The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Suzuki Strings of Madison performs in Puerto Rico

June 30, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

The last time The Ear checked in on the Suzuki Strings of Madison, they were holding a 20th anniversary Open House at the First Unitarian Society earlier in the month of June.

Here is a link to that blog posting, which also included information about Suzuki Strings and a link to its homepage:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/classical-music-suzuki-strings-of-madison-marks-20-years-with-a-free-open-house-this-sunday/

Shortly after that, the more advanced student group– the Sonora Strings — left for a tour of Puerto Rico. It strikes The Ear as a wonderful opportunity for cultural exchange and learning, one that other Madison groups should initiate with its Cuban sister city of Camaguey and maybe Havana.

Here, as a guest blog posting, is a first-hand account of that tour to Puerto Rico. It is written by violinist Diana Popowycz (below), who co-founded Suzuki Strings of Madison, where she still teaches. She accompanied the group and also took the photos that accompany her report.

By Diana Popowycz

Sonora Strings , the advanced violin touring ensemble of the Suzuki Strings of Madison completed its annual summer tour by travelling to Puerto Rico from June 15-22, 2011.

The 19 students ranged in age from 11-17, accompanied by the artistic co-directors me and Janse Vincent, pianist Tom Waegli and two chaperone parents, Charles Valmadrid and Debbie Ford.

Sonora Strings has travelled to Costa Rica; Washington, D.C.; Vancouver, Canada; Door County; and Milwaukee. The group has performed in venues ranging from a bullring in a small town of Costa Rica to the Midsummer’s Music Festival in Door County.

This year’s Puerto Rico tour had us playing five concerts.

We started the trip with a concert at the Veteran’s Hospital (below) in Rio Piedres joined by the Puerto Rican Suzuki program of Susan Ashby. The evening concert on the same day was held at the Centro Capuchino, a Franciscan monastery in Trujillo Alto a suburb of the capital city San Juan.

This monastery was our home for the week and was part of  “bosque urbano,” the urban forest. Strange as it may seem by turning off a major highway and driving not even a quarter mile, we entered a true jungle in the center of the city. Going to sleep with the call of the coqui frogs and indigenous birds took some getting used to.

Our later concerts were government-sponsored. We performed for the Department of Finance and for the Puerto Rico Department of State with Mr. Kenneth McClintock (below), the Secretary of State, in attendance. The final concert was at Casa Cuna, a government foster care and adoption agency.

The students were enthusiastically received and feted with parties. They made new friends with from the Puerto Rican Suzuki program, played with the little toddlers at Casa Cuna after their concert and engaged with government officials

Our tours always find us exploring the new country or cities finding often hidden areas not often visited by tourists. In this case, we had two new wonderful friends act as guides, Nora and Vicenz who are tropical ecology specialists in the natural wonders of Puerto Rico. They let us to the Karst region as we explored the Cueva Ventana (http://www.PuertoRicoDayTrips.com/cueva-ventana/) and and an adjacent smaller cave (below) followed by a trip to view ancient petroglyphs of the Taino, Aztec and Mayan people deep in a cave accessed by a ladder. This same cave is where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, La Cueva del Indio (http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/ceuva-del-indio-petroglyphs/º)

Of course we visited El Morro (http://www.PuertoRicoDayTrips.com/el-morro/) , gorgeous beaches, and we took an evening group kayak tour through the mangroves into the bioluminescent bay Laguna Grande, which glowed as we swirled our paddles through the water and splashed water into our kayaks like glittering diamonds.

Our final night at the Centro Capuchino was a full blown salsa dance party with our ecology friend Nora and her entourage encouraged us in new dance moves amidst salsa music blending with the evening coqui frog sounds.

A trip of this nature creates a very special bond between the students, which in turn helps to nurture them as a musical ensemble. The majority of our pieces are student led.  We look forward to many more trips together as Sonora Strings.


Posted in Classical music

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