Musicians To Participate In Bolivian Exchange

Jan. 26, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Tara Lestarjette

This spring, Sam Houston State University students will share their education with a group that has become known for being so passionate that they would risk their lives for their music.

In 2003, television viewers around the world watched in horror as young musicians rushed into the center a burning building to save the possessions they held most dear, their instruments.

The City Hall of El Alto, Bolivia, was more than a public facility, it was the location where the students of the Municipal Orchestra of El Alto became acquainted with the gift of music, practicing and growing in their skills. For these students, music was more than a past time; it was their way of life.

Instructing the passionate students, was maestro Fredy Céspedes, a globally recognized violinist with numerous accomplishments. Céspedes served as concertmaster of the Bolivian National Symphony Orchestra for more than 30 years, as well as a professor of violin at the Honner Academy in La Paz, where he formed the first youth orchestra of Bolivia in the 1970s.

With an ear for music and a heart for students, Céspedes went beyond what those surrounding him deemed possible and focused his strength and attention on creating an orchestra for the youth of El Alto.

“The youth of the city needed an activity, something to keep them occupied. What better way than to educate them with music,” Céspedes said.

As an extremely poor city, the location holds many depressed and delinquent individuals. In June 2001 Céspedes brought music to a dry city as he played his violin in the main square parks, drawing the attention of the youth. Over time, the Aymara boys and girls were standing in lines to learn the gift.

“They quickly discovered the beauty of making music. The youth surprised me with their passion to learn and the speed at which they grasped the art,” Céspedes said.

Over the years, the orchestra has grown as the young musicians have been eager to learn. Despite the lack of support, Céspedes continued to train the students who were willing to risk all for the gift of music. As the efforts of the orchestra validated by the talented students and the significant progress they had made, financial support was gained and instruments were donated. However, Céspedes still needs assistance with the many training musicians.

The SHSU School of Music has now come along to support the endeavor, joining in an exchange partnership that will not only benefit the students of El Alto but provide excellent experience for Sam Houston in the process.

Javier Pinell, professor of music at SHSU, is among those who admire the work of Cespedes and was influential in establishing a relationship between the university and the maestro.

Before Pinell came to Sam Houston, he was a professor at the University of Wyoming and was invited to play the violin in Bolivia with Céspedes. The invitation was accepted and a friendship began.

During his time in Wyoming, Pinell traveled with a group of his students to visit the orchestra in Bolivia. The students of Wyoming assisted in instructing the youth of the El Alto orchestra, encouraging the young musicians.

“It was a magical experience,” said Pinell. “Under the guidance of Céspedes, I watched the students grow as individuals and musicians as they passed down their knowledge to an eager generation who are hungry for music.”

Pinell continues to work with Céspedes by supporting the El Alto orchestra by bringing that exchange program to the SHSU orchestra. The exchange will begin in February as a team of two faculty and two students will travel to Bolivia.

“There is so much to be gained from an exchange program,” said Pinell. “Our students have a lot to offer the musicians of El Alto. Their talents would be well appreciated by the youth of the city and those supporting the orchestra.”

The responsibilities the SHSU students will be given during the exchange involve personally assisting the students of the El Alto orchestra, teaching their knowledge of music among many others.

“I’m very excited. The students learn to appreciate the education they have received and develop a heart of compassion for not only the students of the orchestra, but the community of Bolivia,” said Pinell. “The students will learn how to communicate and gain many insights during the trip.”

“It is such a blessing to work with Sam Houston State University,” Céspedes said. “The musicians of El Alto are very thankful for the continued support and encouragement from the university.”



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