Young Gypsies from VRSA build their future with the help of a luthier

Project involved 17 students

Photos: Nuno Costa | Sul Informação

Dário and David Montes have in their hands a piece of wood that, in a short time, will become part of a guitar. It is on the table in a classroom that they work, replacing the books with the file. They talk, they sing: they cannot hide their satisfaction. «We are gypsies! This is in our blood”, they say. 

We are at Escola Básica D. José I, in Vila Real de Santo António, and the clock is close to 10:00.

The scenario, when we enter the classroom, is very different from what is normal.

Scattered around the room are no more than half a dozen students. On the tables, you can see guitars, work material, pieces of wood, strings. There is no written material on the board.

At the helm of the class is Manuel Amorim, a luthier (professional specializing in the construction and repair of stringed instruments), Guinness record holder, who was invited to a project that put students with a past of successive leads to build musical instruments, from, for example, wine boxes. Most are gypsies.



This is the case of cousins ​​Dário and David Montes who, sitting in a corner, quickly attract attention.

“Do I like what I'm doing? It's much better than writing", says Dário, between laughs, to the report of Sul Informação.

The phrase is symptomatic.

Next door, Professor Manuel Amorim – let's call him that – is giving tips, taking the students' hands. «If you do it like this, it will come out better», he warns, looking at Vivaldo, another of the students participating in this project.

The class we are in is different: these are young people aged between 13 and 15, but who are still in the 5th or 6th grade. These are PCD classes, with a Differentiated Curricular Plan, as explained by teacher Ilda Felício.

“School absenteeism is a problem here. And this project turns out to be a different activity to motivate them”, she says, along with her colleagues Bruna Carvalho and Dina Sequeira who also attend the class.



All the young people – there are 17 in total – belong to “mother classes”.

Only, instead of having the normal subjects, such as Portuguese, Mathematics or Science, they leave these classes to attend project workshops.

This is the case of this one involving Manuel Amorim, for whom the invitation was undeniable.

«I like to help, to do things, this contact. And it's excellent because, from day one, everyone participates with interest”, she says.

The project was due to end a few days after the visit of the Sul Informação, with the construction of violas, rain sticks and castanets of hands.

«Very simple things that they can do even in the future, because the music bug either already has it or will stay awake», jokes the luthier Manuel Amorim, who has even identified qualities in some of the students.



“I have two or three kids here who have innate skills, which I've already noticed in their hands. If they are lucky enough to find someone who pulls them, who gives them that complementary part, it may be that…».

Helping is the watchword in that room.

Teacher Ilda Felício assumes that the school journey of these young people is not easy, but that cannot make the school resign from its educational role.

Motivation or accompaniment may be lacking, but interest, this, can be born with projects like this one of building musical instruments.

“We want to motivate them to be in school, in classes and there is progress. We noticed. See how excited they are: the music tells them something », she says.

Geovana Martins and Érica Brito are close to the teachers.



Together they prepare the foundations of what will become a rain stick: at the bottom, a large tube with sand inside that, when turned, makes a sound very similar to that of rain falling. Geovana is also a gypsy and assumes that music is part of her DNA.

«These are different classes and we prefer these handicrafts», agree the two friends, despite their shyness.

For the future, even if music never ceases to be “just” a hobby, there are already ideas for maybe learning to play guitar.

«We are always learning something more», they agree again.

For Manuel Amorim, music, in this more practical aspect, should be «a mandatory area» at school.

«Not that formal conservatory music, but this kind of activities», he says.

The class is approaching the end, but Manuel Amorim's enthusiasm does not wane.

«Just see how they take these boards and immediately start beating with that rhythm of theirs, that sound. This is fantastic», he concludes, looking at cousins ​​Dário, David and Vivaldo who continue, concentrated, working, to the sound of music echoing from their cell phones.



Photos: Nuno Costa | Sul Informação