My son David and I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 25th annual Suzuki Music Festival in Lima, Peru, where David had 2 1/2 weeks of intense, exciting, beautiful and emotional experiences making music, making friends and celebrating with Suzuki students, parents, teachers and community from all over Latin America. The months leading up to our New Year’s Day departure to Peru included planning and preparing several fundraising recitals in community and house concert settings, with enthusiastic and generous guidance and support by David’s piano teacher, Doris Koppelman.

Last summer Caroline Fraser, the director of the Lima Festival invited David to the upcoming 25th annual festival of January, 2010. She suggested he perform a piano recital as an invited guest for one of the many evening concerts during the three-week festival. David also was scheduled to demonstrate as a student of advanced piano repertoire being coached by Doris Koppelman in her teacher training classes which were attended by many teachers from all over Latin America. I had the unique opportunity to translate for Doris’ classes, and I found that what really helped me were my 10 years of observing and taking notes at David’s weekly piano lessons back home in San Diego, California. Being a teacher myself, I truly appreciate the complex and subtle issues involved in communicating teaching ideas and experiences. The teachers were eager learners, asking intelligent and thoughtful questions. I quickly became aware that this was an extremely important time—these teachers were gaining new skills and perspectives from a master teacher on how to approach the training of their own piano students back in their home countries, and I was assisting in this process in a very direct way. Doris was extremely sensitive to their concerns, and along with succinct explanations, many answers were clarified after my translation as she sat at the piano and demonstrated her points in movement and making music. Several teachers also expressed to me how much they appreciated and learned by observing Doris coach David, her advanced student who has benefited from 10 years of her Suzuki piano training.

On another note, back to last summer when Caroline found out that David also has been studying violin for the past four years, (from a wonderful teacher in San Diego, Nick Stamon), she invited him to participate in the First Latin American Suzuki Students’ Orchestra in the Lima Festival made up of Suzuki students from eleven different countries from Latin America. Music parts were emailed a month in advance so David had a chance to familiarize himself with the first violin parts of this beautifully unique repertoire—one piece representing each Latin American country that was represented. Needless to say, these particular activities were planned before leaving to Peru, but several other wonderful, spontaneous opportunities for making music presented themselves during our 2 1/2 week stay.

Week one was filled with rehearsals and a few wonderful spontaneous jam sessions with professional Peruvian musicians. For three hours each morning, David had access to the grand piano in the large auditorium on campus to practice and prepare for his solo recital which was scheduled for the second week. Then came lunch, where David had lots of fun communicating in Spanish while his new friends practiced their English, all the while laughing at each other’s mistakes and helping with translations. Lots of laughter and fun!

Each afternoon three hours were spent in orchestra rehearsals, whole group and sectionals. The coaches were magnificent! Teachers came from all the different countries and David had the marvelous opportunity to work with violin teachers from Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico, and most all of the coaching of course was in Spanish. The wonderful, inspiring yet patient conductor was from Argentina, Dario Dominguez. He only had six rehearsals before the first performance, which was at a church in a very poor district of Lima. The audience was very appreciative, and the kids playing in the orchestra were inspired and worked hard to sound their best. They played five encores! It was a very moving evening.

The next two orchestral performances were in bigger halls, with a lot of pageantry and celebration. Before the performances, the delegations from each country were announced, paraded in the front part of the stage with the students in native dress and holding their instruments, and the teachers holding the flag of their country. Because David was the only student from the United States, I had to help him hold up the flag of our country. What a moment! And after this incredibly colorful and moving presentation of flags and delegations, the students played a wonderful program of 11 Latin American pieces, some orchestrated with children’s choir, and/or exotic Latin American percussion instruments. One piece was played by a large guitar ensemble, and the performances ended with a very young Peruvian boy and girl dancing as a pair in front of the orchestra. All the musicians enthusiastically accompanied them as the audience sang and clapped along to this popular Peruvian song.

During week two, David performed a different piece from his repertoire during the afternoon piano recitals where all the piano students attending had an opportunity to perform. This was the week the pianists attended the conference and had master classes. David was also able to attend a teen Music Appreciation course and a Peruvian panpipe class. The week ended with two special concerts, first his solo piano recital as part of the evening concert of “Alumni and Invited Guests,” in which he also performed the first movement of a Beethoven piano trio with two alumni of the Festival, a violinist from Cuzco, Peru, and a cellist from Lima. The last evening David was invited by a teacher from Paraguay to perform as a lead violinist with an ensemble of teachers from many different Latin American countries. They performed a tango by A. Piazzola and a traditional Peruvian folk song where David had the opportunity to take off on his improvising, fully supported by the generous teachers performing with him. This concert featured the many talented teachers that attended the festival playing music from their country on a variety of instruments.

There are so many wonderful memories from this adventure—I’m only able to mention a few. I met some incredible teachers and parents and kids, all so generous and genuinely enthusiastic about being involved in making music, sharing and being involved in the arts. Caroline Fraser, along with her hard working and dedicated team, has put together an amazing annual event, historic and wide-reaching. The generous and dedicated teacher-trainers I met, alongside Doris Koppelman are all inspiring and a lot of fun! Both David and I made friends that we are keeping in contact with. This adventure was filled with love and lots of good times and was an amazing opportunity for my son David to share his love of music, learn about our beautiful neighbors to the south and to meet great people. I truly believe it has been a life-changing experience for both of us in a very good way. As I look back a month later I see this event in our lives as an adventure acknowledging our family’s love and commitment to music and the arts, celebrating David’s commitment to music and his spirit of sharing and honoring the dedication and generosity of his teachers.