Speaking of artists…
Yesterday, I shared with you about the Isla Mujeres Artist Fair, an event that happens monthly. As a former Art major for a short while in college, I am certainly drawn to the topic.
Music is another form of art that I am also drawn to in a big way. I am fortunate that I have a front row seat to music on the island. While there are tons of great musicians on the island, I am a bit partial to the one I live with. And, I get to sing with the band! This is actually how I met Javier Martinez back in 2007, but that is another story for another day. I often joke that these days, I am more like a roadie instead of a groupie and the groupie role was much more fun!
However, this story is not only about music, but about community and giving back. Last year, Javier and I (Hammock for 2) were playing at Cafe del Mar on the beach and we met Hope and Dennis Prater from Florida. Dennis shared with us that he had a guitar that he wanted to donate but wanted it to go to someone deserving and a youth and asked if we could help. He had hit numerous dead-ends and was relieved that we could help.
We began emailing before their trip this week and decided that we would work with Chuuk Kay Restaurant to host it after the band’s set on Sunday. La Banda Sin Nombre plays every Saturday and Sunday at Chuuk Kay 3:30-5:30. The requirements were:
- Tell why you deserve to win.
- Describe what you will do to continue to improve.
- Play anything and this would only be one piece and not necessarily a deciding factor
- Agree to sign a contract that you would not miss school and have a perfect attendance for the rest of the year.
First Place Prize:
- An electric guitar
- Small amplifier
- Gig bag
- picks, cables, tuner and a guitar stand
- 1 free 30 minute lesson donated by Javier Martinez Cen (La Banda Sin Nombre band leader)
Second Place Prize
Javi met with all of the 7th graders during their music class and presented the challenge. We had 2 brave contestants show up (with their parents as required by Javi since he wanted to make sure they were involved). After the flip of the coin, Axel deferred to Diego to go first. Diego was prepared with his speech and explained why he wanted to be a ‘rock star’ and talked about how he really liked heavy metal music. He said that he was committed to practicing and felt he deserved to win. Javi of course translated that into English for us Gringos that were there. Diego played what he had practiced and did a great job. Smoke on the Water filled the air as our senses filled in the gaps of his beginner strumming. It’s never easy being the first in any competition.
Next was Axel. Great name for a guitarist, don’t you think? Javi and I had seen Axel and his 2 buddies walking around La Gloria the week before with his guitar in hand. I think he takes it with him everywhere he goes. It is an acoustic guitar. In his speech, he talked about how he had been given that guitar by his uncle and he loved it. However, if you are going to play rock and roll music, you need an electric guitar. His passion for wanting to play music was clear in his voice. His nervous fidgeting showed how badly he wanted to win and he was able to put those aside during his montage of rock ballads. He had clearly been practicing.
Miguel Hernandez, musician with La Banda Sin Nombre, and Dennis Prater, the source of the donation, were the judges. They chose Axel as the winner but everyone really felt for Diego and passed around the tip jar for him to begin his savings to buy his own guitar.
The whole process was really emotional for Javi as a musician who grew up here on the island. His father is a musician, his grandfather and uncle were musicians and his great grandfather were all musicians on Isla Mujeres. He has been playing all of his life and he remembers what it was like to get your first electric guitar. He can tell you that story in great detail and with emotion. That was also very obvious with the whole band later that evening as they opened the ceremony for the newly elected president who began his term Monday with their salsa music in the square. They sounded amazing and it really seemed to complete the circle.
You don’t have to have artistic talent to enjoy the arts or to give back to the island we love. There are many organizations on the island to fit your passion. We are happy to help arrange any of these for you.
Volunquest provides the Mexican English Curriculum to elementary students with native speaking volunteers looking for an immersion experience.
PEACE Isla Mujeres is an organization that supports all charity organizations on the island. Make sure you stop by the Otra Vez second hand store and pick up a cook book. The acronym is P – Protection, E – Education A – Animals C – Culture E – Environment http://www.peace-islamujeres.org
The Little Yellow School House and Liberty Education Center are other educational opportunities.