Forget Guitar Hero. In Valledupar, Colombia — the birthplace of vallenato music — children dream of becoming accordion stars. And for many of those children, Andres “Turco” Gil’s accordion school is the perfect place to start their journey.
Gil has about 1,000 students, some as young as 3 years old, but most between the ages of 6 and 15. They attend his school for free, with tuition supported by donations, proceeds from concerts, and tuition from other students who come from around the world to study with Gil. Many have the opportunity to win prizes at Valledupar’s annual accordion festival, but according to Gil, the accordion plays a more important role to his students, most of whom live in poverty:
“A child who plays accordion or other instrument doesn’t pick up a gun… The music makes them noble, it changes their heart. They start to sing, they forget about their problems and they feel happy.”
This audio slideshow shows Gil’s school in action, including one of his star pupils, a 9 year old blind boy named Juan David Atencia.