Dare to Impact

by Danielle Cho

In October we had the honor of presenting at the 37th annual Fulbright conference in Washington DC.  We started off our session by playing the second movement from Kryzsztof Penderecki’s string trio.  If you don’t know it, you should listen to this beast of a piece. After we finished, we heard one lady in the audience exclaim, “What WAS that?!”  That is exactly the kind of response we wanted to hear! We wanted the audience to be a little offended and exposed to new sounds, which would eventually start getting people to think outside of the box.  The theme of the session was, “Dare to Impact”.  Isn’t that so perfect?  Because we are Sound Impact.

Sound Impact was formed a little over a year ago by myself, Rebecca Jackson and Tiffany Richardson with the common goal of inspiring communities and igniting change through the universal language of music.

A common question we get asked a lot is, “When did you start playing music?”  Well, I was five; Rebecca was three; Tiffany was seven.  From a very young age, we have spent countless hours in a practice room perfecting our technique and musicianship.  (Hopefully we reached Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour practice rule by the age of twenty.)  Playing music has taught us values such as dedication, discipline, perseverance and confidence.  Playing chamber music has taught us teamwork and communication.  Music has given us a community and a path to follow from a very young age.

We feel very lucky to be professional musicians that have performed in some of the biggest concert halls across the world.  But we reached a point where we began to feel restless and wanted to do more.  We wanted to use music in a bigger way, to go outside of the box, and push our boundaries.  How could we use music to serve a greater good, a greater purpose?

This is the premise of why we founded Sound Impact.  Whatever project we take on, we want to use music as a tool to empower people all across the world.

Many people ask if we are a string trio.  Well the answer is no.  Sound Impact is a collective of musicians, and therefore, each project brings aboard different collaborators.  We like to rotate the roster of musicians and instruments to diversify the sounds.  So far we have had some pretty awesome guest musicians from all over the world.

Many of you might have seen that we went to Costa Rica this past summer.  We embarked on a five city, ten day tour presenting masterclasses and concerts in SINEM schools all across the country.  SINEM is the national music education program which is government funded and open to all children.

In Costa Rica, we quickly learned there was a scarcity of music, instruments and resources but the students approach music with such eagerness and passion that these issues are merely small hurdles, which they face fearlessly.  We learned it wasn’t about us, but it was about giving back to these children the very things we had the privilege of learning as young kids.

This trip also showed us how through music we could develop ties of friendship and solidarity between different cultures.  This is something the Fulbright does so well.  The Fulbright program is the largest US exchange program and fosters cultural exchange and mutual understanding.  In 2006, I had the honor of receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in Barcelona, Spain.  Without a doubt, this changed the trajectory of my life.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for the Fulbright experience.  It opened my eyes to a new perspective, to a new way of approaching the world and different cultures.

During the conference, we heard the powerful words of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo – “I am free thanks to education.”  He spoke of the way that education freed him to pursue his dreams and become the man he is today.  Programs like the Fulbright allow hundreds of thousands of people the access and resources to make their dreams happen.

Similarly, Sound Impact wants to use music as a tool for empowerment in children across the world.  We can only hope to instill dreams and confidence for a brighter future.

As Senator Fulbright said, “The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.”

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Danielle with Mrs. Harriet Fulbright at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center

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Beyond the Limits

By Tiffany Richardson

Beyond the limits…there is no better way to describe Chris4Life. Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation was founded in 2010, by an incredible group of people including my good friend, Michael Sapienza. Michael and his family and friends joined forces in the wake of the loss of his mother, Christine Sapienza, to bring awareness to this disease. In less than five years, Chris4Life has risen to become the leading colorectal cancer advocacy group in the world.

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Above: Tiffany Richardson and Michael Sapienza

I had the privilege of performing at the launch event, and being introduced to this group of people, and this cause. I was floored to hear that colon cancer was the second leading cause of cancer death, yet it was a topic people avoided. Feeling strong about spreading the word, and changing the future of this disease, I started volunteering, which later led me to be involved as a co-chair of the Young Professional Board and eventually I was honored to become a member of the Board of Directors.

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Something I love about Chris4Life is that we’re always looking to push the envelope…have you seen the “Love Your Butt” ads plastered all over DC and even New York City’s Times Square???

 

 

Chris4Life really wanted to do something different at the Blue Hope Bash this year, and that’s where Sound Impact got involved. Chris4Life’s philosophy is that the arts are of the utmost importance in our world as they inspire, empower, and strengthen us during times of adversity, values Sound Impact holds highly as well.

We were thrilled that Chris4Life wanted to commission a piece based on the story of the organization, highlighting how the journey through this disease is a difficult one, yet through hope and perseverance and energetic efforts we can make a difference. And we were also thrilled that Michael Sapienza would join us on trumpet for the performance…did I mention he was a professional trumpet player pre-Chris4Life? We recruited Michael Caterisano, aka DJ Cutlet, who has an exciting multi-faceted career as a composer and percussionist to compose the commissioned piece. With a unique instrumentation of string quartet, two trumpets and tabla, joined by the powerful dancer Vincent Thomas, we were able to make this idea and story come to life.

 

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Sound Impact was honored to perform the Chris4Life commission as a part of the BEYOND THE LIMITS Blue Hope Bash in October. It was an unforgettable experience to be a part of this amazing event that raised over $250,000 for the fight against colon cancer.

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Left to right: Danielle Cho, Amy McCabe, Rebecca Jackson, Vincent Thomas, Michelle Kim, Tiffany Richardson, Debu Nayak

Project CR: Meet the Students!

In honor of “Arts in Education” week, we thought it would be great to hear from the amazing students we met in Costa Rica!

Here are some of our favorites words and photos from our visit…

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What did you learn from Sound Impact’s visit?

“Magnificent. I am in love with your music. It is the most beautiful music I have heard in all my life. My biggest congratulations- extraordinary musicians.”

“Magnifico, estoy enamorada de su musica, es lo mas hermoso que he escuchado en toda mi vida. Mis mas grandes felicitaciones, musicos extraordinarios.”

-Student from SINEM Acosta

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“That all people whatever their nationality can unite and do incredible things. I am amazed that these great examples of people exist.”

“Que todos las personas sin importer la nacionalidad se pueden unir y hacer cosas increibles.  Que las personas ejemplares existen.”

-Student from SINEM Acosta

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“I learned many technical aspects of the bow and also how to improve my sound. I also learned the importance of posture and relaxation. I also really appreciate the humility of these musicians, their high level of musicianship and the fact that they have come to help us.”

“Aprendi muchas tecnicas de arco y para mejorar el sonido, tambien la importancia de la postura y relajacion. Tambien valere la humildad de ellos, que con su alto nivel, vienen a ayudar de forma muy amable.”

-Student from SINEM Liberia

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“I learned that people who make a lot of effort can do great things.”

“Aprendi que las personas dando mucho esfuerzo pueden llegar a hacer graces cosas”

-Student from SINEM Acosta

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“I learned to appreciate more the music we play. It also helped me a lot to obtain more security in my playing that I didn’t have before.”

“A valorar mas la musica y lo que tocamos, me ayudo bastante para obtener la seguridad que no tenia antes.”

-Student from Emusa Santo Domingo

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What importance does music have for you and for humanity?

“Music can awaken in us feelings, new and indescribable. It is a form of expression for both composers and musicians. For humanity, it gives us a gift that has always existed and changes with time but also is preserved.”

“La musica puede despertar en nosotros sentimientos conocidos, nuevos e indescriptibles, es una forma de expression tanto para compositors como interpretes.  Para la humanidad les un regalo que siempre ha existido, y cambia con el tiempo pero tambien se conserva”

-Student from Emusa Santo Domingo

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“It is like magic for me and it signifies friendship between all humans.”

“Es como magia para mi y significa amistad entre todas las personas.

-Student from SINEM Liberia

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Why do you have interest to play and learn music?

“I love playing my instrument and in general music gives all people a different perspective of the world. Music fills and complements me.”

“Porque el instrument me gusta mucho y la musica en general lleva a las personas a ver el mundo desde otra perspectiva. La musica me llena y complementa.”

-Student from Emusa Santo Domingo

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“I like it a lot, I feel good, and it transports me to other worlds. I can imagine wonderful things, it gives me much happiness and it helps me in all things that I do.”

“Porque me gusta mucho, me hace sentir bien, transportarme a otros mundos, imaginar cosas maravillosas, le da diversion y vida a todo, me ayuda en el resto de que haberes.”

-Student from Emusa Santo Domingo

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“For me, music is my life. I can not explain it concretely but I love it and it makes me happy.”

“Para mi la musica es mi vida, no puedo dar un explicacion concreta pero amo lo que hago y me hace feliz”

-Student from SINEM Acosta

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“Because music fills me.”

“Porque la musica me llena.”

-Student from SINEM Acosta

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PURA VIDA!

Project CR: Stories from Tour

After 9 months of planning and through the generous support of 100+ donors, Sound Impact’s 10 day non-stop, action packed tour has come to an end. Joining Danielle, Tiffany, and Rebecca were guest artists Juan Jaramillo and Costa Rican native Elizandro Garcia Montoya. In the coming weeks we will post extended entries by each musician but for now the following are short snippets – just a few of the many moments experienced on this unforgettable and richly rewarding trip.

Rebecca: We are so grateful to Elizandro and Juan for giving so much and embracing and demonstrating the mission of Sound Impact. Not only did they share their musical gifts but they also helped us communicate through LOTS O’ translation, carried gear, patiently waited when things got delayed, infused the atmosphere with fun through their sense of humor, and the list goes on. Even though we only came together as a quintet for the first time less than two weeks ago, we worked as a well-oiled machine, each of us looking after each other and stepping in to pick up the slack whenever needed. In almost every city including this one, the children were so eager to learn – Juan always offered to work even longer hours to give more time to the kids. Prior to our departure one of the youngest clarinet students reminded Elizandro he said he would play a solo for them. He kept his promise and we even delayed our departure so that he could fix her clarinet. Throughout the tour I had the pleasure of observing these and many more acts of kindness.

Tiffany: I was awestruck by the stories of the students learning so much, but still having a lack of resources. Although SINEM is a government-funded program, we learned that there is still scarcity of music, instruments, and proper supplies. The students approach music with such passion that these issues were merely hurdles, which they faced fearlessly in their journey through music. We all had the privilege of witnessing that SINEM creates a home, a community, and a family for the students and families, and we were so wonderfully welcomed to this community. Every program possessed a strong culture of support between fellow students. The older students mentor and teach the younger students, and you can see clearly that this helps the older students gain responsibility, leadership, and maturity. There’s a culture of encouragement and collaboration in SINEM, that should be present throughout the worldwide musical community. For me, this entire experience reaffirmed that we can all connect through music, and it is our responsibility as performers to contribute this to our communities.

Danielle: On arrival to this beautiful country, our first stop was San Ramon, Elizandro’s hometown. Irene and Brittany (my host mother and daughter) met me at the school, and wow! what an impression they made. The first thing Irene told me was, “Yo soy tu madre!” She was bounding with energy and excitement and ready to take me to town and show me the festivities of San Ramon. When we arrived at her home, she quickly made me something delicious to eat with coffee… she took me to a fabric store and had me pick out some fabric and made me a beautiful dress so that I could wear it to the beach the next day. I was blown away by the generosity and love this family showed me after only knowing me for a few short days. It reminded me of the experience I had when I first moved to Spain, not knowing the language or culture. Having the opportunity to meet really genuine and sweet people who open their homes to me is something very special.

Juan: It has been five years since I have been back to visit my home country of Venezuela where I started my musical studies through the internationally renowned “El Sistema” program… seeing the landscape, being temporarily adopted by families and eating homemade food every day was like being back in Venezuela… Costa Rica confirmed once again that I always have the power to change lives with my violin in one way or another. The best example has been the comment that one our students wrote on facebook: “…you have returned the inspiration I needed for the violin and life in general…” I think that in only 10 days we have reached so many people that took something from interacting with us not just musically, but culturally and personally. Regardless of whether or not they pursue music full time, I hope that the experience Sound Impact brought these students will be a memorable one, not just musically.

Elizandro: One of the primary objectives of this trip was to bring forth the importance of music to make a positive change in the world, as well as show how music can be instrumental in developing stronger ties of friendship and solidarity between people. I want to highlight the beautiful gesture of the young students at Sinem Liberia. They organized a farewell for us, and offered token of appreciation by performing Costa Rican folk music. Costa Rican folk music, called “simarrona”, is used for entertainment and to celebrate special occasions in Costa Rican culture. These and many more events made this trip unforgettable and it surpassed all expectations we had for this cultural exchange. We will forever be grateful for this experience. Viva Costa Rica!

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Traveling Diaries

by Danielle Cho 

As I sit here on the plane returning to Washington DC, I am filled with many emotions from this incredibly inspiring trip to Costa Rica. As a musician, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to travel to many different countries and encounter new people and cultures.  Personally, it enriches me both as a human being and a musician.  This was my second time to Costa Rica (I will return again in three weeks with Sound Impact). This particular trip, I performed with jazz guitarist Mike Rood as part of serving the Abraham Project, a wonderful organization based in San José, Costa Rica. I first met Mike after playing chamber music with his father, violinist Richard Rood, at Rebecca’s festival Music in May.  Richard, Mike, and I have spent some winters in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I always knew Mike was an awesome guitar player and one day I mentioned, hey we should play some duets together. So last year, we got to perform some in Washington DC and New York City, and what I enjoy so much is that i get to venture outside of the classical music world.  I even took a stab at some improvising (go figure!)  

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We presented concerts in marginal communities in San Jose, often for people who don’t have access to hear live music concerts. One special experience was to perform at a small community in San Jose called Río Azul. It’s an extremely impoverished community, basically a slum, where drugs and prostitution are rampant.  Perched on a beautiful mountainside with vibrant colors and lights, many of the houses are made of tin – the foundation so precarious that it seemed if there were a huge storm, the houses would be washed away in minutes.  While I know there are so many communities like this, far worse, all over the world, I haven’t been exposed to many and to perform for this community was quite a special experience.

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Another highlight was performing at the Montufar Elementary School. I already know some of the children who attend this school from my trip last year.  Some of these kids are part of the Abraham Project’s children’s homes.  Many of them have horrific unimaginable stories with parents either in jail or unable to care for them.  But when you meet these children, they are some of the sweetest, most purest human beings I have met.  Their hugs are powerful.  As we went from classroom to classroom, the kids were screaming with excitement and cheering loudly to the music. What joy and eagerness! 

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A story that particularly touched me was a girl who attended our concert last year, when Rebecca Jackson was playing.  She was so enthralled with Rebecca’s violin playing that Rebecca told her, next year I want to see that you are playing the violin too.  She came to my concert this year to share that she has been studying the violin for the past seven months, and she’s loving it! How awesome is that!  It goes to show that you just never know who you’re going to impact.  We have to keep doing what we love and sharing that passion with others all across the world! 

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And… well what would a trip be without some sightseeing in this beautiful country?  Normally when I’m traveling and performing, there is hardly any time to get to see the sights.  It’s usually jam packed into a morning off or a few hours tucked in a day, but it was nice to get a WHOLE day to decompress and relish in the lush Costa Rican landscape, especially after the jam-packed week.  We started the day with a coffee tour of a plantation, then to Poas Volcano, and ended up at La Paz Waterfalls.  The views were spectacular, and I got to practice my photography skills with my new Canon lens. 🙂 

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coffee beans

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I don’t know why but I completely freaked out about having a toucan sit on my arm, but after a couple minutes of screaming, I got to take the picture. 

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So I’ll be returning to this beautiful country in less than three weeks with an amazing team – Rebecca Jackson, Daniel Andai, Tiffany Richardson, and Elizandro Garcia-Montoya.  We’ll be visiting five cities – San Jose, San Ramon, Acosta, Heredia, and Liberia.  Thank you again to all our kickstarter backers.  We look forward to sharing all our stories with you, and stay tuned for a documentary coming your way in the Fall!

 

 

From Costa Rica to the U.S….

Elizandro is one of our guest artists for our upcoming outreach tour to Costa Rica. Read on to learn more about his journey.

A young Elizandro Garcia-Montoya

A young Elizandro Garcia-Montoya

From San Ramon to Cleveland…

By Elizandro Garcia-Montoya

Learning music in a small community like San Ramon, Costa Rica presented several challenges in my early training. First of all, instruments, sheet music and accessories were very scarce. Specialized education was a luxury and implied traveling a long distance; usually 2 hours by bus to get to a clarinet lesson, choir or theory class at the conservatory in San Jose.

As a young student, I found it very exciting to learn about music and the clarinet. My desire to learn made it bearable to travel 3 times a week to San Jose for my lesson, class and rehearsals. I was constantly entertained by learning facts about composer’s lives, and how their music came about.

My first trip abroad as a young musician came at the age of 13. I traveled to Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico with a Youth Wind Ensemble sponsored by the Costa Rican Government and the OEA (Organization of American States).  This trip was a great inspiration for me and it was then when I decided to dedicate my life to music.

Many events and opportunities for learning have occurred after that memorable trip. Solo and chamber music competitions, summer festivals, tours; but it was during my studies at The Cleveland Institute of Music that I saw one of my dreams come to reality. I was invited to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra! On my first performance with the Cleveland Orchestra we played Also Sprach Zarathustra by Strauss. Not only the piece itself is majestic, but the event marked the realization that dreams do come true!

Performing the famous opening theme of Also Sprach Zarathustra, also used by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie “2001 Space Oddyssey”, was a very special moment in my life. I could feel very strong emotions running through my body as the piece started. I could not help but  remember my humble beginnings in San Ramon, Costa Rica.

I am motivated to help Sound Impact’s mission to bring learning opportunities to these students in Costa Rica. I am certain there are many students that will use the resources we bring and will start dreaming on about a life full of fulfilling experiences in music.

Following a Cleveland Orchestra Concert

Following a Cleveland Orchestra Concert

 

Heartfelt Gratitude

Monday June 16, 2014

By Rebecca Jackson

When you dig deep and think back to when you were a little kid, what were some of the big dreams you had? This is something I have been thinking about over the course of this most extraordinary of days…

Earlier today we had our regular meeting via GoogleHangout. Amidst discussing the many logistics involved in planning our Costa Rica tour, there were outbursts of joyous laughter as we remarked on being just 6% away from reaching our funding goal. During our meeting we were alerted of a couple more donations which caused more squeals of delight.

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Celebrating via Google Hangout

As the day progressed our goal was achieved and exceeded. Not only have our needs been met to fund our tour but exceeding our goal allows us to bring even more music supplies for the students than originally planned – such excitement and gratitude!! During my long commute I reflected…

I recalled in the brainstorming phase how passionate we were about this outreach project but also accompanied by feelings of trepidation about how or if we could find the funding to make it possible. This quickly took me back to being a young child when dreams or desires were uninhibited by fear or doubt. How easy it is to depart from that unfettered wonder and pursuit.

How glad I am that Danielle, Tiffany, and I decided to take a leap of faith. Daily we have been moved by the generosity of messages and donations. Attaining our goal signifies more than the means necessary to empower hundreds of Costa Rican students. Equally significant, each supporter has given us a renewed sense of purpose, reaffirming our mission to serve through music.

I hope our journey inspires you to continue to dream and shoot for the stars!

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” –Pablo Picasso

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Rebecca, Tiffany, and Danielle

 

A conversation with Dani

For our 2014 Costa Rica tour, we are absolutely thrilled to be joined by violinist Daniel Andai.  Dani is not only an incredible violinist but a passionate music educator, as Artistic Director of the Kilington Music Festival and violin professor at the University of Texas in Edinburg.

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Tell us a little about your background. How did you get into music?

I got into music as a young boy when my parents gave me a toy violin as a gift.  It seemed to have been my favorite toy because I showed enough enthusiasm for it that my parents felt compelled to start me on violin lessons.  Apparently the hard work I put into the instrument was paying off because I started winning competitions, leading the local youth orchestras as a concertmaster and traveling to perform.  I was fascinated by expanding my knowledge of instruments and learned to play the cello and piano as well.  By the time I was in high school, I was being invited to different parts of the world, as far east as Russia, to perform as a soloist with orchestras.  By the time I earned a doctorate degree from graduate school, I had performed as a soloist, chamber musician, clinician and concertmaster of professional orchestras in over 50 countries, on 5 continents, and over 30 States in the U.S. and won violin professor positions at universities in Texas and Florida.

You are the Artistic Director of the Killington Music Festival.  Can you talk about your experience there? 

Being the Artistic Director of a music festival is a highly rewarding position.  I am responsible for unifying a vision of educational standards and performance goals for interested students, faculty artists and audience members, so that they have a memorable experience. Managing all the artistic needs of the 32 year old festival is particularly meaningful to me because I am an Alumni of the festival.

Why is music education important to the younger generations?

Education in general is one of the most powerful tools our world has in shaping its future.  Experiencing high quality education permits a student to meet or exceed their potential.  Music education in particular offers many benefits that students can use in their musical and social development. While these benefits are too many to describe in detail here, as a violin professor, I have witnessed first hand the power that music has had on students that have permitted them to take control of many other aspects of their lives.

Can you tell us about a rewarding experience you’ve had working with underserved communities? 

I recently created and directed a project to link music composition, paintings and a symphony orchestra to young students from an under-served area of Miami.  The students’ creative and inquisitive minds yielded astounding results.  In several sessions over a period of a few months, my team and I witnessed how this project gave students an opportunity to express their inner love of music, art and poetry, regardless of their skill level, that resulted in 5 symphonic world premieres performed by The Miami Symphony Orchestra during one of their subscription series.  It was moving for everyone involved, the orchestra, the audience, the parents and most of all, the young and talented students!

What is your process when tackling new works?

Tackling new works can seem like a daunting experience if one isn’t used to the process.  The first thing I like to do is acquaint myself with the work as thoroughly as possible.  I like to have an idea of the style it should be played in, find different sections that appear throughout the work and also understand the technical demands of the piece.  Once this is in order, I work on combining the style with the technique, to achieve the sound and character I feel the piece is asking for.  Only then do I decide on the bowing and fingering decisions I’ll use to achieve the character and sound I seek.

Who has been your most influential musical hero?

This is a challenging question to answer because I have learned valuable lessons from so many people I have encountered over my lifetime that have contributed to my musical development.  Sometimes I wish I could meet some of the the composers whose music I interpret, to thank them for their inspiration, and other times, thank those individuals who shared their wisdom to help me nurture my musical voice.

Why is music important for our world?

Music is all around us.  We experience some aspect of music, sometimes without realizing it, in just about everything we do.  Everyone has the power to connect with rhythm and pitch at some level.  What is often times challenging is the organization of these elements to achieve expressive results, to be effectively shared with others. Music allows people to express feelings when words would fail to do so, while it is a tool that can also be used to enhance feelings when words are available.  Having the ability to coordinate pitch and rhythm to match an emotion helps develop ones brain and motor skills, in addition to being able to communicate using one of the world’s most universal languages.  It is also one of the biggest promoters of peace that I have ever encountered.  Imagine, 40 nations can be represented in a symphony orchestra to work towards a common goal – to experience music together!

If you think of your favorite teacher, what made them a great teacher?

My favorite teachers had something in common: they were talented and deeply cared about music and the transference of that music to me.  I also think that in order to be a great teacher, the student needs to be inspired and ready to learn.

Who is your favorite visual artist and why?

Lately I have been focusing my attention to the Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer.  I am fascinated by his techniques and possible methods of painting.  He seemed to be a visionary, and I appreciate that.

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Hailed by The New York Times as an “Exemplary Leader” for leading members of the New York Philharmonic and the Manhattan School of Music in Carnegie Hall, violinist Daniel Andai has shared his versatile artistry as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, concertmaster, conductor and recording artist in major concert venues across five continents, the Middle East, the Caribbean and over 30 United States.

Daniel Andai is concertmaster, frequent soloist and guest conductor of The Miami Symphony Orchestra (MISO). He was also concertmaster and frequent soloist of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in New York with whom he recorded the Billboard’s highly rated SONY Classical CD’s and made televised solo appearances for a crowd of millions during Mexico’s Bicentennial celebrations at the Angel de Independencia. He has held concertmaster positions with orchestras in Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, and France, performed in the sections of the New York Philharmonic and the Miyazaki Festival Orchestra in Japan.  Daniel Andai is the Artistic Director of the Killington Music Festival in Vermont and violin professor at the University of Texas in Edinburg.  Previously he served as visiting professor and chair of the Marialice Shivers Endowment in Fine Arts at the University of Texas in Edinburg and on faculties at Miami-Dade College and New World School of the Arts. He earned a doctorate degree from the University of Miami, the masters and professional studies degree from the Manhattan School of Music and the bachelor degree cum laude from Lynn University Conservatory of Music.

 

If you would like to help support our Costa Rica tour, please visit Sound Impact’s KICKSTARTER page for more information.  

 

 

Growing up in Costa Rica

Sound Impact will embark on a 10-day tour of Costa Rica this August to present a series of masterclasses and chamber music concerts in both rural and urban venues,empowering children through music, serving their communities, and promoting cross-cultural relations. 

by Elizandro Garcia-Montoya

It is my pleasure to write a few words about the importance of Sound Impact’s tour to Costa Rica. I’m a clarinetist born and raised in Costa Rica.  I feel honored to have been invited to join the Sound Impact tour to Costa Rica for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is to bring education and musical supplies to schools in remote areas in Costa Rica.

I grew up in San Ramon, Costa Rica, a small town in the Central Valley about 2 hours northwest of the capital San Jose.  My father, Victor Julio Garcia, started a music program in San Ramon in the 1970s, which received some support from the local high school and the municipal government in San Ramon.

The music program started with a few students and some instruments donated by the municipal government. These instruments had been in storage for many years after the military band era in the 20’s and 30’s. As you can imagine, these instruments were in pretty bad condition, nevertheless they offered an opportunity for young students to make their initial steps as music students.

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The program named Youth Orchestra of Instituto Julio Acosta, started with about 9 students. In a few years the program grew rapidly due to my father’s effort and the perseverance of the students, and became an important part of the community life in San Ramon, and later a model for music schools in Costa Rica. In his effort to find ways to make the music program grow in San Ramon, my father encouraged a few students, including myself, to study at the National Conservatory in San Jose. The idea was to expand our musical education at the conservatory, and then come back to San Ramon to share this knowledge with the other students at the school.

The Youth Orchestra of Instituto Julio Acosta in San Ramon grew way beyond its expectations and by the late 1980’s it was one of the most successful music programs in Costa Rica. Students from this program went on to study music at national and international institutions.

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One of first students of this music program was Manuel Alpizar, now the director of Sinem in San Ramon. After his initial studies in San Ramon, Manuel Alpizar went on to study at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.  Many students of this program became not only professional musicians, but also successful professionals in other fields.

The basic premise of the program was to use music as a powerful tool to teach discipline, perseverance and to empower change through music.

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Clarinetist Elizandro Garcia-Montoya is an active performer and educator. He has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Charleston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Jacksonville Symphony and the State of Mexico Orchestra in Toluca, Mexico.  A prizewinner in the 1999 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, he has performed with groups such as the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Pilgrim Chamber Players and The Chicago Ensemble, among others.  Mr. Garcia-Montoya has performed at numerous music festivals including Tanglewood, National Repertory Orchestra, Kent/Blossom Music, International Festival at Round Top, Spoleto/USA and Yale University’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.  Mr. Garcia-Montoya completed his master’s degree at Rice University.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, a professional studies diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and pursued additional post graduate studies at DePaul University.  Mr. Garcia-Montoya lives in Chicago, IL and is currently principal clarinetist of the New Hampshire Music Festival and the New Millennium Orchestra in Chicago.

For more information on our tour, please visit:

 

 

Musings on Project Claytie

by Rebecca Jackson

For my final afternoon in NYC, I met with Claytie Mason, the writer and director of the emerging play “The Big White Door,” a play about children dealing with life threatening illness. I enjoyed sharing a quiet moment with her in contrast to the intensity and concentration required earlier in the week.

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Claytie and I met 5 years ago at The Vine Conference. I remember telling her I love collaborating with other artistic disciplines. She said, “Well actually, there is a ballad about two sisters and a fiddle, ‘The Wind and Rain,’ that I’ve wanted to develop into a play…” A partnership was forged. Last year I introduced her to Danielle and Tiffany, and it was through Claytie’s work with hospice that we had the opportunity to perform for some of the patients last fall in NYC.

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When you meet Claytie, you are immediately captured by her gentle and compassionate spirit and also to her thoughtful approach and pursuit of beautiful art. Her approach is foreign to the training I’ve received as a classical musician but I have found it so valuable in expanding my scope. She pushes her artists to play, to search, to develop, to be open to the unknown, to be ok without every detail being explained. This feeling of suspension allows for artistic freedom and exploration – the trust leads to creations only possible through encouraged spontaneity.

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“The Big White Door” has three main components – (1) the music, (2) scenes in a children’s hospital which included bluebirds, monsters, animals, and an acrobat, and (3) a narrator reading the stories about kids, family members, and caretakers impacted by life threatening illness. With miraculous patience, Claytie was able to herd half a dozen child actors ranging in ages from 6-12, all while directing Sound Impact, stage management, lighting, adult actors, floating animals, lanterns, and serving as narrator in the play.

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What a treat to learn and be challenged in the universe of acting. Tiffany was featured playing Penderecki to amplify a monster scene. Danielle used her cello to call to one of the boys and he eventually wrapped himself around her end pin as she played Song of the Birds. I became monster when I entered a hospital scene confronting 6 year old Molly, eventually sitting next to her to improvise a melody as she lay in my lap. During rehearsal, the image that came to mind as everyone scurried around was an octopus with 157 tentacles. So many moving parts with the potential of getting tangled up and turned around!

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Claytie brought everyone together for a pre-show ritual – she labeled an electric candle for all sixteen of us. As we each held our candle, she had us meditate on one kind thought about ourselves, one kind thought about our character, and one hope for the performance. Then together we turned on our candles and put them into a box where they stayed the entire show.

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The performances were magic. As people entered the 15th floor room in Riverside Church, they were instructed to silently enjoy the musical meditation. Danielle, Tiffany, and I played trios as the sun set over the picturesque backdrop. The entire team worked together and created an experience that had many, including me, fighting back tears.

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What a special collaboration! There is still much to process emotionally and mentally but we believe this work needs to be shared. Claytie hopes to take “The Big White Door” into many hospitals and communities, to provide a space for meditation and healing, and to open up the conversation about issues that are often avoided because they are so difficult. We, Sound Impact, hope to share in this journey.

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