The Costa Rican Youth Symphony plays a note of harmony in the Region

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: January 21st, 2012

By Vanessa I. Garnica

Six years ago, a young man sat in the audience at a concert given by the Costa Rican Youth Symphony Orchestra in the town of Siquirres near EARTH University.  He had never seen a symphony play live and was deeply moved.

“I fell in love with classical music on that day,” remarked Rodrigo Flores, now 21 years-old. “Even though I had been interested in the violin, seeing the Symphony solidified my love for this art.”

Shortly after that concert, Rodrigo began studying music and the violin, and this past January joined the Costa Rican Youth Symphony’s retreat at EARTH University.

For the past eight years, EARTH has been hosting the orchestra’s yearly retreat, where the musicians practice up to eight hours a day for six days. Their time at EARTH amounts to about four months of their usual practice schedule.  At the tail end of their retreat, EARTH coordinates free concerts for the symphony in the communities surrounding the Institution and on the campus.

This year, the symphony gave one concert in Cariari, where about 400 people were present and a second concert on EARTH’s Guácimo campus to a gymnasium full of students, staff and residents from the surrounding communities.  Among the audience were Rodrigo’s parents and close family members who traveled from Siquirres to see him play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Richard Wagner’s the Mastersingers of Nuremberg.

“We are very proud of him. Rodrigo took us by surprise because he became interested in the violin at a sort of advanced age,” said Gerardo Flores, Rodrigo’s father, who still lives in the Siquirres area along with his wife and Rodrigo’s mother, María Virginia Piedra.  “Rodrigo sleeps, eats and lives for music. It has become his life.”

Mr. Marvin Araya, director of the Youth Symphony Orchestra, said that by having someone such as Rodrigo, who came from the Limón region, play with them as a guest shows the children in the audience that they could perhaps be part of this symphony one day.

“This is a very rewarding experience that demonstrates that the cycle we started has finally come full circle,” said Mr. Araya, who has collaborated with the Institution for years to coordinate concerts in different communities near the University’s two campuses.

Mr. Araya, a well-regarded Costa Rican musician with an extended musical repertoire, has been at the helm of the Youth Symphony Orchestra for the last 17 years, and is a product of the musical program himself.

In addition to bringing classical music to the nearby communities with their concerts, the performance on the EARTH campus also served as a welcome to the 115 first-year students entering the University this year.

Diddier Bolaños, first year student from the eastern region of Nariño in Colombia, was present at the concert and said he had never experienced a classical music concert in his life.

“Where I come from, we do not have a lot of exposure to classical music,” explained Diddier.  “To come to EARTH and see a symphonic orchestra play live is an amazing experience.”

Another audience member, Mirta Escobar, visited the campus from the nearby community of Germania. During her first visit to the campus, Mirta explained how pleased she was with the night’s performance and with EARTH University efforts to include the community in this type of cultural events.

“I think it was great moment to be here and listen to this wonderful music that otherwise I may not get to hear having lived all of my life in Limón [province],” said Mirta, who has a tight bond with EARTH students who visit and volunteer with the primary school in her town. “I hope this is not the last concert of this kind I get to attend.”