Celebrating Mexico's Music
The UA School of Music will give special emphasis to music and musicians from Mexico as the country celebrates the bicentennial of its independence and the centennial of its revolution.

By Ingvi Kallen, UA School of Music
Sept. 21, 2010

This year, the University of Arizona School of Music lays the foundation for the College of Fine Arts' innovative Institute for Arts of the Americas, starting with a year-long exploration of the music of Latin America. A special emphasis will be given to music and musicians from Mexico as the country celebrates two important anniversaries – the bicentennial of its independence and the centennial of its revolution.

Thomas Cockrell, director of orchestral activities in the School of Music, has recently guest conducted orchestras and taught in Mexico. "Although border tensions grab the headlines, the arts build bridges and nurture understanding between cultures," Cockerell said. "The Mexican centennial and bicentennial year is the opportune time to launch partnerships and exchanges of people, music, ideas and other arts that will widen the vistas of students, faculty and our audiences."

The Arizona Symphony Orchestra will open its concert season Sept. 25 featuring works by Mexico's most revered composers: Chávez, Revueltas and Galindo, among others.

Janet Sturman, professor of ethnomusicoloy, is active in promoting international exchange of research and performance to advance understanding and recognition of the repertories and practices of Latin music. Under Sturman's direction, the School of Music is holding the Third International Symposium on Latin American Music in January. 

"Music is one of the most valuable tools for cultural diplomacy, and I am proud that our school is assuming a role of leadership in promoting inter-American exchange," said Sturman.

Two distinguished musicologists will be the featured keynote speakers at the symposium: Ricardo Miranda, director of the National Conservatory of Mexico, and Raul Romero, founder of the Institute for Ethnomusicology and director of the School of Music at the Catholic University in Lima, Peru.

Several events are open to the public and will include a pre-symposium concert featuring Mexico's National Symphony principal flutist Julieta Cedillo and UA faculty members John Milbauer and William Dietz, as well as a performance the Peruvian zarzuela "El Condor Pasa" with music by Daniel Alomía.

Sturman is also organizing, through her ethnomusicology program, "Arpas de Venezuela," a week of Venezuelan harp music from Sept. 27 through Oct. 4, with a concert on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Crowder Hall in the UA Music Building.

In November, "El Festival de las Trompetas" will feature trumpet students from the historic Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, Michoacan.

Jazz from Mexico will be highlighted in February with "Bebop México!," featuring a quartet from Morelia under the direction of saxophonist Juan Alzate. Other concerts and recitals by UA faculty members and ensembles throughout the year will include works by Mexican composers in their programming.

Collaborations of the UA School of Music throughout Latin America increasingly allow students and faculty members to travel and share their talents and exchange experience by performing, teaching and conducting research. In the past year, School of Music director Peter McAllister travelled to central Mexico to visit important music institutions and their directors to encourage more exchange and collaboration.

Sturman participated in the International Ethnomusicology conference in Mexico City. Norman Weinberg taught percussion master classes in Mexico City and Morelia while a percussion professor from Morelia conducted a master class at UA via the Internet, part of Weinberg's "Distant Drumming" series.

Pianist John Milbauer performed in Guanajuato and in Chile. The UA's HarpFusion ensemble toured Brazil and conductor Cockrell led orchestras in Morelia and Mexico City. Trumpet professor Edward Reid and doctoral candidate pianist Shu Ching Cheng performed and held master classes in Morelia.

In the past few years, the northern Mexican state of Sonora has hosted performances of the Arizona Choir, Arizona Symphony Orchestra and Arizona Graduate Winds, as well as numerous jazz, vocal and instrumental recitals by UA faculty members and students. Choral conductor Sherrill Blodget dedicated her doctoral dissertation to rescuing a work by Ignacio de Jerusalem. The first performance of this work since the 19th century was given by the Arizona Choir last year.

"Tucson is perfectly situated, with its rich heritage and geographical position, to partner with the leading arts institutions, universities and conservatories," McAllister said about musical collaborations with Latin America. "Our faculty and students share their talents and expertise as we join, from Canada in the north to the southern tip of Chile, in artistic exploration. As we come to understand the music of other cultures, we in turn learn even more about ourselves and the arts that we value here in America."


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Ingvi Kallen

UA School of Music