GARFIELD PARK – Students in Chicago West Community Music Center dazzled a standing room only crowd in West Garfield Park with traditional Brazilian tunes that included samba and bossa nova music Monday night.
Students pounded on drums, pluck acoustic guitars and tooted on brass horns to recreate the jazzy Latin flavor of Brazil. The students performed Latin standards such as “Girl from Ipanema”, “Summer Samba”, and “Bachianas Brasileiras.”
The performance, held at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., was a culminating event for a cultural exchange program between students from Brazil and young musicians and singers in CWCMC.
“I think they did an outstanding job,” said Darlene Sandifer who co-founded the CWCMC music education program with her husband, Howard.
“A lot of students haven’t heard those songs before.”
Students in the program only had five weeks to learn the songs, but also how to read and orchestrate the music. Sandifer believes the students got something out of the experience “because they love playing the songs now.” Students in the program also performed an original piece composed by Sandifer to commemorate the exchange program called All the way from Chicago to São Paulo.
Exposing students to different types of music was the purpose of the exchange program. In March, the Sandifers along with two students from their program and another guest traveled to São Paulo, Brazil. There they provided music instructions to about 20 elementary students who live in Brazil’s favelas or ghettos and don’t have access to music, she explained.
During their 10-day trip, the group brought recorders, similar to a flute, to teach students a few tunes. The instructions also included a drumline demonstration and lessons on playing the violin and saxophone.
Jamal Crowder, 21, called the Brazil trip an amazing experience, especially since it was his first time out the country. But Crowder, who plays sax and flute, said he was most impressed by the music. Brazilians, he explained, approach their music differently by placing value on certain instruments.
In America, jazz, for instance, uses more trumpets, woodwinds and string instruments, he said. In Brazil, the emphasis is on percussions, bands or even vocals with percussions depending on region of the country, said Crowder, who’s been with CWCMC for four years.
“I guess the value they put in a certain instrument gives it such a stylistic feel…,” he said.
Sandifer chose Brazil because of her appreciation for that country and the depth of its music. She said Brazil’s popular music emphasizes love and their singing comes from the heart – something American music has moved away from.
“I want them to see that there is a big world out there and that music is not always blues, not always jazz, not always hip hop,” Sandifer said.
The two Brazilian students, who were part of the cultural exchange, were amazed by young musicians’ performance. Through an interpreter, the students, who all hail from São Paulo, said they were impressed that their counterparts performed several Brazilian standards flawlessly.
“Marvelous,” said John da S. Oliveira of the performance.
“Very professional,” Desireh Cartaxo-Martins added.
Cartaxo-Martins, Oliveira and their chaperone, Solange Dia de Araujo, gave the CWCMC students some pointers on how to samba and offered a few musical demonstration of their own. During their Chicago stay, the students split their time between sightseeing and participating in a mural project. There, they worked with other local students to paint a mural on food sustainability in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
They also caught a baseball game and went club hopping to hear jazz and some blues at Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 West Armitage. The students noted that while they have hip-hop music similar to what is played here in America, they were rarely exposed to jazz or blues in Brazil.
Sandifer said it was important for the Brazil students to experience America’s contribution to music, especially how “grassroots folks” at the community level helped shape it.
“They have heard of Ray Charles, but they never had an opportunity to up-close hear the blues live,” Sandifer said. “We wanted them to hear live music; how it is really played and to … bring them into the community where it is being played.”