Monday, March 25, 2013

Jakarta Globe: Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery

Jakarta Globe: Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery

Jakarta Globe | November 04, 2012

Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery


In 2004, Sara Michieletto was in the West Bank performing at a public school in Palestine when a young girl burst into tears.

Sara is an internationally renowned violinist from the La Fenice Symphony Opera Orchestra, who has played with everyone from the London Philharmonic to Marusya Nainggolan. She was in Palestine as part of a collaboration between Unesco and the UNDP.

Sara was performing short pieces meant to teach children how to embrace and recognize moods and emotions, when the girl ran out of the classroom in tears. Sara said that at that moment she had realized the power of the music she played.

Spreading the music

Sara has since played around the world, from the slums of Chennai, India, to the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City, with one aim in mind: bringing emotional awareness to the children of the world.

This mission is what has brought her to Panti Asuhan Pondok Taruna in East Jakarta, where she is helping orphans at the center identify and embrace their emotions.

Sara is using music, acting and games to help the children identify complex emotions, foster harmonious relationships and dialogues, and encourage them to have empathy for others.

“I was amazed to see how music can really be a universal language that everybody loves deeply,” said Sara, who currently lives in Jakarta and has spent three to four hours every week at Panti Asuhan for the last year and a half.

“After playing for children and people with no opportunities to hear high-quality live performances, I decided I wanted to find a way to divide my time between performing for upscale audiences and for people with little or no access to performances.”

Identifying feelings may seem a little too New Age for some, but Sara believes that some of the breakthroughs she has seen at the Pondok Taruna would transform even the hardest skeptic.

“A few years ago I had the chance to meet Professor Bruno Rossi, professor of general and social pedagogy at the University of Siena in Italy and a renowned expert on emotional competence. He gave me the idea of connecting the pure feelings of hearing music with fostering emotional intelligence.”

Music and health

More importantly, Sara believes good emotional health means one is better prepared to handle difficult events that might occur in life. For children, learning to identify and understand their feelings is a valuable skill needed to grow and thrive in life.

The hard-working staff at Panti Asuhan have embraced Sara’s interaction with the children wholeheartedly.

“One of the girls used to be very shy, she used to come to the activities and sit in the back, stay silent, look very serious and would be very embarrassed when participating [in the activities],” Sara said.

But slowly, day by day, the young girl came to love Sara’s visits. She started talking more openly, expressing her opinions, and, at the end, she became one of the most active and enthusiastic actresses in the class.

Another success story involved a young boy, who was also very shy but blossomed into a creative and expressive storyteller who even created the plot for his own show.

“One year later, I met him,” Sara said. “Now he can speak English, he is doing very well at school and told me he would like to become a political representative for his home district in Sumatra.”

Stories like these are the ones that keep Sara and the other volunteers coming back to Pantai Asuhan week after week.

Finding their spotlight

Currently, Sara, a mother of two, has spent the last few months working tirelessly with 14 children from the Pantai Asuhan on “Flowers,” a short play written by the children, which tries to make people realize how often and easily our perspective changes, and how our moods dictate our life views.

The play centers around Myuki, a flower seller who is under the influence of naughty elves. These troublemakers alter Myuki’s perception of her customers. For example, when the ugliest boy in the world enters her shop, she is a excited and enthusiastic mood because the elves make her see the boy as handsome and charming. She eventually falls in love with him. But when the next customer arrives, the Elf of Fear plays a trick on her and alters her mood so she sees a criminal boss in a new light.

The play will be performed live for the first time as part of the Jakarta Fringe Festival on Saturday at Lippo Mall Kemang. The performance is in Indonesian but playbills will be distributed in both English and Indonesian.

Although she has done a lot of work on the play, Sara insists that none of the work she has done with the children would be possible without the dedicated staff of Pantai Asuhan or fellow volunteers like Nancy Fox, who has been instrumental to the development of the project.

“‘Flowers’ is an interesting mix of a Cinderella story that the kids came up with and how we deal with emotions,” Fox said. “We’ve seen the kids change in the process of putting together this play in the sense that they’ve become more confident about themselves, and they feel secure enough to open up to us about their emotions.”

In recent months, Sara has invited other artists from around the world to volunteer and work with the children in an effort to bolster the children’s confidence and give them a chance to interact with a wide range of international performers.

In August, the Italian actress Ippolita Baldini generously joined the project and held a one-week workshop on emotions, and Canadian violinist Lyndi Prendergast is currently teaching the children violin and helping with the music for “Flowers.”

Next Saturday will be the culmination of months of hard work for Sara, Nancy and 15 of the kids at Panti Asuhan. But the most important thing that comes with stepping on stage at the Fringe Festival will be witnessing the confidence of the kids of Panti Asuhan, and that is something we can all applaud.

Jakarta Post, A Venetian Violinist

Jakarta Post, A Venetian Violinist

By Erza S. T.


How does one become a great violinist? Is it the passion? Is it the talent? Or is it the determination?

According to Sara Michieletto, you need all three, plus hours of discipline.

As an accomplished violinist who has won numerous awards, Michieletto never imagined she would be a violin player when she grew up.

When she was 6 years old, she loved singing as a way of expressing herself. However, to her disappointment, her teacher gently told her not to sing loudly in class as it disturbed the other children. Having music as her inner force, Michieletto decided to find another instrument instead and that is how violin came into the picture.

“At the age of 9, I told my mom I wished I could play a musical instrument. We wondered what would be the best choice: piano or violin? I like both!”

Wisely, her mother told her: “Sara, a full size piano weighs 400 kilograms while a full size violin weighs 400 grams. You seem to be curious about the world and looking forward to taking your musical instrument with you. Which one would you choose?”

At that time, she had no clue what she would become as an adult, but her mother’s foresight came true 16 years later when she got an audition at the La Fenice Symphony and Opera Orchestra.

Honored for her splendid virtuosity and rare technical and musical prowess, Michieletto has joined many prestigious orchestras as a violinist at the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra da Camera Italiana and many others.

She recently offered a private recital with Indonesian pianist Ary Sutedja, in which her technical precision combined with deep feeling and musical understanding was on display. One of the most outstanding performances that night was Paganini’s renowned “The Carnival of Venice”.

“I like to let the flow of music pass through my violin toward the audience. The more I let the music capture my concentration while playing, the more I enjoy and feel its magic.”

Using a Luciano Crispilli violin that was made in Venice, Michieletto and Ary brought the audience into the realm of beautiful melodies. Her perfection playing the violin is perhaps inspired by her first teacher, Prof. Giacobbe Stevanato, who not only helped her to select the violin as an instrument but was also very tough on her.

“On a few occasions I found myself playing in tears during the classes. Once he even told me that I was not fit to play the violin! I didn’t like that, but I guess it made me stronger in my choice to continue playing, as it made my stubbornness even harder,” she said.

Nevertheless, this hard work paid off beautifully. Since then, she has won several prizes and collaborated with some of the most renowned classical musicians and conductors in the world such as Salvatore Accardo (violinist), Kurt Masur (conductor), Dmitrij Kitajenko (conductor) and Sir. John E. Gardiner (conductor), to name a few.

Like many classical musicians in the world, Michieletto also struggles with audience perceptions. She believes that music requires a deep and accurate practice and study. It can surely be entertaining, but should also be full of life experience.

“I find it demeaning when people ask for music as a background, or when they assume that it is a mere ‘hobby’ … To quote the great conductor Daniel Barenboim, ‘I wish that more people could understand that music is the ‘physical expression of the human soul’.’”

Michieletto’s arrival to Indonesia was part of a recent project called “The Strains of Violin in Southeast Asia” under the patronage of the La Fenice Foundation. The project brought her to Asian countries, including Indonesia, with two objectives in mind: First, to make classical music (especially Venetian composers) known, and second, to foster emotional awareness through music for disadvantaged children.

“Up to now in Indonesia I have performed at different venues including RRI [Jakarta], Seni University [Yogyakarta], and Sienny Studio [Surabaya]. I also played for the victims of the Merapi eruptions in 2010, for street children and orphans, and for children affected by cancer in the hospital. It is my wish to build a musical bridge that will connect Venice and Indonesia.”

With her background as a trainer in the pedagogy of emotions, Michieletto implements music and intercultural pedagogy as therapy for oppressed victims.

She took the opportunity to record a CD containing her compositions for violin and gamelan (among others) to celebrate the unity of music throughout cultural differences as part of the Southeast Asia violin project.

After her experiences in Indonesia, Michieletto think classical music in Indonesia is filled with potentially musical people who have lots of curiosity about classical music.

She believes with more improvement in music education and standard levels of music teachers, and through building an annual season with a symphony and opera, Indonesian musicians could really emerge on the international scene.

We asked Michieletto, what does it take to be a great, accomplished violinist? She answered, “A lot of passion, discipline and … curiosity!”