X National Workshop, Iquitos May 10-15

Iquitos is a city in the Amazon jungle. It is accessible only by plane or by river. This was the first Suzuki event ever held in the jungle region of Peru.

Everything began in July 2009 in California, when Gretchen Klein, a participant in the Holy Names University Teacher Training Institute expressed interest in helping the Suzuki program in Peru. She was particularly interested in Iquitos as she had been there. Gretchen made a donation to our Latin American Scholarship Fund, earmarking it for a participant from the jungle city of Iquitos.

Thanks to an agreement between the Suzuki Association of Peru (SAP) and the Peruvian Youth Orchestra System, I had already met some of the self taught teachers in Iquitos. They are self taught because there simply aren’t any qualified music teachers living there. When I asked them how they had learned to play their instruments, they had told me “Thanks to YouTube and to tourists who occasionally stay for a few months at a time.”

Violin teacher Daniel Manrique, who has a vision for forming music programs in Iquitos and in the surrounding jungle areas, was awarded a full tuition scholarship and airfare to attend the 25th International Festival held in Lima in January 2010. After completing all available courses, Daniel enthusiastically agreed to host the 10th National Workshop of the SAP in Iquitos.

Daniel was able to get sponsorship from local schools, a local university and the regional branch of the National Institute for Culture. In Lima, our SAP secretary Deisy Cotrera and Workshop Coordinator Roberta Centurion worked on the details of the program. The Workshop consisted of three courses for teachers, all offered with official credit from the Peruvian Ministry of Education: philosophy, talent education and early childhood music. There were also classes for children in recorder, piano, cello and violin.

Thanks to support from the U.S. Embassy in Peru, seven teachers and one student travelled from Lima: teachers Roberta Centurion, Luciana Castillo, Paola Espejo, Caroline Fraser, Rosario Kong, Maria Luisa Labarthe, and Annika Petrozzi, and student Maylin Pre Kong.

More than two hundred participants attended the workshop: enthusiastic children, eager parents and dedicated teachers. They arrived each day on motor bikes (sometimes entire families sharing a “moto”) and in “mototaxis.” The heat in the middle of the day made it obligatory to take a three-hour lunch break and hence enjoy a wonderful siesta. An impressive final concert marked the end of this historic event in the Peruvian Jungle.

As I left, the words of Sergio, a participant in my philosophy class were ringing in my ears. At the end of the course he had told me:

“To be honest, I had not wanted to come and take this course. Why would I be interested in philosophy? However, my friends persuaded me to come. The course has changed my way of thinking. I used to think that the poor children in the street, the children going through garbage… I used to think they were different. Now I know that all children have wonderful potential and all children can learn. This course has changed my life.”