Welcome to Coro!

I remember our first meeting with our “organizational guru/Sistema Fellows Team Mom” – Beth Babcock. She simply told us “I am here because I love you”. Since I had only known her for 3 minutes, I accepted her claim but still felt that time would be the true test of Beth’s love. Seven months later I can say with confidence that Beth does love us! She really loves us! And guess what – we love Beth too. But even if we didn’t, her love remains. That unconditional love is what I have for the people of Coro. I loved them before I knew them and now that we have met – the real fun begins!

Founded in 1527, Coro is one of the oldest cities in South America. It is home of the oldest church in Venezuela, the infamous Medanos de Coro (sand dunes) and now, the Sistema Fellows of New England Conservatory. After being here just two days, Coro has become a place to call home. The beauty of the city, coupled with the spirit of the people make it difficult to accept that our time here is only for one week. However, it motivates us to work hard and quickly – and that we are doing. We went to the nucleos right away.

Coro holds two nucleos – the main site hosts multiple orchestras, choirs and a special needs program. The second site, Panela, started less than a year ago with five children in the front room of a salon. Those children soon brought their friends, who then brought their friends, to what is now a burgeoning nucleo. Sound familiar?

We visited both sites on yesterday. Maybe it was the intensity with which the orchestra played, or perhaps the catchy tune from the choir, or it may have been the way the children stand in unison when greeting guests. Whatever the reason, Coro stole our hearts!

So after such a warm welcome on yesterday (see the video below), I returned to the newer site today with David, Julie, Ben and Stephanie ready to work. As they began sectionals on their respective instruments, I waited patiently for choir to start. I had already asked more than once what time was rehearsal – they had responded “now” – and though it was clear that no choir rehearsal was taking place, I didn’t push the issue. I figured I would only confuse matters with my broken Spanish. Nucleo Director Maestra Sandra then explained that the sectionals left no empty rooms for a choir rehearsal, but just wait 5 or 10 more minutes. Indeed, after a few minutes I noticed children arriving, so I assumed that a sectional would end in order for me to rehearse. Instead, Maestra Sandra eventually motioned for me to come outside where she pointed down the street. I saw a boy standing next to a house, waving wildly to me, and that is where my choir rehearsal was held. Each child grabbed a chair, one child grabbed the keyboard, and we walked down the street and set up for rehearsal on the outdoor patio of a neighbor’s home. We rehearsed for over an hour – and it was simply delightful. I later found out that choir rehearsal was really scheduled for 5PM – 2 hours later than when we had shown up. Maestra Maria literally went door to door, calling students to come immediately to the nucleo to work with the visiting Director from the United States. Now that’s love.

Over the next few days, it is my plan to pour that love back into them until they can’t take any more! I would continue this blog, but I’ve agreed to go to the nucleo early in the morning. Choir isn’t normally scheduled for Saturday mornings, but I have a feeling that Maestra Sandra will make it happen.