Abby Rehard with a group of UEA percussion students and Professor Tarcisio Braga
Ben Harting and Abby Rehard with MU alums Jailton and Helida Santana
Abby Rehard offering berimbau workshop to UEL students
Ben Harting after a presentation at Helida Santana's elementary school
The School of Music now has three independent official partnerships in Brazil and this summer, our faculty and staff will visit all three. With funding from the MU Staff Development Award, staff members Ben Harting and Abby Rehard were able to visit two of the locations—the Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM) in Manaus and the Universidade Estadual de Londrina (UEL)—for weeklong residencies with each program. In Manaus, they participated in the first edition of the Festival Internacional de Música do Amazonas (FIMAM), organized by MU alumnus Bruno Nascimento (MM ’17, Orchestral Conducting). Throughout the week of June 10th, Ben and Abby each gave three three-hour masterclasses to 20-25 percussion and saxophone students at the Universidade Estadual do Amazonas (UEA) and presented a well-received duo recital at the Instituto Cultural Brasil – Estados Unidos (ICBEU). Abby also gave a lecture entitled “A Panorama of Female Percussionists in the United States and Brazil” to a group of interested musicians, many of whom were female percussionists from community drumming groups. She was also able to join UEA’s Grupo de Percussão on a steel pan part for an arrangement of "Blue Bossa" during their concert on Thursday night. Ben and Abby played with the Orquestra de Música Popular da UFAM during an open rehearsal on Friday, performing two choro arrangements by MU Director of Jazz Studies Dr. Sam Griffith along with a handful of Brazilian charts. Outside of the festival, they visited a couple of rainforest reserves and observed performances of regional music including forró and boi-bumbá with a group of faculty and students from UFAM.
They then traveled 1,511 miles south to Londrina, visiting with MU alumni Jailton Santana (MM ‘04, Collaborative Piano), José Marcello Casagrande (MM ‘07, Percussion Performance), and Heloiza Branco Lopes (MM ’01, Choral Conducting) and their music students at UEL. After watching Brazil’s first World Cup game against Sweden, they presented a duo recital and gave three three-hour masterclasses on campus throughout the week, discussing a number of topics with students ranging from free improvisation to minimalism, Taiko drumming to berimbau, and wellness techniques to chamber music playing. On Wednesday and Thursday, Ben and Abby also visited two elementary schools in Londrina to play a selection of their recital pieces and participate in a Q&A with around 50-60 students at each school. In their spare time, they enjoyed visiting a couple of Festas Juninas, attending a stunning concert by guitarists André Siqueira and Conrado Paulino and the Orquestra Sinfonica da Universidade Estadual de Londrina’s concert of nationalist works, and savoring a number of home-cooked meals and engaging conversations with UEL professors and their families.
This was a great experience for both staff members. “This experience was eye-opening to the differences between the university system in the United States versus the experience students have in Brazil. It is helpful to have a better understanding of their system as I assist students to navigate the application and audition process at MU.” – Ben Harting
“I will never tire of the connections we make as musicians and how small the world can feel when you meet someone from across the world who has close ties with another musician you do (this happened twice to me while we were in Brazil). The exchange of ideas between the students and professors we met in both cities was incredible; everyone was so generous in sharing compositions, albums, and research with us. I’m entirely grateful for having this opportunity to strengthen our ties with UFAM and UEL.” – Abby Rehard
We were excited to send our staff members to Brazil to connect with our alumni and introduce new students to our School of Music. Our staff members, just like our faculty, play a vital role in the health of our School and often create long and meaningful relationships with our students, who then turn into alumni. We were delighted to see these relationships stewarded by these two outstanding staff members. We thank the MU Staff Advisory Council, via the Staff Development Award, for providing this opportunity for them.