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Home / News / My Music Education Life: Milca de Paula
Milca de Paula
My Music Education Life: Milca de Paula
17 Jul 2017

My Music Education Life is an opportunity for members to share, in their own words, a flavour of their professional world. If you wish to submit an article for this section of the ISME newsletter please email to Sara Hood.

This month My Music Education Life is from Milca de Paula, from Brazil, who was also a recipient of an ISME conference award 2016. Milca shares, in her own words, her life and how much being accepted to present at the 33rd ISME World Conference and to be a recipient of an award, has changed her life.

As seventeenth child of twenty, whose family recognised her music ability but didn't have the resources to support its development, through almost catastrophic illness that erased significant parts of her memory, how music helped restore that memory, through her determination to study music, go to university and help the disadvantaged in Brazil through music, this is Milca's story.  As she says Never did that poor family girl think she could leave her country to bring hope to other children for music.

But missing is it; Is the passing and passing on of the old memories (Machado de Assis in "Dom Casmurro", 1899)

I would like to tell everyone the story of a girl who loved music, a student who knew and was enchanted by the magical world of sounds. This text in descriptive Memorial format aims to describe life trajectory of a girl in her musical world. In the text will also be highlighted the main forms of musical experience, be it informal inserted in the family context, school or even institutionalized. In this record also, there will be reflections on how these experiences and situations experienced contributed to the musical formation of this girl, constituting the "you're my musical world". There is in the text a particular relationship of this student with education and music, whether as a viewer and music lover, or as a professional in the area that has become.

Everything began when she was born on October 16, 1969, seventeenth daughter, a family of twenty brothers. For the sake of God she only lived with ten brothers, the others died when they were still small, she lived with four women and six men. They were her beloved and "great family." Her greatest musical influence was the family and the church. In her childhood she was always involved in musical activities, her family's birthday parties were not empty, they were situations where her brothers and uncles played guitar, mandolin, cavaquinho and etc., together the whole family.
In the repertoire of this poor but happy family there were songs of congratulations like "Happy Birthday to you", popular Brazilian music that involved frevo and samba. She also grew up listening to songs from the Christian churches that her parents attended. The music was all over the place all through her childhood. From the age of seven, traditionally during the holidays, her parents had their 10 children to spend the summer at the beach house of their grandparents in the city of Goiana, northern coast of Brazil. And each year they were new adventures and new songs to learn in that girl's life. In the repertoire songs of diverse genres, from Brazilian Popular Music, Tom Jobim, Heitor Villa Lobos, Roberto Carlos etc. Every summer she saw her brothers playing some instrument that fascinated her and unfortunately she did not see it in her day-by-day life at school.

She was growing up. Started studying in regular school. You know, even if we do not realize it, our praxis as educators is for the liberation of human beings, their humanization, or for domestication, their domination. (Freire 2001, 69). As Freire said, this girl did not have an education "so liberating" but rather domesticated and limited. In the school where she studied had a queue routine every morning and at this time all her classmates sang the Brazilian national Aanthem before go to the classroom, in the special occasions also sang the Hymn of her State and the anthem of the flag. These were the only forms of contact with music throughout their training in basic education within the school environment.

Because of her large family, her parents could not pay for a private school, so all her education was in the public school system. As a child, she did not know that after the 60s with the emergence of her country's political regime called the "military dictatorship", the subject of music as well as other important subjects in building a critical and sensitive citizen had been taken from the curriculum. Since she was born in 1969, she was exactly in this context. In 1971, President Médici sanctioned the Law of Base Directives number 5.692. On it, music rducation was definitively banned from school curriculum, and the activity of artistic education was introduced, which was a group of contents (performing arts, plastic arts, music and dance), where none of the areas of knowledge should be privileged. The Polyvalence Proposal, however, was a great cliff for the teaching of music, say some educators who are fighting for its return in schools nowadays. Although not being prepared, the teacher should have mastery of artistic languages. But what we see in the classroom was the teaching of the plastic arts, while the others were gradually disappear day by day in most of the schools. So, in that girl's reality, art education classes never went beyond painting with crayons and paper cutouts, which frustrated her a lot because of having a musical family and not being able to develop this art in school.

At the age of 12 her older sister enrolled her to take a test at the Vocational Center of Musical Creativity of Recife. The Center was like an unpaid conservatory of music dedicated exclusively to needy and public school students who were given a living allowance for tickets and book purchases, provided they studied music in the school activities.

The teacher who did her test asked her to sing what she liked. At this moment she was already strumming some notes on the guitar, taught by one of her sisters. Then, the girl played a song. She was immediately approved and admitted to this institution where she began to take morning music classes. The classes were three times a week where she studied musical theory, choral singing, history of music and an instrument, in her case, piano. There, she had a meeting that changed her whole life. She found a new world full of sounds, rhythms, musical timbres and a lot of creativity. Then realized that after a year of musicalization, she was another child. More attentive, more sensitive and more concentrated in regular teaching classes in all subjects.

When she finished the musical literacy phase and going to the specific subjects, she was impacted by the sonority of the instruments and everything else that fascinated her. There she studied for the next few years of her life, until she finished her master's degree, then she was in love with the music. She joined the Bachelor of Music course, which was offered at the Northern Baptist Seminary (STBNB).

In this course she had contact with other instruments and many disciplines such as composition, arrangements, harmonization etc., which made her open up the horizons of creativity and sensitivity. There, she identified with the piano as an instrument of love. Although she could never have a piano because she was poor, she always study at school piano and in churches that allowed her to use the instrument. At this time she even created her own piano at home.

She set a wardrobe door on two supports and drew the keys of a piano. And then in her house she closed her eyes and played the exercises and scales and arpeggios she needed to study. The sound was all in her mind. At the end of this course, she immediately made a a specialisation in musicalisation for children, since she was determined to contribute to the musical training to other children (at the end of this specialisation as the culmination of her course, she recorded her first educational CD with the title: In the waves of music, which is full of songs that teach the musical notes, the pentagram etc. With great financial difficulty she had help of many people who believed in her work to release this CD. Her graduation recital was performed by a group of 40 children from a needy community where she taught music for two years and prepared them to play the flute, guitar and keyboard in her musical course graduation

It is necessary to emphasise that in the last year of its course Bachelor in Music she was attacked of a very serious disease called meningitis. Because of this illness, she suffered a faint in her home and was taken to the hospital in the isolation room for a long time (because she has a contagious infectious disease). Due to illness she did not know who she was, she had memory loss. She did not know her own name or the name of musical notes, and she did not even know what a piano was. She had to take a long and painful treatment. Times after treatment, and already in the nursery of the hospital, thank God first, and the music, she began remember little facts of her life. Her husband at the time brought a tape recorder to the hospital ward, with many beautiful songs recorded, he knew she liked music and had studied it for many years, but at the time she did not even remember who he was. The incredible thing is that when she heard each one of the songs she began remember facts of her life, they reminded them of the memories that were forgotten due to the illness. When she heard some hymns she remembered part of her family, with her parents at church.

When listening to the music (The Fish), by Fagner, a Brazilian composer, she remembered her marriage and the wedding trip, after all. The music helped her a lot to restore her memory. It is believed that her timbristic memory was not affected by the disease, and so with each hearing and each timbre listened the connections were being restored in her mind.

Understand that music somehow has helped her reconstitute her memories then she believes it is important to say this fact in this text. Gazzaniga (2008) affirms the existence of specific links between the study of music and the ability to manipulate information both in working memory (used for thinking) and in long-term memory (used to archive learned content, methods and the experience). Neuroscience tried to explain her case. But she also believes in miracles and that in some way is the fruit of a miracle.

That girl who became a woman, had forgotten all that she had studied throughout her life, from a solfege with musical notes to the letters of the alphabet, her name also disappeared from her memory, but thank God, with the treatment and through the help of music, today she knows who she is. After the treatment she remembered that she had a daughter with three years and after that all her memories, as a miracle they returned, and she leaves that disease without any sequel. Today she has two children, is still married and happy. Remember who she is. And she remains grateful to God and music for having a new chance.

The memories and unleashed memories are not occasional. But produced from the present, of what we are today, demanding the efforts who say (BELLOCHIO, 2014, p.37).

At the end of her bachelor degree in music and believing that she could improve her didactics in the music classes, she had already been developing in some schools, she decided to take the full degree in pedagogy course. This course prepared her even more for the profession as an educator. At the end of the course, she was linked to Agnes School, as a teacher of the 3rd and 4th grades of elementary school, as a music teacher and conductor of the choir of students of that institution. After a few years she did a specialisation in human capacity management in organisations, offered by the University of Pernambuco. There, she realised her thesis with the theme "Choral Music - As motivational element in organisations". Subsequently transformed into an article and published in the training journal of the first quarter, 2013 at the University of Pernambuco.

She became a volunteer with a German NGO working in her city helping children at risk, and began to get involved with various social and educational projects. She gave music lessons to children on certain days. In one of these projects she was challenged to compose a specific song. The project was called Chance For All, which aimed to publicise in Germany the activities of the project carried out in Brazil to assist in getting financial help for the construction of a sports court on the project, purchase of musical instruments and other improvements in project facilities. At the moment, her involvement with music education has expanded, as well as teaching at schools, now she was also involved with social projects where music becomes a very important tool in the training of individuals. And she LOVES to do it.

As a request, from the direction of the project she composed a song with the theme: Chance For All, made the song called "Chance for my brother" and delivered it for free to the project. To her surprise, three months later she was invited to go along with the project team with five more Brazilians setting up a music band for Germany to present the project and thus sing the song that became the theme of the project. This exchange was held in 2009 in Germany for two months where she performed in many schools, theaters, churches, squares etc. Never did that poor family girl think she could leave her country to bring hope to other children for music. Later the combination of this and other songs resulted in the production of her second CD released in 2011.

The article is on this address and this is a video.

Later the combination of this and other songs resulted in the production of a new CD released in 2011.

After a few years and with her children a little bigger, she decided to return to study for a master's degree in education. She immediately thought of studying the law of teaching music in schools so that she could somehow contribute for the training of students who, like her, did not have the privilege of having music as a way of formation and transformation so important in their lives. She had the privilege of studying in the Vocational Center of Musical Creativity as a child and thus to know the wonderful world of music. But unfortunately many children of her generation did not have this opportunity. Then, she had the ardent desire to help. And for the inclusion of music in schools to be effective, she opted for the line of research in the area of: Education policy and management. She understood that through the inclusion of a law, regulating and legalising the teaching of music in schools, in fact there would be more possibility of applicability of the same in her city and her country.

We understand to take a look at the history sometimes, only makes us blame apparent negligence on the teaching of music in schools, but she does not want to transfer blame but to face the actual reality to intervene positively on it, somehow. Everyday life this girl became a teacher of basic education and now a teacher of an upper education. She is a music teacher and coordinator of a music course at a private institution. During the years of the research she enrolled in an edict for selection of educational projects that valued the culture of her State of Pernambuco. So she wrote what was also part of her masters research. It had the project approved in the FUNCULTURA (Foundation of Culture and Government of the state) Notice 2014-2015, and thus receive financial incentive for the launching of the book: Orquestra Nordestina (fruit of the research developed on the rhythms and typical instruments of Pernambuco). The book was launched in October 2015, in several schools and bookstores in the city and also in Pernambuco Conservatory of Music, where she donated 100 copies for the students.

As a masters student - she developed the research on Law 11.769 / 08 (about the compulsory teaching of music in public schools throughout the national territory). She was also selected to be a scholarship student - FACEPE. (Foundation for Science and Technology Support of Pernambuco), otherwise she would not be financially able to pay her course. Reading about the sanction of Law 11,769 / 2008, which makes music teaching compulsory in primary schools and aiming thus to give to students the insertion of the same at school routine came to their meeting to understand that the public education systems must guarantee a quality education. And from this perspective, it is known that music plays an important role in the integral formation, in the humanization of the individuals besides being a right of all. However, in practice, what is perceived is that the Law, by itself, still does not guarantee the presence of music in schools, which has caused some worries in this girl who became an educator.

To better understand these issues and work to change this reality, she is developing with research and political actions to support the inclusion of music education in the school environment. The basic education in Brazil goes through an important moment of evaluation and redefinition of the general lines of action. This way, Brazilian educational policies have invested a lot in diverse programs, from different perspectives, have contributed to the diagnosis and strengthening of school teaching processes. In turn, the area of musical education has also gained, in the current historical moment, great possibilities of expanding and consolidating its presence in the school, from the approval of the Law n.11.769 / 08, that deals with the duties of music in the Basic Education as mandatory content, though not exclusive to art teaching. These possibilities put immediately the challenge of teacher training (initial and continued), in numbers enough and with the necessary training to act productively in the classrooms of the Basic Education schools, with their own characteristics.

Music offers the soul a true intimate culture and must be part of the education of the people. (François Guizot, 1787)

The teaching of music in Pernambuco, the state in which that girl was born, reaps fruits of investments in education, says the headline in the opening of the portal of the education secretary. The article says that Pernambuco has today shown itself as the state with the lowest rate of school dropout in Brazil. Six of the ten public schools ranked highest in the National Education Examination (ENEM) 2014 were from Pernambuco. The report also says that the state has risen 17 places in the Basic Education Development Index (IDEB), jumping from 21st to 4th place, the highest evolution of the country in quality of education. Although the site Peambuco ( the information of students of public schools that claim don't have music lessons, the Education Department of Pernambuco informed that the classes are included in the subject of arts, which also involves segments such as Performing arts and dance. Nowadays, 622 elementary and 803 secondary schools offer the subject, which serves about 400 thousand students. Classes happen once or twice a week. Of the elementary schools, 353 are developed by More Education Program of the Federal Government, giving lessons in choral singing, hip-hop, flute initialization and musical initiation of string and percussion instruments. Data contained in the text mentioned on the website.
It is noticed that there is a presence of music teaching in only some school units, which are contemplated by More Education program. The most of schools are out of this practice, causing large amount of student body of state to be without access to this content, which is also a student right guaranteed by law.

It is necessary to have discussions to face the difficulties in the conditions of the teaching work at schools and face the challenges in the formation of the licensed teacher in music, so the reality of the schools of Basic Education can really change. It is also necessary to participate in discussions, analyses and actions of the field of musical knowledge.

In its context, this girl woman finds herself as a teacher struggling for the right of the students at a time when her country is plunged into a political and financial crisis. Exactly by having people do not have the sensitivity to think about others as part of themselves. She defends the idea that by teaching music people can become better as individuals. More ethical and sensitive to the pain of others. She understands that music brings people together, brings them hope and refreshment. In her musical world she has observed it day by day in practice.

People who had so few material goods, little food, little health and educatio, but they had the music. And it was enough. How many times did this girl teach at school in Nazaré da Mata (where she developed her master's research - follow the video link of the students :). And in these classes she knew her students were hungry. But the music enveloped them with joy and enthusiasm, and the creativity of each pupil grew, becoming a food for her as well as for themselves, which happened to her, the students now pass the same.
Today this girl woman, in her mind she has received a mission and she has to develop it. She understands music is a gift of God to the ball mankind. She wants to bring music and music education to as many as she can access. She didn´t know the work of ISME and Professor Steve Dillon (she read about his life history on ISME's site devoted to teaching music with love, seeing it as a tool for social transformation, so she was inspired even more). She met the beautiful work of ISME, in the higher teaching stage she did at Federal University of Pernambuco, teaching the subject philosophical and sociological foundations of music education.

She never thought could get a proposal accepted at one of the ISME conferences. In her mind it was too big for her. But the strength of music is so gigantic that even coming from a poor country compared to many others she could sit in the same theatre and watch the best concerts she has ever witnessed in her entire life. She can feel like a participant in a musical universe full of people who love and value music as an important element for human existence and development. And that's beautiful.

This girl, now woman and eternal student, lover of music is called Milca de Paula. The same person who writes this biographical text. I have to say that after the 32nd World Conference held in Glasgow-Scotland, I started having more opportunities, more more chances and voice in my city. To get an AWARD - 2016 with other researchers also changed my life. I have been invited to talk about music and its importance in the formation of an ethical / aesthetic subject that I have tried to focus on my research. People ask me what ISME is? How it works? They also ask how they can associate. At the moment I was invited to give lectures at schools. And these have opened the eyes of politicians, directors, coordinators and educators about the value of music. Important conclusions of Drª. Elzira Souza Lima, on the teaching of Music at school point to the confirmation of facts the Music is the most complete artistic activity. She says that:

"... it can be the learning of an instrument, palmas marking a rhythm, a song or a dance: the stimulus that comes with musical learning is more complete than reading and writing." It also says that music is a champion in activating neural networks in the brain. "A child who begins before age 7 to study music has a greater chance that the left and right sides of the brain communicate better by developing thought activity."

“It also points that music facilitates learning. Music makes concentration and creativity and still involves motor and visual skills. Not to mention the emotional part: "Singing alone or together releases a positive chemistry that generates well-being in the child-student and by increasing self-esteem, improving school development." And finally, she records that studying an instrument in childhood directly impacts reading and verbal expression abilities and develops logical reasoning, spatial and temporal thinking, so that students who have a quality musical education at an early stage perform better at school”.

According with Dr. Elzira Souza's research, I continue fighting for the right of the students. To contribute the schools to be more and more the place of encounter with the art. According to Rubem Alves (2004), there are schools that are wings and others that are cages. Those that are wings have as primary function the freedom of the student. These are the ones that encourage students to discover the flight within themselves. An education of sensitive makes school a place where poetry, music, theater and the visual arts are discovered early, not as a curricular component to be learned, to be displayed in conversations that attest to the erudition of the individual, but to help “a being” in formation more ethical, sensitive and happy.

So, ending my words, reaffirming the belief in the importance of music education at school and in my dissertation of master degree, I point out proposals and guidelines can be thought for the way of music education. The first is the insertion of the area in the context of public policies depends, in general, on our actions as musical educators.

To dialogue with the guidelines and perspectives of the political-educational scenary, it is necessary to know and understand the "terms" of the public policies of Brazilian educational context and, more effective, to participate in its conception and application. We believe we need to act towards paths that are interrelated: to know, to participate and to adapt to existing public policy programs and actions; to have a critical and contextual view of the consolidated political scenario, to propose and articulate new directions for M usical Education. I have a vision in general, consistent and coherent projects and solid actions, being able, thus, to gain support and value for the development of public policies directed to the area of musical education in the state of Pernambuco.

We believe in this dynamic relationship between art, music, life and aesthetics, and music as a social praxis, as the result of the conscious action of the subject with themselves, with others and with the world (Freire, 1996). The "musical phenomenon", as social morder, allows to know in a more integral way the learners and part of their references of life. Dealing with the social and cultural diversity of our students, means much more than singing a melody or playing an instrument: it means understand we are dealing with realities, with social and cultural identities that are not closed or static but need to understood and respect within the school.

Right now I am working with a school in the area of music, with social projects, as a teacher of higher education in the country and in the production of a new book approved by the Foundation of Culture in my state. The book brings a rescue about the history of the authors and composers of the hymns of Brazil, Pernambuco, Recife and Olinda, as well as the registry about the civic symbols of the country, such as flag, coat of arms and so on, where they come from. The objective is to give the students a feeling of love to their hometown. The book will have a new CD with a new musical version of the hymns the flag, independence and others. We're working on the new arrangements for these songs right now. The book will be release in the second semester.

I say my musical world is full of fights. It has always been like that. In my life, nothing ever came easy. I say that getting where I really came from has been fantastic. I affirm that my musical world is also full of great achievements and joys to see each student who learned a new sound and they are realized. I have some convictions in my life that have developed after the experience with the loss memory, the gratitude to God has been my constant feeling and helps me for my next target. I want to finish my speech with a word-painting that bring me a deep reflection.

Just as a blank score is for the composer, a new class of students is an invitation to a new musical world, a new song to be written in each life. I always want having happy moments with them, orchestrate our relationships, to put more pauses to rest and reflection, to give a long pause in violence, intolerance (racial, religious and social), to accelerate or slow down the process of life when each phase asks for it. I think we need to try other rhythms, other peoples and all cultures and put a “Fermata” in love. Love for the other, love for the planet, love for the creator of music. We have to be sensitive to change the tone if the tone is not appropriate and repeat with two ‘Ritornelos” the most interesting parts of life and always harmonize our feelings. I believe that everyone can compose a better song to their own lives always, after all I believe life is a great rehearsal for a final show. One day a great conductor will rule the symphony of the universe joining the voices from all periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic) so on, scholar and popular together in a fantastic composition. The conducter will have to his disposal an orchestra with instruments from all countries, ethnicities and cultures to perform the beautiful symphony will be eternal, the great music calls “LIFE” that was inspired by him in his pure love.

This is a video of Milca's work 

This is a video of gratitude to ISME.