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Chennai Youth Sinfonietta

In collaboration with Keys of Change USA and Musée Musicals Chennai

Keys of Change first came to Chennai in May 2019. Western classical music has a limited presence in South India but interest has been increasing. There was no regular orchestra or youth orchestra performing in the city, yet more and more young students are learning Western instruments. Keys of Change became part of a group of partners assisting in the creation of a youth orchestra in the city of Chennai, which would be open to players of all levels and backgrounds, but particularly to those contending with difficulties in life. It aimed to be an empowerment opportunity for all those involved.

During the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, while waiting for social distancing rules to ease, we continued weekly group rehearsals with the young musicians of the Chennai Youth Sinfonietta (CYS). Using our teachers’ network from Europe, South America and Australia, we provided online guidance for string and wind players.With the date of the orchestra launch finally set for October 2022, Keysof Change sent one teacher (Pedro Gomez) to Chennai for two weeks in August, followed by one month in September, in order for him to assist with the preparation. Daily rehearsals were held at the premises of our local partner, Musée Musical, in which 19 students took part.

Most of the students come for very humble backgrounds, and this was an invitation for them to participate in something quite unique. More than 500 people came to the launch concert. The response from the audience said it all: the orchestra got a standing ovation — their first standing ovation, the first time perhaps in their lives that they felt the results of their hard work were seen, recognised, applauded admired. The young musicians worked as a musical team, often experiencing this kind of intense and focused teamwork for the first time in their lives. They were following and leading, they were flexible with the music, they were listening, to themselves and to those around them, they felt responsible for others, they felt proud of what they were doing, they discovered a self-worth that they had probably never imagined before. At the end, they all expressed a keen desire to continue their rehearsals and present more performances.

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