Posted by: Steve Scherer | March 18, 2010

Geneseo B.P. – Thursday in Rio

Last night when we arrived in Rio is was raining.  It didn’t really affect us because it was dark, and we didn’t get wet because we went from one covered area to the next.  The hotel is the Mirimar in Copacabana.  Copacabana is a beach and is also the name for the adjacent part of the city.  Vendors come out right on the freeway.  When cars get backed up and slow way down, they’ll come up with something to sell.

You know from earlier that a favela is a slum.  Each favela (1000 people?) has a samba school.  The whole thing is managed by the community Association.  But the samba school is made up of many more people from outside the favela.  Each samba school prepares all year for the one-week long, world famous Carnivale.  This is the most important event in all of Brazil.  Everything closes for this week.  The samba schools perform en mass in very grand parades all week.  Tickets to sit on the parade route in the “alley” where they have stadium seating, cost $300 each for the cheap seats.  The samba schools always rehearse in the favela.  It is done in a huge building that also houses the items used for Carnivale such as floats, props, equipment, drums, costumes, rehearsal space, etc.

Each samba school about 5000 members.  2000 of those are drummers.  No other instruments.  They all play samba. Their float has to tell a story.  The wealthy people who want to play in the samba school have to go to the favelas to practice.  Tomorrow, we will visit a samba school called Rocinha.  If I’ve got this right, we will go into the favela, set up in the samba school, and perform a concert for the members.  Based on how that culture has been described, I really don’t know how to visualize how that will turn out.

Well, back to last night.  We spent only 40 minutes at the hotel putting our belongings in the rooms.  Then we went to dinner.  This is an old part of Rio that was developed for the very rich.  They used to live in palaces that faced the ocean.  Most of the palaces are gone, but there are many that still remain and have been or are being renovated.  There are many grand old buildings that were originally homes of the wealthy and have been preserved and now house many types of businesses and restaurants.  For dinner we went to one such building.  Very old.  Everything was large.  Tall wide doors, wide stairs, very high ceilings.  All of the proportions were common but it was like I was a small person in a big house.  All three floors were like this.  The restaurant was on the 3rd floor.  After dinner, we went down to the 1st floor and relaxed in our first samba club.  There was a band on stage consisting of a drummer on a set, the first I’ve seen in Brazil, a percussionist on conga, shakers and much more, a girl singer who also played percussion, a boy singer, a classical guitar player, a ukulele player, and a soprano sax.  It isn’t really a ukulele, but that’s what it looks like.  The music was breezy cool, each musician a polished expert.  So relaxed with a magnificent understanding of how to play the music that makes their people move.

The dancing was exactly like Alberto said.  When he was first telling us about the culture in Rio, he said, “music is a part of everyone’s life here in Rio.  When you walk, you walk like this (exaggerated the movement of his hips), when you dance, you dance like this, move the butt.  They gotta do it every day”.  And that’s what the samba club was like.  Everyone moving, everyone dancing, everyone smiling.


Our host and the organizer and moderator for this clinic or workshop is the conductor of the symphonic winds at the federal university of Rio de Janero.  Audience was conductors, professional orchestral musicians, and college music students.  These people will be responsible for distributing the instruments to the children of Rio, and will oversee and provide the music instruction for the students.  Today is the anniversary of the birth of the musical form Chorinho.  This conductor introduced this historical reference much like our guide did.

First, Dr. Vondran did a presentation on repertoire.  He talked about how, in order for us to be excellent musicians, we must feed our knowledge with a thorough understanding of historical repertoire.  He also explained specific rehearsal techniques for each of the examples performed.  The host conductor is providing the translation for the audience.  When he gets stuck on how to translate something, members of the audience are helping with the translation.

After the clinic, we performed a concert on the same stage for a group that looked like businessmen and women.  They were very gracious and gave us the host conductor gave us cd’s of a recording he did all around Brazil of characteristic Brazilian music.



  1. seems like you’re experiencing many different sides of Brazilian musical culture from the favelas to the more wealthy hotels and clubs.

  2. You really have experienced many sides of the Brazilian culture! It all sounds so interesting.

  3. this all sounds so amazing

  4. Sounds like you had a great time, but there are so many incorrect facts here its hard to know where to start.
    1. Favelas can have hundrdeds of thousands of inhabitants, not 1000
    2. The drum corps of a samba school has around 300 drummers, not 2000!
    3 The rehearsal space is rarely in the favela, as people wouldnt come to visit.
    4. The rehearsal space is not where the floats and costumes are prepared. There is another building in another district for this.
    5 The music isnt just drums. Theres always a guitar and a cavaquinho (that ukulele thing), and theres often a mandolin – all amplified to be heard over the drums. And most importantly, a song and a group of singers.

  5. Rio sounds great! I am sure that it must be tiring moving around so often, though. I can’t believe that it costs that much to see a parade! I am glad we don’t have to pay for seating here. 🙂

  6. I want to go to a Samba school! Plus, that sounded like a great lineup for an exotic combo………but a trumpet would have made it complete.

  7. thats awesome how many people are able to participate in this thing and how many drummers they have! its also neat how they are able to have these types of things even in the poorer parts of the city

    • The samba schools are born in the poorer districts, not imposed on them. They come from the Afro Brazilian culture of the poor brazilians.

  8. 2000 drummers is a lot of drummers. that was nice of the host conductor to give you all cd’s of a recording he did all around Brazil of characteristic Brazilian music.

    • A samba school never has more than 320 drummers, most have under 300

  9. Wow, seeing that Carnivale would be cool. Again more proof of how important music is to the people in Brazil.

  10. That would be cool if we had samba school up here in the states. Drew’s idea was pretty funny, i guess. I believe that more stretch is necessary to pull that off.

  11. That samba school sounds pretty interesting. And i agree with everyone else who has previously stated this…they must get rather loud.

  12. I think drew has a pretty awesome idea going there

  13. steve scherer, rock in rio 2010, i can smell the t-shirts arriving

  14. you should bring a few thousand of those 5,000 members back. we would have an even more ballin marching band/drumline!!!!!!!

  15. Wow…that’s a pretty big band. I wonder how they’re able to keep everyone organized.

  16. Sounds like a really interesting trip so far! Its hard to imagine a band of 5000, and 2000 which are drummers. They must be able to get loud.
    The band at the samba club sounds interesting.

    • There are never as many as 400 drummers; 2000 doesnt exist

  17. It’s cool that they spend all year preparing for that…it’s hard to imagine a band of 2,000 drummers!

  18. It’s cool that music is so prevalent in peoples lives in brazil. It sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun 🙂

  19. The samba schools sound pretty cool. Wow, $300 seems like a lot to pay for cheap seats to a parade.

  20. you should bring that cd to school so we can listen to it.

  21. There are schools for samba? I wish we had something like that in the states… the schools sound so prestigious though! If it costs so much to get a seat to see them, it must cost a pretty penny to get into them… or does it?

    • A samba school is not a school as we would know it. It is a community organisation. To join the parade you need to buy a costume (up to $1000) and learn the song. The costumes are very expensive because they have to be magnificent for the schools to win. And the tickets are very expensive because it costs at least 7 million dollars for each samba school to put on their parade, and the ticket money helps to fund this.

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