Monday, July 26, 2010

Project HERO 2010

“Beyond Borders is an organization that breaks boundaries and goes against the odds.
It’s about using your art and making a difference.
It is time that we as musicians take our music back and speak about issues that matter to the
common people of this world.
For too long our industry has been controlled by the elite who’s only motive in life is money
and power.
Music used to be a tool used for binding and expressing the unspeakable.
It’s time we give music back to the people that truly need it.
It’s time for them to make art that is genuine, art that everyone can relate to.”
~Beyond Borders Founder, Jennifer Manzanillo

There you are! We’ve been waiting for you! We’re Beyond Borders’ Team HERO and we would like to share a little taste of the Dominican Republic with you! Below you can meet the team, get a visual of the experience, and even peek into our journals from the 2010 trip to Monte Cristi, DR!

If you haven’t heard us fundraising at the Mezzanine Table, or were scared to get close enough to hear about our vision, Beyond Borders is a student club at Berklee aiming to spread “peace, love and unity through the power of music.” We feel that the best place to do this is where the need is greatest, such as a little island in the Caribbean.
In many of the rural and impoverished communities within the country, music education is virtually unheard of. Therefore dormant seeds of talent often lay buried deep in the hearts of less fortunate children, never to sprout and blossom. As individuals who have each had a run in with the power of music, we feel that music is not extraneous entertainment, but rather an incomparable tool of expression; and what is humanity without communication?
Determined to Stand Up for Change on behalf of the Dominican children, a group of college kids from all walks of life embarked on a 9 month journey of preparation which culminated in a week spent in Monte Cristi sharing music and love.

Introducing Team HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Opportunities) and their super powers!

Name: Jennifer Manzanillo
Co-Founder and Director

Heritage: Dominican Bostonian
Berkee Profile: 6th semester, Music Education/Professional Music Major, Voice Principal
Superpower: Vision
Jennifer is a HERO because she dreams big.

Name: Hannah Slater
Co-founder/Associate Director

Heritage: Arizona
Berklee: 4th Semester, Music Therapy Major, Piano Principal
Superpower: Dedication
Hannah is a HERO because she focuses on the goal rather than her emotions.

Name: Christina Rodriguez
Artistic Director
Heritage: 1/2 Cuban, ½ Ecuadorian, 100% Bostonian
Berklee Profile: 4th semester, Music Education Major, Voice Principal
Super Power: Wisdom
Christina is a HERO because she speaks from the heart.

Name: Lijie Yang

Heritage: China/Washington State
Berklee Profile: 6th Semester, Music Business Major, Voice Principal
Superpower: Empathy.
Lijie is a HERO because feels the needs of those around her.

Name: Gabriel Pegero

Heritage: Raised in the Dominican Republic and Florida
Berklee Profile: 7the Semester, Vocal Performance Major, Voice Principal
Superpower: Leadership
Gabriel is a HERO because he’s not afraid to be the first to move.

Name: Josh Kwolek

Heritage: Kentucky/Massachusetts
Berklee Profile: 6th Semester, Business Major, Bass Principal
Superpower: Authenticity
Josh is a HERO because he respects others enough to be real with them.

Project HERO, 2010

Sunday, May 9
Our adventures began at 6 am with the ringing of Christina’s phone: “You’re lying. Stop Lying! Mom, be serious…guys, my mom said the flight’s been canceled…You’re serious?...Guys, she’s serious!”
Having pulling a solid all-nighter the long awaited moment finally arrived, and now we would miss not only the first flight, but the connecting one, and our bus to the orphanage. Cell phones popped up all over the team, and we were each assured that there were no timely flights available for us. Each of us except for Gabriel that is, who somehow managed to charm 6 seats out of the Customer’s Service girl, and within the hour we were at the gate!

The next several hours consisted of two flights and a long bus ride through the island.

It was late by the time we reached the orphanage so we were anxious to collapse into our summer-camp style cabins, but duty called! Upon arrival we found out that the classes we’d prepared for were very different than the classes we were actually going to teach. Into the garbage went our months of curriculum planning, and straight into a brainstorm went Team HERO. Eventually we were tucked comfortably into our mosquito-nets and drifting asleep to the beats of the night club down the street.

(above: Esperanza de Un Nino Orphanage)
Monday, May 10
Morning always comes early the Monday after finals, but especially when you’ve been traveling with 5 Berklee students s to the Dominican Republic!

Nonetheless, breakfast arrived in the open air cafeteria and so did we, well, most of us anyway! Orphanage outreach, with whom we stayed, is an amazing organization that every year accommodates thousands of young men and women who want to make a difference. It was an interesting atmosphere for 6 Berklee students! Adopting the rules of the church that owned the property, we weren’t even aloud to pick our nose! Well, ok, we provably could have gotten away with that, but let’s just say it was a little different than staying at 150!
I think we were all a little nervous about teaching. We must have looked like yesterday’s band leaving town as we marched down the road with guitars, djembes, maracas, claves, shakers, a triangle, a rain stick. Oh, and a bag of candy! We stopped outside a stucco wall crowned with barbed wire, and were let into the school yard.

It was an elementary school where many deal of the orphans who Orphanage Outreach cares for study. The hours which ensued would be best described as…well…chaos? Or shall we say EXCITING?

The kids were so excited about the instruments and, caught on quickly.


The classes were so large and the kids so energized we decided to split them up which sent half the team and the kids into the open play yard and blaring sun. Some listened well, and some ran well…in all the wrong directions. The times when the kids really tuned in however, were invaluably precious.
It was such a privilege to put the djembe in front of them and watch their faces as they experimented with the different slaps and bass drum hits!

The morning session was with third graders, but after a break for lunch and some delicious Dominican ice-cream…

we headed back to teach the seventh graders.

Not only was class time great, but we also had the privilege of hanging out with them between periods!

In the evening we headed back to the orphanage and had free time, which consisted of a celestial mix of warm, orange sunshine, soothing breezes and the jingling laughter of children running around the orphanage. With some preparation for tomorrow,

our first day of teaching came to a close.

Now we’ll take a little detour from our daily routine to tell you a bit about the Dominican Republic itself!

Monte Cristi, the town where we stayed, is a beautiful little place on the north end of the island. It’s natural exquisiteness led UNESCO to declare it one of the World Heritage Sites.

The Dominican Republic was the site of the first European settlement in 1492 when set up camp in Santo Domingo, the city where Columbus was later buried.
Led by a husband and wife team of chiefs, the native Tainos successfully resisted Spanish rule until forces of European diseases, against which the natives had no shield, joined sides with the Spanish battalions. After Spanish, came French governance in 1795 when the island consisted of 90% African slaves. As you can imagine, with such a legacy, a rich heritage of diversity, struggle and courage belongs to the Dominican people. If you would like to hear the incredible story of their final fight for independence and the noble lives of three amazing sisters

who took a stand against the dictator, we highly recommend “The Time of the Butterflies” either book or video.
Nowadays The Dominican Republic is 73% multiracial, 16% European decent, and 11% African Decent.

In rural areas, 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty and illiteracy is at 16%. Its communities suffer badly from racial prejudice. Nonetheless, Dominicans are not lacking in the arts of living!

We feel that music education would address many needs of the Dominican people. Participation in music instills a sense of purpose and self esteem in an individual and these are vital to the creativity, courage and initiative required in the next generation if progress will occur. 170,000 children are orphaned in the country and we feel that music can help these children to process and heal from such traumatic experiences and others as well.

Back to Team HERO
Thursday May 13
We knew by then end of the week we provably wouldn’t be teaching them substitute dominants or solfeging Coltrane, but we did know this: If we could give them the gift of inspiration it would burn within them for the rest of their lives; Kindling for their dreams and hope for the difficult. Sometimes, it takes a lot to get through to a college kid, and for us it took a week of trial and error. Finally, however, we were able to develop a lesson plan to meet the kids where they were at.

Our last day teaching, we allowed the students to pick the instruments they were most interested in (percussion, guitar, voice) and engage in semi-private lessons. We then reviewed the songs they’d learned throughout the week as well as read through the notes of things they wanted to be when they grew up.

We told them that they were indeed capable of achieving their dreams, and making a difference in this world.
It was a sad thing to leave the school that day. Apparently we weren’t alone in that either, as one of the biggest troublemakers sent us off with a teary farewell. The beautiful faces of those rambunctious spirits will be alive in our minds and hearts for many years to come and we are confident that they hold in their hand the potential for a better tomorrow.
Our last activity in Monte Cristi was a trip inside a travel advertisment, or so it seemed as we gingerly put the first footprints on the pristine beach a short drive from the Orphanage.

In one way or another, I suppose we all stepped off the plane in BOS a little different than we stepped on it, and it was deeper than the sunburn too.





And now?
Now we’re back home, preparing for the Fall semester and for next Spring Break when Team HERO generation 2 travels to Monte Cristi!
Team HERO, in all their super powers and smashing good looks

may seem extraordinary, but we want to let you in on a secret…since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this enormous blog J. Team HERO actually consists of 6 very ordinary people, just like yourself, from all kinds of backgrounds and belifes, bound together by the power of music and the simple sweetness of a shared vision. Team HERO would never have been able to journey south if it had not been for the dozens of students, friends and family that supported us. They made a difference. We made a difference. You too are making a difference…what kind of difference will it be?