist Sara Michieletto, 41, went from playing sold-out concerts at world-famous venues to performing to Indonesian street children. The Local finds out more about how she made the transition.

Who is Sara Michieletto?

She's a top Italian violinist who has won numerous awards and performed with some of Europe's most prestigious orchestras, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra da Camera Italiana. For the past 16 years, she has been playing in the first violins of the Fenice opera house's orchestra in Venice.

And why is she in the news?

Michieletto has swapped the gilded concert halls for audiences of street children around the world, using music therapy to help those less fortunate.

She's travelled across the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, slums of India and Indonesia, playing for street children and orphans as part of the Strains of Violin in Southeast Asia' project.

The project has two aims: to introduce people in the area to Western composers (Venetians in particular), and to help children through music.

Since 2010, Michieletto has been based in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital with a population of 10 million, many struggling with extreme poverty.

So has she given up on the concert halls?

No, she has an arrangement with the Fenice Foundation which allows her to play in the orchestra for a short period each year, devoting the rest of her time to her charitable work as part of the project.

She told AFP earlier this week: “When I play for the children, for me it's like playing in an important concert.”

How did she get started with the charitable work?

It began in 2004, when she did a tour of schools around the West Bank playing for children, and since then she has undertaken trips in collaboration with organisations such as UNESCO, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Alliance Francaise.

Michieletto's mission to bring emotional awareness through music to disadvantaged children has taken her to Mozambique, Palestine, Brazil and India before arriving in Indonesia in 2010. As part of the Southeast Asia Violin Project, she has also taken the opportunity to record a CD of her own compositions, which aims to celebrate the unity of music despite cultural differences.

Speaking to the Jakarta Post, Michieletto said she felt that with the right improvements in music education, Indonesian musicians could emerge onto the international classical scene.

How does music help the street children?

Michieletto said classical music can help youths become “emotionally aware” and find an outlet for their frustrations.

“Music is a very powerful means of conveying emotions,” she told AFP. “In the case of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, this is so important because they have faced a lot of difficult things and trauma in the past.”

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As well as working with street children, how else does she help?

Michieletto also organises art workshops for the children in drama, singing, photography and dance, using her training in the pedagogy of emotions. She has played for children in hospitals, victims of the Merapi volcanic eruptions, and at university venues in the country, and believes that music is an important part of life experience.

Michieletto told the Jakarta Post: “I find it demeaning when people ask for music as a background, or when they assume that it is a mere ‘hobby’ … To quote the great conductor Daniel Barenboim, ‘I wish that more people could understand that music is the ‘physical expression of the human soul’.’”

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