By McCalee Cain
The woodwind section cheerily buzzes their mouthpieces, the string section waits anxiously with their bows upright in rest position, and the sound of young musicians tittering excitedly in both English and Spanish fills the room. The young students are in town thanks to the Sandpoint Music Conservatory’s Music Without Borders program.
SMC’s fifth annual Young Artist Exchange welcomes three exchange students from Mexico this year: Josué Sanchez, Misael Lopez and Santiago Acosta. Sanchez hails from Mexicali, and Lopez and Acosta are both from Tijuana.
The Young Artist Exchange program involves a week of mentoring younger students at the Summer Youth Orchestra Workshop, followed by a week at the Spokane Youth Symphony Camp.
“They’re all phenomenal musicians,” summer camp coordinator Ruth Klinginsmith said. “It’s been really awesome to have the kids from Mexico.”
Sanchez plays the double bass, Lopez the clarinet and Acosta the bassoon.
“At first, it was hard for (Santiago and Misael) to play because of the difference in altitude,” said Elinor Reed, parent volunteer and host mother for the boys. “The instruments respond differently to different pressure. I told them it will take a couple of days to get used to it!”
The Music Without Borders program was inspired by El Sistema, a government-funded musical outreach organization founded in Venezuela in 1975. According to the organization’s website, El Sistema is “a tested model of how a music program can…dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s most needy children.”
The organization has spread from Venezuela to the United States as well as around the world, and even has a chapter in Spokane.
“El Sistema has inspired programs at the Sandpoint Music Conservatory,” Klinginsmith said. “It inspired us to create this exchange to broaden the experiences of students here, and also to give opportunity to students from Mexico to come somewhere different.”
The Young Artist Exchange has also sent some Sandpoint musicians and conductors to Mexico for the past three years, offering a broad array of experiences for aspiring students.
This isn’t the boys’ first time in Sandpoint: They participated in the Youth Exchange last year as well, and performed at the Festival at Sandpoint’s family day concert. This year, they were invited to come back to Idaho to mentor at MCS.
“At first, it was a little nerve wracking because we’d never been so far north,” recalled Acosta.
The Summer Youth Orchestra Workshop will feature Dr. Phil Baldwin, conductor of the Spokane Youth Symphony. Baldwin will work with the children for a few days before conducting the performance on Friday.
The boys will perform at The Sounds of Summer orchestra and choir concert will be Friday, July 21, at 3 p.m. at the North Summit Church, 201 N Division.
“We’re glad to be here mentoring kids that are very enthusiastic to learn,” Lopez said. “The Reed family are very good people, they gave us a great welcome when we arrived. We feel so fortunate.”