By Rebecca Jackson
SOUND IMPACT (www.thesoundimpact.org) is a collective of renowned musicians united in a movement dedicated to serving communities and igniting change through live performance. Founded in 2013, Sound Impact performances have reached hospice patients, homeless families, orphans, music students and incarcerated youth. After a successful tour in 2014, Sound Impact returned to Costa Rica this summer. The Project Costa Rica 2015 team included Costa Rican Elizandro García-Montoya, Venezuelans Juan Jaramillo & Horacio Contreras, and Sound Impact co-founders Rebecca Jackson and Tiffany Richardson. Below are impressions by each team member as they journeyed across the beautiful Central American country.
Rebecca Jackson, violin
on·o·mat·o·poe·ia [änəˌmadəˈpēə,ˌänəˌmädəˈpēə/], noun, the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo, sizzle ).
On this tour of Costa Rica I learned something new. Dogs have a distinct bark, “Wow! Wow! Wow!”
The motivation for our Project Costa Rica tour is different than an average tour. Normally when scheduling, time is planned for proper rest to recoup following long travel and before the concerts begin, there is time for the instruments to adjust to the new climate and ample rehearsal is planned. For our 2nd trip to Costa Rica, we wanted to try and accommodate as many stops as possible, especially with individuals like Andrei (21 year old director of an orchestra in the slums of La Carpio) reaching out to us. We were all scheduled to arrive in San Jose on a Friday and have rehearsal, teach our first classes and perform concert #1 within our first 24 hours in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, my flight was severely delayed out of Albuquerque and I didn’t arrive till the wee hours of Saturday morning. The already tight schedule was squeezed even further which made for a very exciting start to tour. We were all exhausted but I distinctly remember rehearsing in a tiny office (the only room with air conditioning!) and everyone was upbeat and excited to see 8 months of preparation for these kids coming to fruition. Not even the volcanic coffee eruption created by Juan in order to caffeinate us could get us down!!
There were so many beautiful moments I witnessed and experienced on tour which can all be boiled down to a single word which I was told I repeated on a regular basis, “Wow! Wow! WOW!”
Juan Jaramillo, violin
For me, Project Costa Rica has been for sure a very special time since it reminds me a lot of my home country of Venezuela, the way I grew up with El Sistema, and how it allows me to give back to the community. Our trip last year reminded me of how important was our visit to come teach, bring donations, perform, and above all, connect with the students, teachers and families that welcomed us. This year, the mission of Sound Impact couldn’t be better justified than our visit to La Carpio! That to me was probably the single most important visit we had in our tour. To be able to reach out and help one of the poorest communities in Costa Rica primarily with the power of music, is something literally priceless. I really hope that we can go back next year to follow up with students and schools, to keep reaching out and helping new locations, and to continue performing live for children and families all over Costa Rica.
Tiffany Richardson, viola
It’s hard to believe we were in Costa Rica less than a week ago. The culture and energy throughout Costa Rica is so different than that of home, and such a wonderful thing to be immersed in during tour. It’s truly a privilege to visit and work in an environment and culture that truly embraces music and celebrates life in such a palpable way, no matter how dire the economic and social circumstances can be.
This year’s trip was incredible for many different reasons, but one aspect that stood out to me was revisiting students we met last year. It was a wonderful experience to reconnect with these students, and see the progress they’ve made over the past year. Even though we spend a limited amount of time at each school during tour, I could feel that the students valued the time we had together. And I am grateful for the time we had this year to expand on what we began last year. Even though it’s been a year, there was a feeling of continuity, and especially at SINEM Liberia, I had the chance to see some older students as they were guiding the new young beginners. I love that the SINEM program fosters this relationship between the older students and the beginners, and I was happy to have the chance to help this process with the violists.
Another stand out moment of tour for me was our visit to Camerata de Luz Sifais, a young orchestra built in one of Costa Rica’s most economically deprived areas. When we mentioned to other Costa Ricans we’d be visiting this area, they cringed with fear. As we drove in, I began to understand where their reactions came from. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever witnessed, a quick glimpse into how this community lives, but these overwhelming feelings were soon replaced as we entered the school, and heard the students playing as a part of the ensemble. The program was started in recent years by 21 year old Andrei Montero Cascante, a truly impressive and inspirational individual. Andrei has built an incredible program, which has absolutely given some of these students a new direction in their lives. It was incredible to witness first hand the power of access to music education to change the course of someone’s life. I look forward to the opportunity to revisit this school and community, as well as all of the communities we visited!
Until next time, magical “Narnia!”
Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, clarinet
My recent trip to Costa Rica performing with Sound Impact surpassed all of my expectations. This group of musicians committed to a noble cause and with a clear idea of the mission of the organization, helped bring music instruction, books, accessories and moving performances to underprivileged schools in my home country Costa Rica.
I could not help but to think and remember people who had made a difference in my own life growing up and studying music in Costa Rica. One of those mentors was Aline Benoit, a clarinetist in the Boston Symphony who came to teach us. I was only 10 years old when I met Aline. She helped me get my first Rose étude book and a working clarinet mouthpiece. Aline and I could barely communicate those days because of our language barriers. However, this difference did not detract from her determination to help us. I will forever be grateful to Aline for her dedicated effort to teaching us and help create a way in which we could evolve.
Many years after that initial encounter with Aline, during my studies at the Tanglewood Music Center, Aline attended a TMC concert and noticed my name and home country listed in the program. She immediately arranged to meet in person. I had not seen her in many years but as soon as we met, we embraced and she let me know how proud she was of my accomplishments. I could only think about how much I love this person who had filled me with inspiration and motivation to learn and love music.
Sound Impact’s Project CR 2015 provided a way for me to be in the same position as my mentor Aline Benoit to make a difference in many young music student’ lives in Costa Rica.
Horacio Contreras, cello
I always wanted to visit Costa Rica. In my imagination, a place without an army and filled with volcanos, marvelous beaches, wonderful landscapes and exquisite coffee sounded really good. Therefore I was extremely excited when I received the call from my childhood friend Juan to invite me on a tour throughout the country. During the many hours of travel to several cities where we performed I could enjoy a country that actually is more beautiful than I thought before. However, it was the people which I enjoyed the most. I was lucky to have two wonderful Costa Ricans as fellow team members, Elizandro and Diego. They showed me how serious at work Costa Ricans can be while at the same time being extremely easygoing and humorous in the day to day relationship. I could also enjoy the wonderful hospitality of some Costa Rican houses that provided me much more than I needed. The students were warm and so eager to listen and learn at every place we went; it was very stimulating to have such an audience for our concerts! If I add then that I was sharing with one of the more enjoyable teams I have worked with in terms of the mission, the professional quality of the work and the warmth of the relationship, I have to say that this was one of the more complete and fulfilling experiences I have had in my life as a musician. I am really grateful for the opportunity Sound Impact and the organizing Costa Rican institutions gave me to be a part of this project. I just hope I can do it again.