Palloma Izidio, 23, has known of Marc Sabbah for years. But he had never heard of her until May this year. Twenty minutes were enough to pique his interest.
In another four weeks, he became convinced that she had a lot of potential. Almost five months after the first contact, the two will meet in Belgium this week to work together on a project, after going through very different personal and professional paths.
Sabbah, 32, is a global classical music star. He was born in New York and started studying the violin at the age of three. He changed at 11 to the viola, became a soloist, played worldwide, and won several international awards.
Palloma put her hand on this instrument for the first time in a social project in Barra Mansa (RJ), where she was born and raised with her younger sister and mother, a domestic worker, and, today, caregiver for the elderly.
Being a musician was her dream. The opportunity to get close to music came through a social project for children from public schools. Each school had a different instrument, and the one at Palloma's school was the viola.
With the viola came the teacher, Gabriel Marin, then the first soloist viola of the OSB (Brazilian Symphony Orchestra) and monitor of the Barra Mansa Symphony Orchestra.
Palloma asked him for advice when she found herself stagnant in her hometown. "If you really want to make a career in music, come to São Paulo," replied Marin, encouraging her to participate in the selection for the Baccarelli Institute.
Free of charge, the organization teaches music to more than 1,200 children and young people per year and supports 13 choirs, 48 groups of instrument groups, and four orchestras.
To make the change, Palloma needed to enter the main one, the Heliópolis Symphony Orchestra, which, in addition to private lessons, gives a scholarship.
She took the test on a Thursday and received approval the following Tuesday. At the age of 18, she moved from her mother's house to a republic in Heliópolis.
"Arriving in São Paulo was a shock," she says. The first contact with the orchestra was another: "I was very impressed with the level of refinement. It was not just playing the notes at the right pace, it was really a level above everything I knew".
Then the pandemic came, and, to make up for the lack of face-to-face activities, Baccarelli intensified online classes, called masterclasses, with top instrumentalists.
One would be with Sabbah, and Palloma was one of three students invited to participate.
"I immediately saw something promising about her. Her ability to think abstractly and concretely, while incorporating my advice, is what every teacher dreams of in a young musician."
At the end of the masterclass, he invited her to a private class. Then he offered a second, then weekly classes. After two months, she became convinced that the Brazilian had a level to study at the Conservatório Real de Mons, where he teaches in Belgium.
The approval came in July, but her studies are not yet guaranteed. Mons Conservatory does not provide scholarships, and Palloma needed to raise enough money to pay for airfare and the first annual fee, just to start.
With the help of a few people and the offer of accommodation in Brussels until December, she embarked this week.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon