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Música de Argentina

           Please note: If you are not a music major/fairly interested in music, this post is probably not worth reading. I apologize in  advance for any disappointments associated with the theme of this blog post.

          Although the principle reason for choosing to study abroad was to improve my Spanish, it cannot be forgotten that my degree is in music. Thus far, the music events that I have had the opportunity to attend have been well worth the countless misunderstandings and feelings of cluelessness during conversations with the locals. After spending three weeks here, my impression of Mendoza’s arts programs is that they are alive and well.

Music at the university: Last week, I was finally able to go and meet with the bass professor at La Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, where I plan to take lessons as well as (hopefully) chamber music, orchestra, popular music of Argentina, popular music of Latin America, and various music theory classes. I probably won’t actually end up taking all of these classes, but IFSA gives us a two-week “shopping period” where we can try out classes before we register, so I plan to at least try all of the said classes. I had mixed feelings after my initial meeting with the bass professor. I was so excited to hear that there were 25 other bass students at the university (all of whom I believe are performance majors, but don’t quote me on that just yet!)!  TWENTY-FIVE. That is double the size of the bass studio at Shenandoah (granted, SU is much smaller, but still…It’s a lot more than I was expecting!). The professor seemed really personable and he appeared (or pretended?) to be excited to have me join the studio for the semester and to teach me about the music and the bass methods that are used in Argentina. I know what you are thinking: so if there are 25 bass players and a seemingly-great bass professor, what was the downside to this meeting? There are 25 bass players, and the school has THREE instruments (of good quality, at least!) to be shared by any of the students that don’t own a bass (this includes me, since I decided to leave my bass at home due to the risks and ridiculous expenses of bringing it along). Not only are there three instruments, but there is only one ‘bass’ room, which is also used for lessons with the professor for almost five hours a day. The worst realization of this meeting: The building is only unlocked from 8am to 9pm, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. As in, I cannot practice at all during the weekends. After coming from a conservatory with which I had access to my instrument 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this was the biggest dose of culture shock with which I was faced since I arrived. Although I am going to have to learn to practice more productively and away from my instrument, I know that at the end of the day, it is good for me to not be able to practice on the weekends. This way, I will have the time to meet more locals and spend time with my host family on the weekends, rather than locked in a practice room by myself. I also realized later that the sharing of the room is not so much of a problem, because if someone is already practicing, the front desk employees will find another instrument’s room for you to practice in (so naturally, I was given the key to the violin room, because that was the room in which no one was practicing. Okay, just kidding, I didn’t actually get put in the violin room. Bad music jokes, I know…) We are beginning classes this week, and I am excited to meet some of the other music students and compare the music classes here to what I am used to back home. Every time I have gone to practice at the music building, it feels just like I am back at Shenandoah: there are always kids sitting outside, playing guitar and singing, or hanging up posters for some concert or performance, etc. After spending the first two weeks not practicing, and living in a different world with a language that I can hardly speak/understand, it was such a powerful feeling the first time that I went to practice bass in Mendoza. I finally felt, even if just for the hour, like I belonged in this place, and I loved being able to express myself with a language with which I was a little more familiar than Spanish.

Music in the community: I have had the opportunity to go to two music concerts since I have arrived in Mendoza, and they were both incredible. Last weekend, a few IFSA students and I went to guitarist Esteban Morgado’s tango quartet concert, which was one of the coolest concerts I have ever attended! Almost all of the quartet members performed at least one piece alone, and the bass player used electronics in his solo to represent the whales in Patagonia. The quartet played several pop songs with a ‘tango’ twist, as well as authentic tango music by composers like Astor Piazzolla. We definitely got our money’s worth out of this concert: It cost a mere $5USD to attend, and the quartet played for 3 hours, nonstop! I was also really impressed with the turnout: it was very close to being sold out, and the audience was extremely enthusiastic (I think we gave at least 4 or 5 standing ovations). The only part of this concert that was a bit of a bummer was that the Mendoza Philharmonic Symphony was playing a program at the same time, a couple of blocks away. Although I missed them playing Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, I decided that the tango concert was something that would be much harder to find in the U.S. Last night, I was able to go to the Mendoza Philharmonic concert and listen to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, which was a lot of fun! The tickets for last night’s concert were $7 and it was complete with 2.5 hours of music, an encore and two standing ovations. Although the orchestra in Mendoza is no Berlin Philharmonic, it is very clear that the musicians here really love what they do, and that the culture still strongly supports classical music.

Arts in the community: Music isn’t the only department of arts that is flourishing in Mendoza. There are theater performances all over the city, all of the time, and there are several art museums that are constantly inaugurating new exhibits. I have attended an acting improvisation show, as well as a scripted play of a compilation of famous poets’ poems from all over the world. Both shows were pretty difficult to understand due to the nature of the program, but nonetheless it was still an enriching cultural experience and it was fun to see so many supporters of the arts. I plan to check out the art museums soon (I tried going once, but the museum closed right as I arrived due to political elections this weekend), and I am excited to continue to explore the music and arts in the community during these next four months!

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