This report is a composite of information from Suzuki programs in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. Marilyn O’Boyle, South American Liaison for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and Roberta Centurion provided the information from Chile and Peru. Martha Shackford contributed the data on Bolivia. Ten Latin American countries currently have members in SAA, and members anywhere in the western hemisphere are encouraged to send information and articles on Suzuki activities in their countries to the American Suzuki Journal for publication.
The Suzuki Association of Peru, founded in 1982 by Marilyn O’Boyle and Caroline Blondet-Fraser, is one of the oldest and largest Suzuki organizations in Latin America. It is a non-profit corporation with 35 teachers and 1,132 students in piano, violin, cello, guitar and recorder. Most are from Lima, but a few are from other cities. The Association sponsors two solo concerts a year and a graduation concert, with students on all instruments participating.
The biggest annual project is fundraising for and organization of the Summer Suzuki Festival, which is modeled after the U.S. and Canadian institutes. This takes place for ten days in Peru and ten days in Chile, and brings teachers from the United States and other countries to train teachers and conduct student workshops. The Peruvian and Chilean Suzuki associations co-sponsor these Festivals, and share the expenses for the overseas faculty. Teachers and students from Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil have also participated in these Festivals, and there is an on-going teacher exchange program between Chile and Peru during the rest of the year.
In Peru the Suzuki Method is already a very successful and well-established part of music education. Numerous schools are asking for Suzuki philosophy courses for the entire school staff! Beata Imelda School has already received such a course and is incorporating Dr. Suzuki’s ideas into the curriculum. CEDRO, a development organization with international funding, is writing up a proposal to sponsor courses for poorer public schools and to teach guitar and recorder as part of inmate rehabilitation in Lima’s prisons.
There are two further gratifying developments in Peru. First, Father Molloy, a Catholic bishop who serves in Huancavelica in the Peruvian jungle, brought twelve teachers from his school to the Summer Festival, and now there are forty-five students in Huancavelica enrolled in Suzuki lessons on various instruments. Second, Manual Bravo, the first Suzuki Book Ten graduate from Peru, who started lessons with Marilyn O’Boyle in 1982, is now in Austin, Texas studying violin with Suzuki teachers Laurie Scott and Bill Dick. (See pages 26 and 27). His transportation, room and board, and all expenses are being paid by the Austin Suzuki Association!
The Suzuki Association of Chile was founded in 1986 by Marilyn O’Boyle. It is a non-profit corporation with 134 parents and teachers and 415 students in piano, violin, viola, cello, guitar and recorder. This Association has had a big impact on Chile’s educational system, and despite a change in government in 1990, the country is stable and most systems work well. As elsewhere in South America there is a dearth of qualified teachers and a great demand for them.
It is very expensive to bring Teacher Trainers even from the U.S. and Canada, let alone Europe, Asia or Australia. Yet, this is a primary need. The universities in Chile are interested—Metropolitan University has been sending teacher trainees to the Festival for two years—and the Ministry of Education is beginning to show interest. These developments need to be nurtured.
The Sony Corporation of Chile has been a big benefactor for the last three years by sponsoring Chilean violin teachers to study in Matsumoto for one year each with Dr. Suzuki. The first of these scholarship winners, Lautaro Rojas from La Serena, has returned to Chile and is doing a wonderful job teaching and sharing his experiences. The second winner, Claudio Nazar from Antofagasta, has been in Matsumoto for a year, returning this September. The third winner, Rene Santibanez, will go to Matsumoto in September, 1992. Congratulations to these fine teachers.
Congratulations are also in order to Christine West, who recently completed her Master of Music degree with emphasis in Suzuki with Dr. Jeff Cox, President of SAA, at the University of New Orleans. Christine will assume a teaching position at Nido de Aguilas school in Santiago, Chile.
The Suzuki program in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was started in 1987 by Aida McKenney, Director of El Instituto de Belles Artes. In cooperation with Partners of the Americas, a foreign exchange program, Aida invited Martha Shackford, director of the Suzuki program in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to come and work with prospective teachers in Santa Cruz and help develop the program there. Arkansas has numerous ties with Bolivia through agricultural and medical exchanges, so this cultural exchange seemed a natural next step. Martha spent the summer of 1987 in Santa Cruz working with six high school students who expressed an interest in becoming Suzuki teachers. (In Bolivia one must start young since there are no university degrees offered in the arts at all!) Two of these students, Vivian Crespo and Magali Pinto, showed an avid interest as well as exceptional skills in teaching and communicating with students and parents.
In the Spring of 1989 Vivian and Magali came to Fayetteville for 2 1/2 months to continue their studies with Martha. Magali returned to Santa Cruz, and now directs the violin program at El Instituto. She also attended the Suzuki Festival in Chile in 1992. Vivian is a junior at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and is a part-time teacher at the Suzuki School of Arkansas. Under the guidance of Aida and Martha, a Suzuki parents’ organization now exists in Santa Cruz, and Martha returned in 1989 to assess the progress and further assist in the development of that program.
In the summer of 1990 Lisa Ricketson, a Suzuki guitar teacher from Little Rock, spent three months at El Instituto training two guitar teachers, and in 1991, Marjorie Vasquez, a guitar teacher from Santa Cruz, spent 14 weeks in Little Rock continuing her studies with Lisa. Marjorie’s work at El Instituto has been continued by Patricia Sosa, who has studied with Lisa and with Frank Longay, who went to Santa Cruz in the summer of 1992.
Suzuki students at El Instituto give three concerts a year. Martha reports that their eagerness is overwhelming, and there are many more waiting in the wings who would like to play. The children do not compete with one another, and will do without a meal to get a lesson if necessary! Many have come long distances against great odds, but their motivation is so high they do this cheerfully.
An Interview with Marilyn O’Boyle
On-going teacher training is a critical priority in Latin America. The January Festivals currently seem to be the best practical means for providing this training for a relatively large number of trainees, and a few Teacher Trainers. In addition to their long-term training provided over the years, Marilyn O’Boyle, Caroline Blondet-Fraser and Martha Shackford have taught at the January Festivals, along with guest teachers, Bette Dyer, Barbara Wampner, Bruce Anderson Frank Longay, Lisa Ricketson, and Jonathan Crick. Much more assistance is needed, however, and in a recent interview with the American Suzuki Joumal, Marilyn O’Boyle defined some of the more pressing needs:
What do the Latin American Suzuki organizations need from SAA?
First of all, it must be understood that most Latin American countries are economically stressed and that most Suzuki teachers cannot afford to travel outside their countries for training. So, bringing Teacher Trainers to Latin America or sponsoring teachers’ travel to summer workshops in North America are essential. Caroline Blondet-Fraser has done teacher training on piano in Peru and Chile, and I have done the same in strings. But the demand is far greater than our capacities to meet it.
How has SAA responded to the needs of our colleagues in Latin America?
In past years SAA has helped by paying airfare to bring teachers down from the U.S., but has been unable to do this in the last two years. This help has been sorely missed.
Has the International Suzuki Association been able to fill in where SAA was unable to help these last two years?
There seems to be some confusion between ISA and SAA about which organization is responsible for the Latin American programs. ISA has sent teachers to Brazil and has suggested that Brazil and Peru coordinate their efforts. This hasn’t been feasible so far for various logistical reasons and because the two countries have their Festivals at the same time.
Scheduling problems would obviously have to be worked out by the national organizations involved. But are there other common needs among all the Suzuki programs in Latin America where SAA could be of assistance?
There are several areas SAA could address with little expense to the Association. Communications and relations with the North American and global Suzuki movement have been difficult for three reasons: distance and slow mail service, lack of materials in Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil), and expense. Many South American teachers teach for $2.00 or less per lesson. Permission and assistance in printing any and all of the Suzuki materials in the local languages, especially if they could be printed less expensively locally, would be a tremendous boost to the programs there. I know there are quite a few people in Suzuki, both in North America and in Latin America, who are bilingual in Spanish and English. Their services as translators would be a God-send.
Hopefully there are bilinguists who will read this and volunteer their talents in such a worthy cause. You mentioned that SAA might assist in some other ways. What might they be?
The availability of small instruments is another problem area. There are some local instrument makers trying to fill this need, and the SAA has a project through which families can donate instruments for the use of needy students in Latin America. So far Margery Aber has donated 4 small violins to the Peruvian Association. I can continue to put this into effect as people come through with the instruments.
What can the South American programs do to assist one another?
A Directory for Latin American teachers and parents similar to the SAA Membership Directory would be very helpful. Ideally, every Suzuki teacher and family in Latin America should be a member of SAA, in which case they would be listed in the SAA Directory. Unfortunately, many cannot afford the SAA dues. It would be helpful to have a dues schedule for each country based on the foreign exchange rate.
Why is communication between the Latin American countries difficult?
First of all, five different European languages are used in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as many local languages. Second, there are tremendous geographical barriers such as mountains and jungles which have not yet been surmounted by rail or highway. This leaves air travel as the only practical link between many countries, and the cost is insurmountable for all but the most wealthy.
What would be the most immediate way to reach the largest number of families in Latin America with Suzuki training?
South American music education is based on two instruments, which are widely used by both adults and children: the guitar and the recorder. I can only assume that the rest of Latin America also uses these instruments widely. The countries with which I am familiar are desperate for training in Suzuki guitar and recorder. I have done what I can in terms of bringing appropriate materials, and the recent efforts of Frank Longay, Lisa Ricketson and Jonathan Crick have been most welcome. One young South American guitarist, Cedar Benevides, had some training with me and attended the 1983 conference in Canada. His busy schedule, however, has made it difficult to assist many students to become teachers.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of the Suzuki programs in Latin America?
These reports from Bolivia, Chile and Peru, as well as members in ten other Latin American countries which we hope to hear from soon, show what tremendous enthusiasm Dr. Suzuki’s ideas have engendered in our friends in the southern hemisphere. Responses to the needs in these countries have been slow in coming, but Marjorie Aber’s donation of four violins may inspire other similar efforts. Parents, children, and teachers in Latin America hope that our appeals for assistance will not be ignored.
Roberta Centurion made an eloquent appeal for the children of Latin America in a May 15, 1992 letter to Marilyn O’Boyle, in which she said, “There is lots of enthusiasm here…. We feel like a missionary group. We opened a lot of eyes and hearts of the other Teacher Trainers we brought (here) about the quality and extent of our work, and our honest intentions…. We need for the ISA and SAA to take us seriously!”
In her birthday greeting from Peru to the SAA on its 20th anniversary celebration in Chicago (quoted in full in ASJ Vol. 20 No.4 on page 11) Roberta closed with a fitting Coda for this report: “Although we are so far away, we are proud to share with you in the mission of nurturing children via the Mother Tongue Method to realize Dr. Suzuki’s dream of a better world, a world of peace.”