November 8, 2007

Wind Ensemble Brings Music, Service to Costa Rica

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For the second time in its history, Cornell’s Wind Ensemble will venture to Costa Rica, equipped not only to play music, but also to distribute extra instruments in an effort to augment the growth of two schools’ music departments. Set to depart from Cornell on Jan. 9, this division of C.U. Winds is well underway in preparation.
According to the president of the Wind Ensemble, Christine Marschilok ’08, the idea for the tour originated years ago when conductor Prof. Cynthia Johnston-Turner, music, received word from a contact in Costa Rica that a new school, Escuela de Música Matapalo, needed advice regarding how to properly foster a music program. The school’s concern also included how to go about obtaining instruments.
Turner could have simply donated instruments, but instead decided that the opportunity provided a chance for more direct service. The band could travel to Costa Rica to personally distribute the instruments as well as perform.
“I believe that this is the right kind of tour,” Turner said. [The students] can really experience what it’s like to be a musician on the road.”
Approximately 50 band members trekked to Costa Rica during winter break last year, to perform live music, as well as issue 50 instruments to Matapalo.
According to Marschilok, the previous tour also included performances at the U.S. Ambassador’s house, in addition to community-based venues such as the Cultural Center in San José, the Country Day School, and a nursing home, among other locations.
“We played at a diplomat’s house, but also at outdoor, free concerts. It really showed the dichotomy of the country, [as there were] different receptions of the music,” said Lee Leviter ’08, a band member who traveled to Costa Rica for the first tour.
Not only were students able to gain an appreciation of the vast culture of a foreign country, but they were also able to realize the value of their own musical program within American borders.
“The school we donated the instruments to had a cement floor and a roof, and that was it,” said Kyle Story ’07, another attendee of the first tour. “Compare that to what we’re used to playing in.”
According to Turner, next year’s tour will differ slightly from the first, including visits and donations of instruments to two different schools, Perez Zeledon, a musical school located in the rural town of San Isidro, as well as a high school called Liceo de Poás.
Turner explained that, in addition to donating the instruments and performing, Cornell students will also once again work with Costa Rican students to improve their musical abilities.
Aside from their planned performances in a number of similar venues, the Wind Ensemble will also pay a visit back to Matapalo on the last leg of their trip, in order to check in on the progress of their previous efforts.
Currently, the biggest task at hand for band members is the collection of instruments, Marschilok explained. She noted that unlike two years ago, this year the band will have a couple of announced public drives for instruments, to provide further motivation for others to become involved in the project. With the goal to distribute 50 instruments to each school for the upcoming trip, the band will have to double its efforts made for the first tour. Turner added that David Zimlet, owner of Hickey’s, a music store in the surrounding area, has agreed to make minor repairs to the donated instruments for free. He also agreed to make major repairs for a largely-discounted price.
The trip will be funded in part by donor Ronni LaCroute ’66, the Office of Ethics and Public Life, Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Cornell University Council for the Arts and the students themselves.
According to Marschilok, band members will return from Winter Break to Cornell five days prior to their tour allowing for the polishing and packaging of instruments, as well as extensive rehearsal amounting to four or five hours each day.
“We are representing ourselves, Cornell, and America — we want to be as prepared as we can be,” Marschilok said.
The preparation will include a special rehearsal of an original violin concerto for winds and percussion, written by Costa Rican composer and performer Eddie Mora. According to Turner, Mora will send his star pupil, Erasmo Solerti to Cornell this month to rehearse with the Wind Ensemble, and then deliver the world premiere of the piece. Once in San José during break, Cornell’s band will reunite with him to perform the Costa Rican premiere of the composition.
The success of the 2006 tour warrants the mounting excitement amongst band members for the upcoming trip.
“I look back at pictures and see the kids I gave instruments to and [I have to smile],” Marschilok said. “We’re sharing our passion for music … [while also] doing something for someone else.”