• Awarded: 2005
  • Issue Areas: Education · Secondary Education
  • Region: South America
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Sonidos de la Tierra is an innovative social entrepreneurship program, recognized for its transformative impact in rural communities. They use music to create social capital and reduce poverty.

    Sonidos de la Tierra works for sustainable human development, using innovative methods to improve people’s ability to learn, and organizing individuals and groups who seek to improve their life skills.

    They promote self-directed solutions, community solidarity, care for the environment, sustainable tourism, and cultural and artistic expression based on integrated human development.

    Young people living in poor areas have few opportunities for constructive recreation.

    Sonidos de la Tierra engages towns in supporting music education and performance, creating new ways of thinking about development and even making instruments out of recycled materials.

    Musical performance, explains Maestro Luis Szaran, teaches patience, encourages the pursuit of excellence; and promotes a sense of community.

    More than 14,000 disadvantaged young people from 180 cities and towns have participated.

    Ambition for Change

    Music is a tool for social and community transformation and fosters social entrepreneurship, cultivates good citizen practices, combats youth violence, and eradicates poverty.

    Path to Scale

    Program Growth and Replication

    Communities compete to be admitted to the program, committing to provide resources to launch and sustain it.

    Business Model

    Benefiting communities supply the vast majority of needed resources, with about 12 percent supplied by philanthropic donors.

    Luis Szarán is an internationally known composer and conductor, maestro of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Asunción, Paraguay. The eighth child of struggling farmers, he was “discovered” by a prominent Paraguayan musician and given the opportunity to study with master teachers in Europe. His experience drove him to found “Sonidos de la Tierra” (Sounds of the Land) in early 2002, adapting an approach pioneered in Venezuela, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Sonidos’ program engages entire towns in supporting music education and performance, and in so doing, creates new ways of thinking about development challenges. The program provides musical leadership from the maestro and a corps of itinerant professors, and financial assistance to acquire the instruments needed to start. Luis. Szarán is widely quoted as saying that “young people who play Mozart by day do not break windows at night.” The project also supports studios where artisans construct and repair instruments, earning substantial income and keeping the project supplied, and is engaging its students and teachers in reviving and documenting the traditional music of Paraguay.  At the time of the Award, Sonidos was working in 18 towns, reaching 1,700 young people, whose performance in school had been documented to improve by up to 25 percent.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Sonidos de la Tierra today reaches more than 14,000 young people from Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay.
    • Music schools and youth orchestras are currently carrying out programs in more than 180 cities, towns, and rural and slum schools.
    • More than 400 musical instruments have been build at the organization’s workshops, including instruments made from materials recycled from trash.
    • In 2012, Sonidos launched a new program, the H20 Orchestra, with instruments made of bottles, hoses, pipes, and funnels, to educate about the importance of water.
    • In October 2013, Sonidos broke the Guinness World Record for the largest harp ensemble, with a performance by 420 Paraguayan harpists that more than doubled the previous record.


    Andrea BurtInstitutional Relations Director, Sonidos de la Tierra

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