The January 2009 Suzuki Festival in Lima, Peru, was in full swing; but as it progressed I kept trying to find a time to connect with Padre William Lopez. Over the past several years, the young Padre had been bringing increasingly larger groups of kids from his day school in Huancavalica, and many of them had been in my recorder master classes and groups. (I am told that it is the most poverty stricken region of Peru.)
This year he brought no fewer than 20 students, and for the first time I noticed that girls were included. Quiet and well-behaved, the children were also well-prepared musicians—no surprise since William Lopez is himself an accomplished recorder player.
Last year, in 2008, the small group of boys I’d seen on my first visit (in 2007) had grown into big teenagers. Their hands were adult-sized, but due to a lack of resources they were limited to playing only the tiny soprano size of the recorder family. With support of my husband, I had managed to get two of the more mellow-voiced alto and tenor instruments into their hands for taking home.
This year I had brought with me a donated full set of recorders—including soprano, alto, tenor and bass sizes; but I needed to find the right time and place to present them. Endless activities had kept me running from dawn to dusk during the whole Festival—teacher training, student classes, concerts, requests for baroque dance sessions. All of these had prevented me from planning a time to give the new recorders to Padre William and his students.
The Latin Americans have a wonderful way of making small events into significant ones, through their love of ceremony. Near the end of the week, on a hot and humid afternoon of teacher training, our recorder classroom received a surprise visit by the whole group from Huancavelica. In full native costume, the students stood outside the doorway and serenaded us beautifully, with selections from the Suzuki recorder repertoire and the Peruvian folk culture. They were saying “thank you” for the two instruments they had received last year! Little did they know that right inside the door there was an even more wonderful set of donated recorders waiting to be given to them.
It’s truly gratifying to work with a person like Padre William, who has proven himself such a good steward with the gifts of love, children, and beautiful music. Next January, I can easily expect that I’ll be hearing multi-voiced consort music from the students of Huancavelica.