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Teaching online cello students in Venezuela

| Tulio Rondon

Tulio Rondon, cello professor at UW-Eau Claire, recounts his experience this summer teaching at the Academia de Verano Mozarteum Caracas:
“This summer I taught at the Academia de Verano Mozarteum Caracas (Summer Academy of Mozarteum Caracas). The festival had students from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Italy, France, and USA. The students’ age ranged from 5 to 30 years old, and all of them were equally excited and eager to make wonderful music. I was very sad and disappointed that I could not go in person to my country Venezuela, and share with all the wonderful students and colleagues this great experience that lasted 10 days. Of course due to COVID-19 the festival had to go on online. I was specially worried about Venezuela - my country is going through a very unfortunate time in its history, politically and economically, making every single action and daily routine activities a struggle. Most people in Venezuela wrestle to obtain the essential and basic elements of their lives. This situation in Venezuela made their efforts more incredible to me. The courage, pedagogical vision and passion of the summer academy organizers, Adriana Virguez Cruz and Maria Fernanda Montero was simply inspiring and heart-warming. They are two incredible pedagogues and musicians that are fighting every day through music for the youth of Venezuela, true real super heroines. I feel very lucky and honored to have been invited to teach at this festival. In addition, all of the students’ professionalism and readiness for learning and making music was a great gift for me as a teacher.

One of the biggest challenges I feared during the festival was the internet connections. In many cities in Venezuela the electricity is turned off by the government daily without a regular schedule. It could go out for a few minutes, for hours, and sometimes for days. As you can imagine this situation made me doubt a bit what kind of results and outcomes we would have during the festival. I was absolutely amazed by the incredible desire to learn and to fully participate in the festival by all students. The students were so incredibly professional, including the little ones, when zoom did not work. We changed to other applications and when that did not work, we tried a few hours later or the next day. All of the students’ maturity and handling of these problems was really inspiring, encouraging and very motivating for me.

I never forget where I come from, and also how I had to fight and search for knowledge and new horizons, but my privilege and busy life today in the United States makes me sometimes pay less attention to the importance of giving. The gift of knowledge and encouragement is something we can all offer, and it is invaluable for all regardless of who and where you are. I always give my students 100% of what I can offer, but during this festival I felt I received even more in return.”