Saturday, March 20, 2010

Week 20: Cultural Exchange in the State of Aragua

Students Outside Cagua Nucleo

The staff and faculty of FESNOJIV (El Sistema) have been incredible hosts to the Abreu Fellows and have given us so much information and inspiration. Now in Aragua, we have a chance to give back.

While visiting five different nucleos throughout the state, Rebecca, David and I have been able to teach classes to students and adults, including a workshop in Maracay focused on singing games and dances for teachers coming from all over Aragua. These five nucleo sites are:

Cagua: We were fortunate to attend the opening ceremony of Cagua's new site along with their honored guest, Dr. Abreu! This nucleo has a very strong orchestra and Venezuelan Folk Music program, which is an extraordinary feat considering the students have been playing their instruments for just one year. The nucleo began in September 2008 in a school building across the street.

Colonia Tovar: This town was founded in 1843 by a group of German settlers who recreated their homeland in the Venezuelan mountains. The nucleo of 300 uses the university during the weekend and a church during the weekdays for its orchestra and choir rehearsals. One unique component of this nucleo is its lutiere training program for string instruments. With 21 students and 6 teachers, this workshop serves the entire state of Aragua.

La Victoria: While their space downtown is being renovated, this nucleo is being temporarily housed in a post-independence colonial home. With an enclosed courtyard and enough rooms to house 650 students, the nucleo echoes with the music of choirs, cellos and even electric cuatros. Rebecca, David and I were treated to mini-concerts throughout the center, including an early childhood program sung in English and Spanish.

Maracay: This nucleo has the most comprehensive program in Aragua and is recognized for its early childhood program. In one evening alone, we observed a toddler program (1 to 3 year olds) packed with moms and dads tapping sticks together with their child to the beat of Mozart; a beginning orchestra for parents learning alongside their child and a strings program for 1 to 6 year old children bowing a rhythm together on their miniature instruments. This strings program has 90 students enrolled with 30 of them still in diapers!

San Vicente: This nucleo is situated next to the largest garbage dump in the state of Aragua. San Vicente serves about 250 children, many whose families work in and live around the dump. After working in a building at the dump's entrance, the local government provided FESNOJIV with a building designed specifically for the community's musical needs, including beautifully hung artwork throughout the center.

Wherever we go, nucleo directors and staff have opened their doors to us, taken time to be interviewed, shared their programs and invited us to watch their classes. In return, Rebecca and I were thrilled to be able to share some of the musical songs, games and dances that my students back in Juneau, Alaska request over and over again. With Rebecca translating in Spanish, we taught at each nucleo and held an evening workshop for teachers from all over the state - some whom had traveled over an hour to get to Maracay. Thank you to both Alvaro and Rebecca for translating several of the songs into Spanish.

I'd like to dedicate this 3-minute video documenting our cultural exchange to the incredible teachers of the nucleos in Aragua, as well as to the staff and students at Glacier Valley Elementary School who will recognize the tune of these songs now sung in Spanish.

Teacher Workshop Participants in Maracay, March 2010


  1. Sharing--isn't it great. I just had the opportunity to share some GV stuff (esp some things I learned from you) at a conference on Friday. Thought of you and GV fondly. I also thought more about the power of teachers sharing. M

  2. Wow. You are all having so much fun!! I love to see the huge smiles and hear such interesting cultural exchanges. Thank you for all your research and documentation, Lorrie. I cannot read enough. Like you, I am also very interested in the pedagogical processes and foundational music studies that provide such a solid basis for excellence as the child matures. Keep it the great work! -Diane Cline, St. Lucia String Project