Vivian, you began your adult life as a professional musician…
V: After graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Music (French horn), I freelanced in the Cleveland area. Also, I performed and traveled as a member of a professional brass quintet.
Music is very much a part of your life, but your path took a different course.
V: In 1995 God called me to the mission field. I served two years on the Mercy ships. Then I started working at an orphanage in Guatemala and spent twenty years there developing a band and a performing arts program.
How has your life as a musician played a role in your service to the children?
V: As an undergrad I was interested in music therapy, but never imagined I’d be doing it in the context of a band in an orphanage in Guatemala. The benefits of music in the lives of the kids are so vast that I’ll just mention a few. The sense of belonging and being loved as an integral part of the group is one of the huge impacting things that band has on the lives of the kids. Also, by breaking the barriers of the “no-can-do” attitudes that come from being beaten down and devalued either by abuse, or neglect, or familial indifference, the kids, as they learn music, become aware that they have a special skill that not many others have and that opens the doors for them to be successful in other areas of their lives as well. It helps them break the LIE that they so easily believe about themselves as being “less-than” or “unworthy” or “unintelligent.”
You must have many stories about many children. Could you please share about the difference music has made to one child?
V: Eve (not her real name) started in the band program at age 11 on clarinet and could neither keep a beat, nor concentrate long enough to play one full line. During her first year in band, the courts deemed her mom unfit and removed visitation rights. Band was a place of solace, and acceptance, an hour without having to think of the rejection by her mom and her sense of not belonging anywhere. Her house parents at the orphanage were also in transition, so band was the one constant in Eve’s life that year. Music became an outlet for her to express her frustration, her joy, her longings. Once she got the hang of fingerings and made the jump across the break, there was no stopping her. She excelled and was soon “teaching” the other students the fingerings. Eve became a minister to the other kids, encouraging them to keep going and helping them be successful on their instrument. At one festival we attended, she was awarded the clarinet “solo!” in an orchestral piece, rather than the other students who had been studying longer than she had. For her this was a moment that clicked; she could be good at something and be successful. It has been amazing to watch how God has used music to change her life.
Have there been any times when any of your students or your bands traveled abroad?
V: In 2010, two of our students were able to attend the MasterWorks Festival in Indiana. In 2011 and 2012, I took my advanced band to the Csehy Festival in New York. These music camps integrate Christian faith with their music studies. After the band camps, we also did a ministry tour around Cleveland which included partnering with inner-city ministries, working with the homeless, in crisis centers, with the elderly, and in programs for kids-at-risk. For these kids to see that they have something to offer that is valuable and that there are other folks worse off than they are, is very impacting for them.
What is SOFAMA, the School Of Fine Arts & Musical Arts?
V: SOFAMA is the after school program of classes during which we teach discipleship training, evangelism, as well as music and performing arts. In 2018, we moved the band program off campus so that kids from other orphanages can participate as well, with the intent of opening various satellite locations around Guatemala City. In the future we hope to expand to include the performing arts as well as musical arts.
Please tell us about Music Camp Guatemala.
V: In 2012 Music Camp Guatemala became a reality as a not-for-profit in Guatemala. It is a one-week camp for students age 10-25. The students are in a band and choir and receive private lessons and music theory classes. Within the ambiance of doing all for God’s glory, our lives are examples for the kids and give them the opportunity to learn what it means to live as a passionate disciple of Jesus. We accomplish this through small group Bible studies, devotionals, worship, and testimony times. You can find more information on our website: www.MusicCampGT.org.
How can we in the U.S.A. help? Do you need more staff, teachers, or volunteers? Must a volunteer speak Spanish?
V: Yes, we welcome folks to come from America and serve for short-term missions work! Our 2019 camp (June 23-29) has a few available spaces for staff. Once here, MCG is responsible for all in-country transportation, food, and housing. All classes are in Spanish, but we provide translators for volunteers, if needed. For staff there is pre-camp training and post-camp debrief, so the fly dates for 2019 are June 18 and July 1.
How does one volunteer?
V: Please contact me through our web page. 2019 MCG is almost here, and there may not be time for one to plan on this year, but please keep in touch and volunteer for next summer.
Your life’s ministry is very inspiring to us. How can we donate financially? Is it possible to send gifts of instruments, equipment such as strings, mouthpieces, and sheet music, etc.?
V: Thank you. There is a donate button on the webpage: www.MusicCampGT.org. Because of the mail service in Guatemala, all donations of “stuff” must come with someone in their suitcase. We do our best to coordinate that. However, financial donations are joyfully accepted, details on the webpage.
Vivian, you are a missionary and you are a musician. What is the ultimate Goal behind the goal of putting music into the lives of the children?
V: The goal is to use music as a vehicle to share the gospel, to do discipleship training, and to live out and model for the kids what it is to live the life of a disciple passionate for Jesus.
Do you see the fruit of your labor for the Lord?
V: Each year we have kids give and dedicate their lives to the Lord. They have experience with God that makes them more passionate about their faith in their daily work. They are committed to living a life not just when they go to church on Sundays, but all through their lives with everything they do. Most exciting is when I hear of a student who has replicated our band, performing arts, or discipleship programs in their churches after they have grown up and are “out in the world”. To see them stepping out in faith and spreading the mission is one of my greatest joys!!!
Thank you very much for sharing with us. You will be in our prayers.