But, more important, it has spurred many of the region's kids to gravitate toward the world of Bach and bass clefs. In recent years, some 2,500 youths from area towns, many of them indigenous, have enrolled in music schools, choruses, and orchestras. Some orchestras are fledgling, set up in church basements with members who still can't read notes. Others have begun to produce first-rate musicians.
Music has brought a sense of hope and revival here the way sports do in inner-city America. While American kids might dream of being the next LeBron James, here it is Boccherini and the anonymous 17th century composers who touched the lives of their ancestors.
"There has been a boom in orchestras in all of these mission towns," says Father Andreas Holl, a Franciscan priest originally from Austria whose church in San Ignacio de Velasco started a 35-member chorus for the community's neediest children last year. "It's not just to pass the time, it is to fill them with something more. If we teach them to be mechanics, they can learn to be good mechanics. But music teaches them to express themselves, and perhaps that way, they learn to be nonviolent."
• • •