Adventures in Costa Rica With Fernando Meza’s Percussion Ensemble

Percusion Ensemble in Universidad de Costa Rica

School of Music students have many opportunities to take their education abroad during their time at the University. Professor Fernando Meza recently took his percussion students on such an adventure, during a tour of Costa Rica in Central America. 

Percussion Ensemble in Costa Rica

The Percussion Ensemble has a longstanding partnership with its counterpart at the Universidad de Costa Rica Escuela de Artes Musicales (University of Costa Rica School of Musical Arts), having performed on various occasions with them in the past. During their recently concluded tour, they performed at the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center’s Eugene O’Neill Theater, as part of the “Promising Young Artists” series, and held two joint concerts with the Universidad de Costa Rica Percussion Ensemble to help celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the creation of the Escuela de Artes Musicales. 

“The Percussion Ensemble tour in Costa Rica was beyond amazing,” reflected Meza. “The students were fantastic ambassadors of the University of Minnesota and marvelous representatives of our School of Music. Their performances were received with awe because of their quality, and the collaboration with our percussion colleagues at the University of Costa Rica was incredibly meaningful on both musical and personal levels, as the students developed immediate friendships with their peers there.” 

Tour programming included some unique works. “Of particular pride for me were the world premieres of pieces byour own students Aarush Bothra and Mackenna Tolfa,” said Meza, noting that Tolfa came all the way from Japan, where she is touring as a member of the Blue Man Group. “The student pieces were highlights of our tour and truly made an impact on performers and audiences alike!”

Percussion Ensemble learning about the marimba in Costa rica

The tour included educational opportunities, such as a trip to the City of Santa Cruz, where the Percussion Ensemble met with students and faculty of the Escuela de Etapa Básica de Música. There, they learned about the beautiful marimba tradition of Guanacaste, attended master classes, and explored the unique natural environment of Costa Rica. “Beyond the performances of course, the experiences they had learning about the marimba tradition of Costa Rica, where the marimba is the national instrument, were priceless and deeply meaningful,” said Meza. “The entire community we visited (Santa Cruz) gave us an incredibly warm welcome with performances by student groups of all levels. My students were able to learn directly from the faculty members at their school of music, with a huge party afterwards at the house of one of them that turned into a giant jam session where everyone participated!” 

A highlight of the trip for the percussion students was meeting their counterparts from the Universidad de Costa Rica and creating bonds with their new friends. They spent an afternoon on Tamarindo Beach together and gave an impromptu performance of BODIX by Alexej Gerassimez. 

The University of Minnesota School of Music would like to extend a very special “thank you” to Guillermo Madriz, Executive Director of the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano. We are grateful to our partners at the Escuela de Artes Musicales of the University of Costa Rica (Prof. Ernesto Rodríguez Montero, director) and their Percussion Ensemble (Manrique Méndez and Ricardo Alvarado, directors). In addition, we would like to thank the Embassy of the United States of America - San José, Costa Rica; the personnel at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill; the Aula Magna of the UCR; and the Teatro Municipal Omar Salazar Obando in the city of Turrialba for their hospitality and technical assistance.

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