Athzel Pino (17) beneficiary of the Youth Orchestra "Sinfonia por el Peru" plays the clarinet in Lima, Peru

The Power of Music – The Story of Athzel Pino

Produced by the Hilti Foundation | June 20, 2023

Imagine knowing from a very young age that music is your life. You dream of becoming a professional musician and enchanting audiences on the world’s leading stages. But there’s a catch: You live in one of Lima’s poorest neighborhoods, where money is scarce, and opportunities are few.

This is the story of Athzel, a young Peruvian, who overcame many challenges to achieve his dream of performing on some of Europe’s most renowned festival stages, including Salzburg, Lucerne and Gstaad.

Follow your dreams and believe in yourself

“When I first saw a concert with Juan Diego Flórez on TV, I was 10 years old and totally touched by the music. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do for a living.”

You can see how 19-year-old Athzel’s eyes sparkle as he recalls how the music, especially the clarinet’s unique sound, attracted him. Two years after that pivotal moment, he got the opportunity to join his school’s band when there was an opening for a clarinet player. “That was my chance. From the very first moment, it felt right – although, initially, the sounds I made on the clarinet didn’t sound like music at all,” he laughs.

The very determined Athzel wanted to dominate his instrument. So he began practicing every day while also watching videos of clarinetists playing on the internet. “I just needed my headphones and music to feel at peace. I love expressing myself in a different language of sounds. That's why I decided on music.”

Athzel Pino (17) beneficiary of the Youth Orchestra "Sinfonia por el Peru" poses for a portrait with his clarinet in Lima, Peru

Learning for life through music

One day, his mother heard about Sinfonía por el Perú, a program founded by world-famous tenor Juan Diego Flórez – the same musician who inspired Athzel to fall in love with music. Social music programs, like Sinfonía por el Perú, enable young people from underprivileged backgrounds to develop their talents and personalities. Fascinated by this opportunity, Athzel found out everything he could about the program until he finally got the chance to audition for the group: “I was absolutely thrilled when I got accepted!”

At Sinfonía por el Perú everybody plays well, so he had to work even harder to reach their level. The program provided Athzel with an instrument that his family could not have otherwise afforded, allowing him to study and develop his talent. “It’s my most important tool,” he says.

Sinfonía por el Perú students not only get an excellent musical education and gain significant orchestra experience, they are also given the support they need to perform at international festivals. Athzel is sure: “Without Sinfonía [por el Perú], I would not have a group that supports me, classes that attract me, nor an orchestra or instrument. And I probably would not have known Juan Diego Flórez.”

Athzel Pino (17) beneficiary of the Youth Orchestra "Sinfonia por el Peru" practices with his clarinere teacher in Lima, Peru

Highs and lows

The road to success can be tough at times. Throughout his journey, Athzel experienced setbacks and needed to develop a way to motivate himself: “When I applied to the National Conservatory of Music, they didn’t accept me because of my academic deficiencies. That was a bit of a blow since I was super excited about studying music. But instead of giving in, I started to analyze where I failed and worked hard to improve.” One year later, he applied again – and got in.

One of Athzel’s most significant experiences so far has been his selection to take part in Sinfonía por el Perú’s 2022 European Tour, where the orchestra performed at festivals in Austria and Switzerland. “This experience has helped me a lot in my career. I could see that in Europe, music is really supported, that people appreciate music and professional musicians – different than in my country.”

Juan Diego Flórez Tenor 
Sinfonía por el Perú Youth Orchestra 
Roberto González-Monjas Dirigent

Giving back to the local communities

In addition to a musical education, social music programs enable young talents to develop personally: They learn to be responsible, respectful and they learn about friendship. Athzel now also considers himself to be a more educated and active citizen, ready to support his community: “Like Juan Diego Flórez, who founded Sinfonía to support his country, I can support my community, for example, by teaching music for free to kids who don’t have the necessary resources because I want to see them succeed.”

Juan Diego Flórez Tenor 
Sinfonía por el Perú Youth Orchestra 
Roberto González-Monjas Dirigent

Music as motivator and elixir of life

For Athzel, Sinfonía por el Perú has opened a whole new perspective. It allowed him to focus on music and realize this is what he wanted to do for a living. “For me, music is my reason to live. It’s the element by which my heart continues to beat, by which I walk and breathe. When I make music, I feel alive. It makes me happy and motivates me to be a better person every day,” he enthuses.

Knowing that it won’t be easy to become a soloist or to be contracted to a professional orchestra, the young clarinetist has some backup plans, like working as a clarinet teacher in conservatories, schools or even giving private lessons: “If I don't achieve my dreams, someone else could – with my support.”

Another opportunity could be found in popular music, film music or Peruvian music. And even if, for some reason, he loses the ability to make music, he could still count on his knowledge of music theory to teach.

“I really can't imagine doing anything other than music,” Athzel states. “It’s my elixir of life.”


Have you ever considered the important role of music in your life? Learn more about the Hilti Foundation’s projects and stories.

Get to know: Athzel Joan Pino Santos

Hometown: Lima, Perú 
Age: 19 years 
Profession: Third-year student at Universidad Nacional de Música, Lima. 
Family situation: I live together with my parents and two brothers. 
Interests/Hobbies: Besides practicing music, listening to music and watching music videos, I also like visual arts and gothic architecture. 
My favorite instrument: Guess what? — clarinet 
My favorite music piece: Among others, I very much like Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Debussy's  Première Rhapsodie for Clarinet, Carl Nielsen's Concerto for Clarinet and Gustav Mahler's 1st and 5th Symphonies. 
This person inspired me musically: Juan Diego Flórez, of course, as he is an idol for every Peruvian. Regarding clarinetists, my idols are professionals, like Martin Frost, and my teachers from university and the orchestra. 
My motto: The hardest metals are forged by fire. That means that for a person to succeed in life, they must go through painful or tragic moments. 
My dream job: An international soloist, a position either as a musician or a conductor in a professional orchestra. 
What music means to me: It's my reason to live, my language, my elixir of life

Sinfonía por el Perú

Sinfonía por el Perú, founded by world-famous Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, is one of the Hilti Foundation’s most important programs in its ”Music for Social Change” focus area. The program is based on clear objectives, a well-thought-out strategy, and a constant striving for excellence. With a concept of collaborative and participatory learning, the young musicians not only develop their talent, but also their social skills, a sense of mutual responsibility and self-confidence that enables them to make conscious decisions at a young age. Since its inception in 2011, the program has been able to provide thousands of children and young people with an education for life, and has also been scientifically proven to positively impact their families and society.

The role of Music for Social Change Programs

The Hilti Foundation supports initiatives that use music as a catalyst for positive change, such as Sinfonía por el Perú and others which not only bring musical education to those who would not normally have access to it, but also fills a gap when children do not receive adequate schooling, whether due to the fact that they live in a region where access to school is difficult, or the education system is poor, and the arts simply do not play a role. As a result, the programs often do much more than teach music – they provide meals, support families and offer psychological support for students who have experienced trauma. Frequently, they are vital places of community pride and solidarity, where music is the glue that brings people together.