11 Nov Argentinean Harmonica Students Play Lee Oskar Melody
Featuring the Playing For Change Diamante School Students
We are delighted to share news about Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist and harmonica teacher, Martin Chemes, who successfully presented his 4th Annual International Harmonica Festival (4to Festival Internacional de Armónica de Rosario) in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina recently. As the founder of this festival, which is the only international harmonica festival in South America, Martin is very pleased with its continued growth, as evidenced in this year’s record-level attendance.
Best of all, Martin shares a heartwarming story involving the schoolchildren whom he teaches at the Playing for Change Foundation (PFCF) school in Diamante, which is approximately two hours away from Rosario. For background, as our regular LOH newsletter readers may recall, we’ve shared previous stories about all of the wonderful work going on at the Diamante School, with Martin regularly visiting this PFCF school to teach the children how to play harmonica on the Lee Oskar harmonicas that Lee donated as part of his ongoing support of Playing for Change globally.
So in advance of Martin’s annual festival in late September, his eager young harmonica students at the Diamante School had been practicing for a long time and were so excited to perform there for the first time. However, at the last minute, the bus that was arranged to transport them to the festival broke down. The school’s director tried valiantly to get another mode of transportation to get them to the festival in time, but logistically, it was seemingly impossible to find a way to get the children there at this point. Then, a few parents stepped in and offered to drive, but they only had two cars for 22 children! Right away, parents began a chain of communication, and within a short period, there were ten cars that would be driven by parents to take the children to the festival. Miraculously, they arrived just in time to take the stage at the official start time. Though they did not make it in time for a sound check, Martin said they sounded great and performed so well. And most of all, everyone was so thrilled to have rallied together to make this happen for the children and give them such an important life experience.
Martin says that since he began teaching at the Diamante School a few years ago, he sees how much his students have grown and benefitted from the harmonica education that he is able to provide through the Playing for Change and Lee Oskar Harmonicas collaboration. An important part of this is the fact that each student has his or her own harmonica, so they can easily carry it with them wherever they go, which is different from playing other instruments.
Martin explains, “The schoolchildren have developed a very close relationship with their harmonicas, as it’s with them all the time. Not only can they play whenever they want, they are learning how to take care of their instruments, so it teaches them responsibility.” Many of these children face very difficult economic circumstances, so for them, the harmonica brings them joy in the palm of their hands. When one of his students commented that the harmonica serves as an escape from reality, Martin responded that this special instrument actually helps to “create a new reality.”
We are so gratified to see how much the children are benefitting from this important music educational initiative. Special thanks to Martin for being such an amazing ambassador of Lee Oskar Harmonicas and of harmonica playing in general…helping to make such a difference in the lives of others through the power of music!
Enjoy this video clip from the Festival and watch for more videos featuring the PFCF’s Diamante School with Martin and his eager young harmonica players!