Music Beyond Borders: A Venezuelan Violinist Finds Himself in Brazil

Rafael found his first passion on the street of his grandparents’ house, in a small region in the state of Bolívar in Venezuela. Every day, the curious and attentive little boy would hear the sound of musical instruments coming from the school nearby. At the age of six, his aunt invited him to discover the magic of that room. This is how Rafael was first introduced to the Children’s Symphony Orchestra.

“It was my first contact with music. From that moment on, music became my passion—and it still is to this day,” he says cheerfully.

He first dabbled in classical music with the flute, but once he was given a violin, he immediately knew that he had finally found what he had always wished for. Along with the instrument, he received guidance and orchestra training so he could pursue a full-on musical career.

“I was still a child, but I longed to play like the others. I felt such an intense emotion and profound gratitude to be able to do something that I really enjoyed doing. Music gave me an opportunity to know a completely different world,” he recalls.

In 2020, Rafael decided to cross the border into northern Brazil in search of better opportunities to further his musical career. IOM/Bruno Mancinelle

He first came in contact with the famous Venezuelan orchestras in Caracas at only 13 years old, after being selected to perform together with a renowned group. “By then, I was completely in love with music; I felt that I was part of something bigger than myself.”

Highly motivated, after he finished his studies, he blurted out to his parents: “I want to study music”. Soon after, he had his first audition with the Simón Bolivar Conservatory of Music in Caracas, where he studied for eight years and went on to become a professional musician.

However, having a successful musical career in Venezuela soon proved to be a challenge. To be able to keep playing music, in 2020, he decided to cross the border into northern Brazil. Once he arrived in the municipality of Pacaraima, in the state of Roraima, he finally realized the situation he had put himself in.

“When I saw the crowds of Venezuelans waiting for their documents, I finally understood the harsh realities that people from my country faced,” he comments.

With permission to enter the country, he then continued his journey to Boa Vista, where he would complete the migratory regularization process supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Once he found himself on Brazilian soil, he also saw an opportunity to continue his musical career and link this passion to his education.

I am convinced that music is connected to migration—it is a universal language.” – Rafael IOM/Bruno Mancinelle

When we play, we remember our orchestras in Venezuela and it feels like a family reunion. I am convinced that music is connected to migration—it is a universal language.

Rafael currently teaches music at the Boa Vista Music Institute, which has been running since 2005 with support from the municipal government, with the objective of providing free education to support the artistic development of vulnerable children. Over 50 students aged six or older currently attend Rafael’s classes.

At the institute, Rafael has had the opportunity to meet other Venezuelan musicians, who have taken similar steps to promote social cohesion among refugees, migrants, and Brazilian children. “I am proud to be part of an institution that provides quality education,” he says.

In addition to supporting young musicians in his host country, Rafael has other dreams too. Using the same violin he received as a child—the same one that accompanied him throughout his 25-year-long musical career—he will soon graduate in Music Teaching and hopes to one day be part of a first-class Brazilian orchestra.

“Music is life—it is an integral part of who I am,” Rafael says, convinced that he would never be able to follow any other career path. “When we play, we remember our orchestras in Venezuela and it feels like a family reunion. I am convinced that music is connected to migration—it is a universal language.”

This story was written by Ana Paula Lima, Project Assistant with IOM Brazil,