“How are you liking the noise?” Doña Marga asked me this morning, on the second day of my visit. The noise is the sound of 20 or more students, all different skill levels, all playing at once.
Cacophony; bulla in Spanish. But it is a productive cacophony. This is Academia Llano y Joropo, a music school in Bogotá, operating from a moderate-sized house that serves also as residence for Hildo Ariel Aguirre Daza, his wife Marga and their children Sergio (15) and Tatiana (14).
The school is a family enterprise going back 25 years. Hildo's son Sergio also gives instruction on harp, and Tatiana on maracas. They also play in a “garage band” called Herencias, “heritage”. I attended their rehearsal, literally in the garage; they are terrific! Other youngsters participating were singer Violeta; electric bass Alejandra; and singer-cuatrista Jorge Mario.
Early in the day, before students arrive, the house is quiet for a while. However, inevitably, someone begins to practice, or to play recorded music, or both at the same time! This is a welcoming place for young musicians to hang out.
Doña Marga says she and family are so used to the daily raucous sound that they miss it when they are away. There are 34 registered students, ranging from small children to adults. There are at least a dozen harps spread about the first floor, patio, and garage, each with a stool nearby.
The teachers, Hildo and his son, move from one student to another, listening, coaching, and demonstrating correct moves. This is very efficient teaching. In the same time as a conventional American music lesson, these folks manage to serve a dozen or more without difficulty.
Also, not to be dismissed, there is a huge, infectious enthusiasm among the students!