Walking down Guatemalan streets lined by cinderblock homes with iron sheet roofs, you might not expect to hear the warm, deep tones of a cello playing Bach or the sometimes accompanying lilt of a violin. But, most evenings, if you visit Carlos’ neighborhood, that’s exactly what you’ll hear.
At 16, Carlos already shows a great amount of discipline when it comes to his art. He sets aside a large portion of each evening to practicing his cello, in addition to the time he spends working with others.
“For me, music is my life because a big part of my time is occupied by music,” Carlos said. “… I practice every day at least from 6 to 9 at night. In the morning I also practice with my school band and the [town] orchestra. Also, on Saturdays I practice with the orchestra in the afternoons and on Sundays with a church choir.”
Carlos is from a small town in southern Guatemala. Though his parents are hard workers, their income was predominantly seasonal and things were difficult for the family before Carlos was sponsored through Unbound in 2003.
“My mom says that things were very hard when I was a baby,” Carlos said. “The walls of our home were made of cornstalks and mud and it was small. My mother cooked on the floor over an open fire. We didn’t have beds.
“My parents have worked very hard. My mother makes weavings and my dad is a farmer. My mom says she couldn’t afford to take us to a doctor when we got sick.”
Over the years, Carlos’ parents have used the sponsorship support to send their children to school, make home improvements, save for higher education and improve the family’s living situation. Had Carlos not been able to go to school regularly, he might never have found his love and talent for the cello.
“My first music experience was in primary school,” Carlos said. “I was in the school music band. I played the lyre for a couple of years, and then one day my teacher came to my home and asked if I was interested in joining our town orchestra. I was surprised, I was excited and, of course, I said yes.
“I didn’t know back then that I would fall in love with music. I did not know what instrument I would play. I believe he [my teacher] saw my size and decided I should play the cello. Now I love the cello and I would not change it for any other.”
One of his favorite pieces to play is Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major, which was originally composed for the cello.
At home, Carlos isn’t the only one practicing an instrument. His younger brother Erick plays the violin. The brothers decided to share their love of music with others who are part of the Unbound program by starting the Unbound Orchestra.
“I am excited because we recently started a new orchestra with 15 Unbound sponsored children,” Carlos said. “The Unbound Orchestra is a new thing. My little brother Erick is teaching them on weekends. Our hope is that this new Unbound Orchestra will bring up new talent for our town orchestra.”
Playing with the town’s orchestra, Carlos has had the chance to play some interesting venues, including the national theater, the German embassy, Unbound awareness trips, and for a convention of first ladies of North and Central America.
“I was nervous for that event because the place was big and really nice,” Carlos said. “We had the first ladies of many countries there, and there were television cameras and everyone was dressed elegantly. That experience was surreal. When we started playing, everyone began to clap and scream.”
Carlos knows he wants to go to college, but hasn’t quite decided what he wants to study. He is thinking he might become a chef, or possibly do something related to history, the arts or nature. Whatever educational path he decides on, he plans to continue to improve his skill as a cellist and hopes to perform for even more audiences.
“Music is everything,” he said. “In the morning I have music for breakfast, and I have music for lunch and dinner. I love my cello because it is faithful; its sound is soft, sentimental and beautiful.
“I don’t know why, but at times when I play a solo melody, I make people cry. I remember one time in Antigua I played a solo piece and all the lights were on me and I couldn’t see the audience, but when I finished people were on their feet clapping and crying.”