Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mérida Part 2: Pictures

Stan warms up while a student looks on at La Azulita Nucleo in La Azulita, Venezuela. The kids were always so curious and excited to see us and listen to us. I'm pretty sure they didn't know exactly who we were or why we were there but as soon as they saw us playing they would follow us around, ask questions or as in this picture, just sit and listen.

The choir performs for us at El Vigia Nucleo in El Vigia, Venezuela. Notice the difference in age between the singers. Mixing kids of all ages is common in all El Sistema ensembles. The younger kids look up to the older ones for guidance and improvement and the older ones learn responsibility and leadership. Social change through music.

The three fellows with our hosts in front of the Mérida Nucleo director's house. From L to R:
me, Director's son Abraham, Nucleo Director Jesus Perez and his wife, Omar, our driver with his son 
Omar Jr, Jesus Perez Jr with his sister Jessica, Stan, Jonathan. The director's son, 18 year-old Jesus Perez Jr, is a percussionist with the Simon Bolivar A Orchestra and often returns to Mérida to teach at his 
father's nucleo.

Jonathan leads the orchestra through some Haydn at the Mucuchies nucleo. Mucuchies is located at 10,000 feet. It's significantly colder up there. I saw many of the kids playing with tuques, scarves or jackets. I was pleasantly surprised to find nucleos in the most remote, mountainous areas. Most of the nucleos in the state of Mérida are within 2 hours of the city of Mérida so they have a great structure 
regarding the teaching. Most of the instrumental teachers in the city of Mérida nucleo belong to the 
professional orchestra in town. However there are too many nucleos in the state of Mérida for these 
teachers to get at all of them so what happens is that the best players in the city of Merida are paid to 
travel to the remote nucleos and teach the instrumental lessons there.

The woodwind section from the nucleo in Santa Cruz De Mora. I worked with them on intonation, moving and listening when playing in orchestra and chamber music and led them through some of Brahms' Hungarian Dance #5. The kids at this nucleo were great and eager to learn. We got there around 10am and didn't leave until 7 pm. We were supposed to be done after lunch. Oops.

In this picture below we see the orchestra of the nucleo in Santa Cruz De Mora playing a Bach Bradenburg Concerto. The older gentleman playing with the kids is Mauricio, the nucleo director/conductor. 

I never got this child's name here in the wheelchair. He was part of the percussion ensemble in the special education showcase at the Mérida nucleo. He never smiled until the music started and he 
was able to bang on his drum. His part was simple, but he was able to play in time with the 
rest of the ensemble.

This young girl in the picture below is blind. At the special education showcase she played three solo pieces, bringing her mother to tears. In this picture she is playing the Suzuki classic Go Tell Aunt Rhodie. She also sings in the White Hands Choir, which you can see sitting behind her.

I teamed up with the bassoon students and teacher at the Mérida nucleo to play a small bassoon chamber music concert. 

From L to R: Professor of Bassoon Ruben Duran, Jorge, Emiro, Marco, me. 

Everyone of these students goes to the nucleo six days a week while simultaneously going to university. Some are studying music and others are studying engineering. I'm not sure if there's an age limit for 
participation in El Sistema and I will find out, but my impression is that theydon't have an age limit and 
that students just keep going until they can't or don't want to anymore.

Hanging out in the Simon Bolivar square in town of Chiguara. Every city in Venezuela has one or more public squares and they're always named after Simon Bolivar and have statues or busts of him.

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