World-famous conductor, composer, and musicologist Luis Szarán was born in Paraguay in 1953. Music consumed his early life and soon, by the age of 22, he received a scholarship from the government of Italy to study at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.
He spent much of the next nearly three decades of his life conducting symphony orchestras the world over, from Brazil, Chile, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and many others. As a dedicated musical researcher, Szarán has published many books on the ethnomusicology of Native American and Paraguayan popular music. A musician of great renown, Szarán has been honored as an official Knight of the Italian Republic and was the first Latin American composer (and fifth ever) to receive the prestigious Vivaldi Medal at the International Festival of Venice in 2002.
That same year, he took his belief that "the young person who plays Mozart by day does not break shop windows at night" and turned it into Sonidos de la Tierra, a music education program that seeks to prevent youth violence through the useful employment of their free time, motivating their creativity, and reaffirming their cultural identity.
Originally launched in 18 towns across Paraguay, Szarán founded Sonidos to promote music education in classrooms, promote young talent, train teachers in the musical arts, and create youth orchestras, choruses and philharmonic societies. As of 2008, over 2,500 children were active in the program, and 500 public activities were formed, as well as 30 cultural exchange programs.
In 2005, Szarán received the Skoll Foundation award for Social Entrepreneurship, the same year that Sonido de la Tierra incorporated itself into the Tierraneustra Foundation, to take Sonido's methodologies and apply them to other parts of Paraguay and the world.
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