By Andrew Langford
In America, we have an abundance of music. In truth, we have an abundance of just about everything, but have you ever really realized just how much music we have all around us? Over 100 million people stream music online for an average of 13 hours a week. Buying music is so easy, in any medium–online, CD, or Vinyl–and it surrounds us in so many venues. It’s in our cars, our restaurants and stores, our movies, and it’s quite likely you’re hearing some right now. There is not only quantity, but also quality. There are so many fantastic musicians that never make it big, and competitions and auditions in all of the many diverse genres face intense competition and high standards of quality. We have hundreds of years of musical accomplishments and creations at easy access, and obtaining musical instruments to add what we can offer is most often not an unattainable challenge. But that is in no way true of every country around the world.
It is well known that people in developing countries do often lack the basic necessities of life: food, water, and shelter. However, continue up the hierarchy of needs and you will find further shortages related to the needs for education and art. The presence of music, not to mention the other arts, is incredibly formative in educating and forming conscientious, creative, and well adjusted societies and individuals. Art allows us to express ourselves and communicate in deeper, more meaningful ways; it allows us truer understanding and purpose.
Beyond any lofty explanations for why developing nations with struggling economies need more musicians, it’s also what they desire. Not only is there desire, but there is an enormous amount of talent and ability just waiting to be discovered and grown. Take for instance, the Royal Drummers of Burundi. Never heard of them? Let me assure you that the day you hear and see them live will be a day you will never forget: back flips, dancing, huge drums balanced on the head while being played… this excellent tradition is rooted in centuries of techniques and traditions passed down from generation to generation.
When one of the co-founders of The International Artist Initiative (TIAI), Matthew Langford, traveled to Burundi in 2011, he met an inspirational musician who demonstrated a large vision, desire, and need for musical teaching and learning. Apollinaire is a self-taught saxophone player and worship leader who, since that conversation with Matthew, has started the first formal music school in the entire country of Burundi, The Umudiho Music Academy. Langford and the other co-founder of TIAI, Michael Tavani, traveled back to Burundi in the summer of 2013 to connect with and assist Apollinaire with his small yet vibrant music school and his mission to spread diverse and high-quality musical learning and experience throughout the country. During this past summer (2014), Apollinaire visited the Eastman School of Music to take a music education course with world-class faculty in addition to having private voice and saxophone lessons.
TIAI plans to continue supporting the work Apollinaire is doing with The Umudiho Music Academy by taking teams of excellent musicians to Burundi to perform and teach. One purpose of these trips will be to share in making music with the people of Burundi while also celebrating their rich culture.
This summer, TIAI is going to Burundi with a group of musicians consisting of a brass quintet, a string quartet, a flutist, and a guitar player/worship leader. This historic trip will be the first time that both a brass quintet and a string quartet will perform concerts in Burundi.
To learn more about how you can support and be involved with TIAI’s trip to Burundi this summer, TIAI’s talented artists, and TIAI’s vision for the future, visit www.theinternationalartist.org.
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