Music without Borders

by Daniela Peña

Translated by Roslyn Raney

The migrant phenomenon is mentioned increasingly often in the news and in social media. There is talk of walls, deportations and laws, with every word giving more attention to uncertainty, fear and, in some cases, violence. In this context, today more than ever, the arts play a starring role in this most relevant mission: relaying a message of unity and brotherhood between peoples. The El Sistema Auka program in the state of Baja California, Mexico, understands this role perfectly. Through music, it is developing an admirable educational program for children and teenagers who, thanks to their musical education, become ambassadors of peace and brotherhood among nations.

Just a few weeks ago, seven musicians from Baja California participated in ENCUENTROS: México y las Américas Unidos por la Música (ENCOUNTERS: Mexico and the Americas United by Music), an event at which more than 200 children and teenagers from countries including Canada, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Argentina, the United States and Mexico met with the sole purpose of forming bonds of friendship and making music at an advanced level under the baton of the well-known conductors Arturo Márquez and Gustavo Dudamel. This meeting ended last Sunday, March 4, with a moving concert performance in the Main Hall of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

“I really enjoyed seeing the young people get along so well despite the language” said Marli Calderón, who is in charge of the string section at the Rio Nuevo Children and Youth Orchestra, one of the groups belonging to Sistema Auka. Maestra Calderón was educated in El Sistema in Venezuela, where, some years ago, she also had the opportunity to be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. “The energy in the rehearsals with Maestro Gustavo, the children’s admiration of him and the level of concentration really impressed me. It was very important for me now, as a teacher, to see the impact this can have from another perspective”, she added.

“For many of these children, being directed by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel was truly a dream come true, and frankly I did not think it would happen so soon. It was a great opportunity and provided excellent motivation, since some of them are considering studying music professionally, while others will end their musical studies at this juncture. No matter what they decide to do, there is no question that this was a significant experience which will encourage them to continue on their path to a career in music, or, in some cases, bring their musical studies to a end in the best way imaginable.”

Only a few weeks later, during the afternoon of March 16, another historic event took place. The border dividing Mexicali (Mexico) and Calexico (California) became the meeting place where young musicians from the Rio Nuevo Orchestra and the Calexico High School Bulldogs Band played music together, despite being on different sides of the wall, in a celebration of the brotherhood that exists between the two cities – a concert the likes of which had never been seen before.

“For at least an hour, we wanted to convert the wall into a bridge, and to enjoy the music which we all have to offer”. These were the words of Antonio Malavé, conductor of the Rio Nuevo Orchestra. “For these young people, the fact that they could play and share with the musicians from the other side is very moving, and I feel very pleased. As a teacher, it fills me with pride that they are the artists gracing this event with their presence, and that we are the means of establishing this bridge of peace between our two countries”, he added.

FRATERNO was the name given to the concert which took place as part of the celebration of the 115th anniversary of the founding of the City of Mexicali, and dignitaries from both cities were in attendance. Maestro Malavé summed it up: “Mexicali and Calexico are two cities which are very united, despite the uncertainty about what may happen and how matters of immigration on the border with the United States may develop. At least, thanks to this concert, people are happy, and enjoying a sense of family and identity. There is a message of unity and peace, and we hope this will happen at other places along the border, and at other borders around the world as well. Music is the best instrument of communication, peace and joy.”

Images by Victor Medina, La Crónica