Discipline, perfectionism, and the commitment to help youngsters in precarious situations or social exclusion from Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Colombia, are some of the characteristics of this Brazilian cellist, founder of Amazonart who recently toured around Europe.
Spending a few hours with the Brazilian cellist Diego Carneiro de Oliveira (Belem, Brazil, 1983) is like attending one of his concerts. In the most irrelevant moment he seems intense and focused in the same way as he directs his musicians or plays his cello.
He always tries to do everything perfectly, so every step needs to be done quickly and precisely, with measure and rhythm. Just a brief glimpse of his CV shows an early talent and an enviable energy.
Soloist in 2006 at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Diego has refined his natural talent in the most prestigious Colleges of Music across half the world. And he has participated in and created music documentaries.
In 2009, Diego founded Amazonart, a nonprofit organization which runs music and social projects in the Andean and Amazonian regions in which musicians from all over the world take part. In 2016, he created the Ecuadorian Youth Orchestra to help youngsters who live in a precarious situation or in social exclusion from Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba y Colombia.
Diego talked to The Prisma about his music, his studies, and his next projects.
Recently, an Ecuadorian journalist described you as the ´Brazilian Dudamel´, how does this compliment make you feel?
It inspires me to keep on creating quality music and motivating the next generation of young musicians. Besides being a great compliment, it also means a huge responsibility because Duda is already one of the greatest in the history of music. I believe that this comparison is also related to the quality of the work I aim to achieve. On the other hand, we know that it is not easy to promote music, so this comparison helps us to grow, though work is the most important thing.
The British cellist Steven Isserlis attended your last concert in London. How did you feel in front of him?
It was a mixture between pressure and inspiration. Moreover, Steven was sitting in the first chair. Steven is one of the godfathers of Amazonart, so his presence helps us to value our work and to keep on working. It was a great surprise!
You seem very perfectionist and methodical, and you are involved in two big projects at the same time, not mentioning travels and organizing concerts. Is it difficult to keep up this level of work?
It is almost impossible! In our profession, moreover as a soloist, we must aim for that ideal of perfection in every detail. I always try to find in each note a detail to improve the composition. On the other hand, I try to keep a balance between all the activities, but it is always difficult because we don´t have enough money to hire people to administrate the projects. I hope that someday we will have a great team so I could dedicate myself just to the music.
The repertoire of your last concert in London includes a composition by Bach, one by yourself, and five from Latin-American composers. Are your musical influences marked by the Latin-American or the European tradition?
I was born in the Amazonian region of Brazil, my father is gaucho, and I studied classical music in Europe, so I had the opportunity to listen to and assimilate lots of different traditions. But my educational background is classical, which means that all my work is due to the classical music tradition. At the same time, all the heart I put into my work is due to the strong Brazilian energy.
Do you think that you need more time to improve your music, to study and compose?
Yes. From this month of December, I will be working intensively on the cello and I want to record a CD with new compositions for next year. Also, I will be playing as soloist with orchestras around Europe.
You studied clinical hypnosis. How is this discipline related to music?
Hypnosis is an altered state of mind and music can bring you to that state. I studied clinical hypnosis when I was 25 and my aim was to understand the unconscious, the human being, because that is where music lives, along with the inspirational, learning, and teaching processes.
You are also involved in the program Live Music Now, created by the late violinist and director Sir Yehudi Menuhin.
Live Music Now had a huge impact with psychophysical conditions. For more than 30 years, this project has been helping hospitals and institutions where music was not used before. Before starting to play the cello, my family use to take me to visit asylums and hospitals, and this practice intensified when I started to play because I felt that the gift of music was also a cure which was not being used in traditional medicine. The peace and energy that music transmits from the musician to the patient works as a catalyst of emotions.
You founded Amazonart 8 years ago, in which musicians from all over the world collaborate. What is the purpose of this project?
Amazonart is a music program which aims to unite borders, cultures and initiatives to support young musicians. The cultural interchange, volunteering and promotion of concerts and workshops are initiatives that Amazonart is developing to keep classical music alive, inspiring audiences who have never listened to an instrument. We bring music to places where there are violent conflicts of different kinds. Up to now, more than ten thousand children have enjoyed our concerts, courses and musical talks in more than ten countries.
The Ecuadorian Youth Orchestra began last year, what were your aims?
The orchestra is the product of an Amazonart program with talented youngsters from different nationalities (Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador) with little experience and few opportunities. Ecuador is a multicultural country, very diverse, and my desire was to give a boost to the careers of young musicians. In my first concerts in Ecuador some young talented musicians came to ask me to teach them music, many of them without resources, so I decided that the best way to teach them was to work as a team.
Amazonart established a brand, which was the motivation to create a similar program. Nowadays, we are trying to innovate keeping in mind that we want to form new musicians as soloists. The orchestra started from a necessity. Our first concert was just after the earthquake in Ecuador in 2016, in April. In a short time we gave more than 40 concerts, talks and workshops. We made history giving the first concert of a youth orchestra in the Ecuadorian Amazonas.
The orchestra is an independent initiative and you have a crowdfunding campaign for this project. Is it difficult to find financial support for your initiatives?
It is very hard. We only get a little bit of funding and the rest is volunteering. After our experience in Brazil, where we got support from the private sector and some from public institutions, our goal is to fly high and we want to travel to Europe next year. That´s why we have launched in Europe the campaign ¨Help us to fly¨.
What is your philosophy when you teach music to youngsters?
I try to give them the idea that, as musicians, we have a responsability, but also the joy of learning and playing music.
I tell them that we are here to help not to be stars that we need to work to improve the world. Discipline and love in every musical sentence.
Your relationship with the journalist and producer Mark Richards has been very fruitful, do you have any new project in mind?
After making the documentary “Music of the Rain Forest” with him in 2002, we are thinking about creating another documentary, but this time Ecuador will be the setting.
After London, you have visited other cities in Europe. What did you do on this tour?
I visited several cities in Switzerland and Germany, and Paris and Barcelona. It has been a tour of diplomatic concerts organized by Ecuador and Brazil to create bonds for playing concerts next year in Europe. I also promoted my projects with the aim of raising awareness among institutions and audiences to encourage them to collaborate and support Ecuadorian youngsters with their music studies.