Brazil may be known for its pulsating samba, but a Canadian woman is bringing a different type of music to one of Rio's largest slums.

Tucked away in a school classroom in Rocinha -- considered Rio's largest favela with about 200,000 people living within roughly two square kilometres -- Vanessa Rodrigues is teaching children how to play string instruments.

Rodrigues was on a trip to Rio four years ago when she stumbled upon a box of donated instruments, which she took as a sign.

"I thought you know what, it's like a calling,'" she told CTV News. "Here's all these instruments.”

An accomplished jazz organist who grew up in Edmonton, Rodrigues decided to devote her spare time at the Escola de Musica da Rocinha offering a safe refuge for children who needed support and an outlet away from gangs and violence.

Rodrigues now teaches both the violin and viola to students.

Many of the children in Rodrigues' classroom say they have witnessed violence from a young age.

Pablo DeSouza Alves, one of Rodrigues' students, doesn't know his father, and his mother died last year.

He says the classes have helped his confidence and sense of worth.

As for Rodrigues, she insists that the happiness and development she sees in her students is a rewarding experience.

"It just makes me feel really good," she said. "I feel really great doing what I'm doing."

With a report from CTV News' Omar Sachedina