Música en las Aldeas / Music in the Villages

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The school provides a relaxed yet professional environment for children to learn music.

This time last year Rafa had problems reading and writing and had stopped attending school. Now his literary skills have improved, he is reading music and back in class—all thanks to his classes at Musica en las Aldeas. As Rafa, 9, says, “I love playing piano. I like the sound of making my own music and I love coming here.”

Música en las Aldeas is the brainchild of internationally trained musician Carolina Palomo, who originally created the concept as a series of traveling concerts to bring classical music to the towns surrounding La Antigua Guatemala.

“I believe that arts in general has the power to break boundaries and overcome distances between people,” explains Carolina. “I was playing in the more affluent areas and I began to think that we should start doing concerts in the surrounding towns. That way we could bring music to people who might like it but hadn’t had the chance to hear this kind of music. However, once we started doing the concerts I realized it wasn’t enough.”

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Learning piano has helped Rafa, 9, perform better in school.

Carolina began to form the notion of providing music lessons to underprivileged children in the village towns of Sacatepéquez. Nonprofits CasaSito and Fundación Los Niños quickly supported the idea and attracted donations and scholarships.

Through increased fundraising and support, a house in San Gaspar Vivar was secured as a permanent base, and in June last year Música en las Aldeas opened its doors.

Now every week 30 children, from ages of 6 to 20, attend the school to learn piano, violin, guitar, baroque recorder, percussion and music theory. Many of the children arrive via long bus rides from the surrounding towns and their passion is obvious.

“It really chills me out. I just find it relaxing,” says Very, 15, a student from Chimaltenango who was forced to quit school to get a job. “I played my first concert last year and was nervous at first but then I just forgot about the audience and focused on the music.”

Verónica, 16, also from Chimaltenango, agrees: “I found out about the school through my friends and now I come every Saturday. I just love the feeling of playing music.”

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Música en las Aldeas teacher and student at work

While the atmosphere of the school is casual and relaxed, the needs of each student are professionally met. Most of the five music teachers hold music degrees from national and international universities and travel from the capital to give lessons.

To pay the tuition fees for those who can’t afford it, the school relies upon income generated by private students, the adult choir (which meets weekly) and sponsorship programs. Some students are completely supported through these programs while others pay a nominal amount, but no matter what their circumstances no child is ever turned away.

Recently Lainey Crawford from the United States volunteered for three months teaching vocal technique, group classes and musicianship. She commented:
“Working with this organization has been a deeply rewarding experience, particularly because I was given the unique opportunity to work side by side with the existing teachers. My hope is that students will benefit from a well-rounded music education. From a young age, students are challenged to tap into their full potential by learning all components necessary to build a strong foundation in music. Those interested will find a nurturing community of passionate educators and enthusiastic students who share a common love for music.”

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Elva, 9, has been learning guitar with Musica en las Aldeas for the past year.

Providing this opportunity, however, doesn’t come without cost and greater support is needed. Música en las Aldeas needs volunteers—music teachers, fundraising and marketing support, videographers and more private students. Donations of instruments are always welcome.

If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity, receiving private music lessons, joining the choir, or donating instruments to Música en las Aldeas please get in touch on its Facebook page: facebook.com/arte.antigua or email musicaenlasaldeas@gmail.com

Article and photos by Bonnie Baguley 

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