Brazil — 14 days, 9 flights, 5 cities, 6 master classes, 3 recitals, 3 concerto performances, 5 universities, 2 social music projects, 1 artistic ambassadorship and a lot of pão de queijo! My concert tour of Brazil, in its intensity and brevity, was a whirlwind of traveling, teaching, rehearsing, and performing.
One special aspect of the tour was seeing snapshots of the vastness and diversity of the cultures and climates in Brazil. I went from the urban sprawl of São Paulo, to the suburban, car-dependent Campinas, to the bustling, European-influenced melting pot of Porto Alegre, to the sunny beach culture in Recife, to the polished and sleek city of Brasília.
I also got to meet a variety of Brazilian musicians: in the course of teaching master classes at different universities, I met professors who had studied abroad, arts administrators, and students.
One of my fondest memories from the trip was my collaboration with Brazilian pianist Erika Ribeiro. Our performances had been arranged in advance by some mutual colleagues, but we had never actually met before. We had a lot in common, both being very interested in chamber music and creative recital programming. We put together a recital in just 3 day of rehearsals, and took it on tour, performing at the Fundação Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano in São Paulo, the Universidade Federal Rio Grande Sul in Porto Alegre, and at Casa Thomas Jefferson in Brasília. (You can see videos of our performances here.)
In addition to meeting the musicians of Brazil, I discovered Brazilian composers. I performed a piece that is not very well known in the United States: the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Mozart Camargo Guarnieri. Written in 1940, the piece has influences of Bartók, Ravel, and Brazilian music. It was just an introduction to the world of Brazilian music, and made me want to explore more.
Another highlight was an artistic ambassadorship in Recife, a city on the northeastern coast. I performed with a youth orchestra, the Orquestra Criança Cidadã, the main ensemble of a social music project which provides music education to children from the low-income community of Coque. I played two concerti with the group, and taught master classes to the students in the orchestra. I got the sense that this particular group of students, although they have fantastic and committed teachers, have not yet encountered many guest musicians coming in from abroad. The students were wary at first, but warmed up quickly, and our final performance together felt like a celebration.
I’ve been interested in cultural diplomacy for a long time, and this trip was a special experience for that reason. Coming into contact with the diplomatic community, I encountered many Americans who have chosen to live abroad, in what seems like a grand adventure. Their commitment to fostering goodwill among Brazilians and Americans through cultural projects is beautiful to see. I also saw how my presence, through performance and education, made an impact. Sometimes, when I’m in my “regular life,” I feel like musicians often have to shout to be heard, to constantly make a case for why their art or art form is relevant. But in Brazil, I suddenly felt a shift in perspective. The response to my playing was so vibrant, immediate, and welcoming that I felt its impact in a new way.
After returning home, I’ve been thinking about the new possibilities that were opened up by my trip to Brazil. I’m eager to explore more music by Brazilian composers (much of which is not often performed, or even published, in the United States) and bring it to new audiences. I’m also looking forward to the possibility of future collaborations with Erika, and the possibility of going back to Brazil next year to perform! Finally, I hope Brazil is just the beginning of a new adventure of forming musical connections through cultural diplomacy… one that can lead anywhere in the world.