I need to find a way to record this boy.
He's been begging me for weeks to bring my MP3 player so he can hear some "real" opera. I remembered today, and what happened after blew me away...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's start from the beginning...
Ney is obnoxious, loud, exuberant, hyperactive. He and his sisters try my patience every few seconds at the children's project in the favela, and it's all we can do as teachers to find ways to NOT kick them out of every class for disruptive behavior.
A couple of months ago, Ney heard me singing opera to some of the kids, and imitated me. His original intention was to be annoying, but I was surprised by what I heard and encouraged him to sing more. Pretty soon, every week he was asking for some mini-lessons or to sing a song with him, and he would skip downstairs to play while belting out operatic-like melodic creations. I promised to bring him some music that I thought he would like, and made good on that promise today.
After class, I gave him my MP3 player and turned the volume up on Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma." Ney's eyes glittered as the notes soared, and as soon as he'd heard the song once through, he ran off with the MP3 player to an empty room.
Pretty soon, I'm hearing snippets of something that sounds like music. Some little girls poke their heads in and are ordered out with a "Leave me alone! I'm PRACTICING!"
They rush off, giggling. "Tia, Ney's in the room. And he's dancing...and singing!"
I open the door.
"Can I listen?"
"You can stay if you turn around," he says, but even when I face the wall, it's obvious that he's embarrassed, so after some praise, I leave him alone with the music.
And he keeps on singing. Oh, and how he is singing. Loudly and impressively enough that everyone is noticing, and even the director comes over to see what's going on.
"Who's in there?"
The director's surprise registers. "He has a stupendous voice!" I couldn't agree more. Goosebumps don't lie.
I wish I could show you not only what it is like to hear a 12 year old boy reproducing such a glorious piece of music after hearing it for the first time, but to see it in context, the faded pink walls and the concrete floors, the knowledge that just 30 feet away on the other side of the wall are dozens of crack addicts and armed drug dealers buying and selling their wares, many not much older than this young boy. That working in the drug trade could very well be his future if he doesn't find something to inspire him soon...and like so many other boys, he could be seduced by the easy money and violent lifestyle. That perhaps today changed his life forever. That today, as some were watching their horizons shrink into a packet of powder no bigger than a postage stamp, his horizons expanded in great leaps and bounds as high as the "Vincerò" ("I have won") that crowns the aria, as wide as the smile of a young boy who has found a dream worth dreaming, as inspiring as a future worth making a reality, and as suddenly as an unknown talent is unexpectedly brought to life.
If anyone knows a Brazilian voice teacher who wants to take Ney under their wing, let me know!