Summer Guitar Workshop for kids in San Ramon, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Part 3

Despite my being sick the first two days of the last week, I am happy to report the guitar workshop was a success!

The 14 students who completed the 4 weeks of classes performed in a recital (in Spanish, "presentacion") on the last Thursday, July 26, 2012. Here are some images from that presentacion:

Here were my suggestions for follow-up plans at the Centro. (Some suggestions are general and would be valuable in other class settings, in Nicaragua or anywhere).

Report to the Administration at
Centro Promocional Cristiano
San Ramon, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, C.A.
Regarding the 14 students completing the guitar workshop, July 2012

Tuesday-Thursday Class
8 students in this group:
Ages: 7, 7, 12, 13, 13, 13, 14, 15

Every student in this class had talent and interest in learning guitar!

The Chavarra Hdz Brothers have the most experience with guitar (they have one at home and take turns practicing it). Both are especially ready to read music and learn new right and left hand techniques. Here they are playing "Muelle de San Blas" by Mana:

Ideally, every one of these students could have one-on-one lessons. Special attention and gentleness will be required with the youngest students (7 yr. olds). Both were excellent students and each had dedicated parents that dropped them off and picked them up each day. In this situation, as in most of Latin America, where elementary students only go to school for 4 hours, these particular students could learn a lot if they continue. I recommend scheduling a regular afternoon time for one-on-one lessons and focused practice time. Focused practice time is where I ask the student which song they will practice for the next time segment (10 to 30 minutes). If necessary, remind them what they promised to work on!

The other students are good friends and all are excellent at both technique and memorization. They all had courage to play for class. I did have to speak twice to one of the older students about being polite, behaving respectfully. To his credit he always responded to requests from the instructor!

Monday-Wednesday Class
10 students completed these sessions.
Ages: 8, 8, 12, 12, 12, 12 ,12 , 14, 14, 15

The youngest children have much desire to learn. They would be good candidates for private lessons. Three of the middle age group of the students were especially gifted in understanding and mastering musical examples and songs. The other students are probably best suited for a group class, but if they show more interest, it would be great to give them lessons one-on-one.

Ideas to continue (this information especially for local teachers at the Centro):

Continue with each group classes. Try always to give a new song each new class. You will need to insist students take part of the class practicing (rehearsing) individually (for example, after the first hour, spend 30 minutes individually practicing - every student finding a quiet place to practice). As I mentioned above, during this period, it is important that each student say which song they are going to practice, and at times, whenever they are distracted, remind them of the song they promised.

I recommend giving one-on-one lessons. Even if only during class, it is important to listen to students individually. Ideally in front of the class (master class style) or in a quiet corner.

Practicing on guitars: There is a school in Managua that has a good system. On days when the Center is open, but not a day of class for the particular student, they allow students to practice guitar in the center. During business hours of course, and ideally in a room where they have some monitoring (ideally only one or maximum two guitarists practicing at a time). If you want this option for students, of course you will need to tell students and parents the rules of this program.

Ideally the student have a notebook for all classes and all practice sessions. And it is good pre-requisite for the student to obtain permission to practice outside the class, because if they are allowed to pratice, they need specific notes as copied in their notebooks.

I am sending some melodies that can be used to teach students. However since you are experts in guitarra folclorica, a good song to teach is Mazurca Segoviana. It is possible to write the strings and fret numbers on this song and they can copy this, the "tablature" of the song.

Two days for each group does serve students. They can have dramatic improvement, if they can practice on days that they have no class.

Recitals and presentations: I recommend trying to give presentations every two months. If you need extra time, take it. It is important students can play 4-6 songs on stage.

Profesor Donald, the painting instructor, also a great student who learned all the guitar class material AND substituted for me on the days I got sick and was recovering from intestinal parasites!

Rosario Gonzalez, the director of the Centro Promocional Cristiano

Faculty and support staff: (from left to right) Melissa Abjabshir (ProNica director), Dona Margarita Sanchez (one of the founders of the Centro), Lillian Hall (former ProNica Nicaraguan director), Armando Ramirez, Carmen Gonzalez (ProNica Delegation Coordinator) and myself.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, the directors of ProNica introduced me to the Centro last year, so though they did not donate money or guitars to this particular project, they helped make it all possible.

I sadly left Nicaragua on August 6, 2012, leaving behind the eight guitars and detailed notes about each student and recommendations for future guitar classes there. Rosario Gonzalez mentioned they have plans to hire local musicians as future teachers. I met several, talked to them about the teaching possibility, and made my suggestions to the teachers and the administration about how to continue.