Hello everyone! Hola!
Sarah here, checking in from Santiago, Guatemala. Suddenly, we are on day five of our trip. Yesterday we made our way to the beautiful Lake Atítlan and today we will cross the lake in a public boat to visit three of our partner schools and libraries near Santiago, Atítlan.
We have brought with us a dear friend and amazing teacher, Sara Morales Calderon. Sara is the music teacher at El Tejar. With her leadership, LEAF and PEG have partnered to support the group of 30 young students of the band “Las Estrellas de El Tejar,” which in English translates to The Stars of El Tejar.
The young musicians of Las Estrellas practice together two times per week and their skills are comparable to musicians twice their age. They learn to play many different instruments as they progress including keyboard, recorder, guitar, mandolin, and the traditional Guatemalan instrument, marimba. (pictures)
Three years ago LEAF International invited the group to play at their spring festival and six of the young students plus their two teachers, Sara and Estefani, traveled to the U.S. and toured for ten days with David. This trip was life-changing for the students who never imagined playing at an international music festival. We hope LEAF will be inviting them again in the coming year and will be sure to keep you updated with those plans.
In addition to their weekly classes and U.S. tours, Sara and Las Estrellas have begun teaching classes to new music students in other schools where music classes are not available. During their summer break, the older students became the teachers and instructed a two week summer music camp for 21 children who had no music experience. Each young student-teacher had 4-6 first-time students. At the end of the music camp, the children played a grand finale concert for their parents and the community.
With the obvious success of the music camp, Sara and Las Estrellas proposed that they repeat the summer music camp in 2015 and beginning in the 2016 school year, they plan to offer weekly after school classes for the students of the other school. This proposal not only achieves the goal of involving more young people in music education, but also gives incentive and experience to the older students, some of whom plan to become music teachers. In partnership with LEAF, PEG will support the student teachers with a stipend for their work teaching these classes. The five-year plan that Sara and Las Estrellas dreamed up includes starting their own music school in El Tejar where students could earn their teaching certificate without having to travel to Guatemala City each day for classes. We are very excited to be taking steps in that direction and explore possibilities.
Sara’s experience in building the program in El Tejar is a huge asset as we explore the possibility of funding another music program in the small village of Chacaya where PEG (with the help of Eric Keen and Jason Haney) supported the building of a retaining wall in 2008 so that their school could be built. In Chacaya, the teachers have added curriculum for an artistic expression program to allow the students to explore visual and performing arts. With no outside support, the teachers have begun classes of artistic expression and are requesting support in order to buy instruments and art supplies for the school. Tomorrow when we visit Chacaya, we hope to evaluate the current music classes and, with Sara’s help, make a plan for the future. One possibility is to have a student exchange with students from Chacaya and El Tejar spending a week in each other’s communities.
There are many valuable and exciting projects coming up with PEG. Please stay tuned for more information and consider making a donation to PEG to help support these schools and libraries in Guatemala. Every little bit makes a big difference in the lives of children here in Guatemala.