by Greg Zuber, principal percussionist
With the rise of conductor Gustavo Dudamel to international prominence, programs like Venezuela’s El Sistema, where he received his early training, have garnered a great deal of acclaim. This results from the many social virtues the program extolls, including the value of classical music, both in participation and appreciation. The Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA) is a training program with similar goals. YOA is comprised of young professional and pre-professional musicians from every corner of the Americas, from Alaska through the Caribbean, and down to Patagonia.
This summer, Craig Mumm, Associate Principal Violist of the MET Orchestra, and his wife, former MET Orchestra violinist, Mary Ann Mumm, are traveling throughout the Caribbean as part of a residency and tour with YOA’s Global Leaders Program, an “annual yearlong leadership-training course that supports the transformation of exceptional musicians into leading social entrepreneurs.” They will be working with local youth music programs in three different countries, giving lessons, coaching the orchestras, and playing chamber music with the students.
The first stop is Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where YOA will have a two-week joint residency with the Joven Filarmónica de la República Dominicana, the Dominican youth orchestra. Next, they will travel to Haiti to work with students from around the country at three separate music schools. The village of Cange hosts an annual summer music camp for over 300 Haitian students, while Hinge, a rural town outside of Port-au-Prince, serves 200 students, most of whom are beginners. The last stop in Haiti is at a small music school in Croix-des-Bouquets, which serves young students from Cité Soleil, an impoverished, densely-populated neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital. The final country on the tour is Jamaica, where they will be doing outreach activities and working with the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica.
Craig and Mary Ann are excited to share their enormous gifts with aspiring youth. Both teachers and students benefit from programs like El Sistema and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. For teachers, it is profoundly inspiring and moving to work with passionate students, who often come from impoverished backgrounds; for the students, the opportunity to work one-on-one with artists of such high caliber can afford life-changing insights, not to mention inspiration that lasts long after the program ends.