02/17/2012 04:18 pm ET | Updated Apr 18, 2012

Taking the Snow Home to São Paulo

Ian is 12 years old, and has played the violin since he was 10. He lives in São José do Rio Preto, a city in the countryside of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The average temperature in his hometown is 77 ºF, reaching 91.5°F in the summer. He had never left his home state, much less his country. On February 7, he traveled six hours in a bus to the International Airport of São Paulo (one of the world's biggest metropolises, with 20 million people), took an airplane and arrived twelve hours later with his violin and 17 friends in Detroit, Michigan. The temperature was about 28°F.

Ian is a student from Projeto Guri (Guri Project), a music education program of the São Paulo state government, led by a non-profit organization for 16 years. It provides 40,000 students per year aged 6 to 18 with group lessons in music language and theory alongside choral and instrumental classes, in more than 300 towns. Since 2011, the Guri Project made a partnership agreement with the American organization Sphinx Music, which mission is to increase the participation of blacks and Latinos in music schools, as professional musicians and as classical music audiences. The main partnership objectives are the musical exchange, the support of progression routs for students and the interaction between students and teachers of both countries. The group of 18 Guri students traveled with their teachers to Detroit to watch the semifinals and finals of the 15th Sphinx Competition, that gives prizes and scholarships every year to young Latino and black string players between 11 and 26 years old.

Now let's go back to Ian.

In spite of being a child, he didn't talk too much during the trip. Maybe because he missed his mother and sister, that were at home, or because he missed his father, who passed away six months ago. But he was cared for by all of his colleagues, especially two 17 year old girls that hugged him all the time and told him (like moms used to do): "you should eat more". Of course we adults were there to take care of everything, but we realized that he found more comfort with the group. His group.

With his group he performed at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, and this same day he laughed a lot playing with the snow for the very first time. With his group he went to Detroit, watched master classes with some musicians of the most important American orchestras, and went to a Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert at the impressive Orchestra Hall. With his group he played the violin for American children that were surprised to find out that "Brazilians dress like us". He didn't speak a lot, but he observed carefully, and was amazed with everything that he saw.
One day before coming back to Brazil we went to the mall, so the students could buy some gifts for their families. Ian spent the little money that he had buying a wallet and a snow globe for his mother, and a diary for his sister.

On Sunday, February 12, we watched the senior division finals in Ann Arbor, and were thrilled with the level of contestants' performance. Then we said goodbye to our Sphinx's friends (wishing to receive a group of American students in Brazil, and return their hospitality), and went to the airport to catch our flight.

At the security check Ian started to call for me. He was very disturbed because the policeman was telling him something in English, that he couldn't understand. He left the snow globe in his backpack, and since it's forbidden to get in the plane with liquids that were bought out of the boarding area, the policeman apologized and threw Ian's mother's gift in the trash can.

His eyes were full of tears, but he didn't cry, cause boys are supposed to be tough. He just became mute again and started to walk, looking to the ground and carrying the violin that helped him to get so far. When everybody passed the security check, I started a pilgrimage through the duty free shops. When I came back to the boarding gate and handed him the package, he already started to smile. It cost me only 14 dollars to help a boy take the snow home to his mother.

Alessandra Costa was born in 1973 and is an actress since she´s eighteen. She changed stage for backstage ten years ago and started to work with the conception and management of cultural policies. For the last four years she´s been working as the Executive Director of Projeto Guri, the biggest music learning program of Brazil.