It is the third day into the two-week Festival del Lago, a teaching and performance gathering at lakeside for musicians from all over the world, and it is hard to find a typical student among the 37 in attendance.
They are young people ranging from mere sprites to graduate students. And their homelands are all over the map, including Korea, Iceland, Europe, the United States and, of course, Mexico. (Then there are the harder to classify: the one born in Puerto Rico and currently studying in Ohio, the Brit with a very Japanese name speaking with the Queen’s accent.)
Wandering around the comely house at the edge of Lake Chapala, the camp headquarters, where meals are served and many classes are given, it is even harder, if not impossible, to find anyone – student, teacher, staff or organizer – who is not positively gushing excitement.
“I wish I could have had this experience,” said festival staffer and violinist Mariel Tinoco. “I went to some festivals when I was in university, but none like this, with such good faculty and so much opportunity to play.”
“What drove me to come was the chance to learn from Juan Miguel Hernandez, who played violin in the Harlem String Quartet. He’s an amazing guy,” bubbled viola student Jafet Oquendo about one of the festival’s ten professors.
“This camp also has a reasonable cost,” he emphasized – approximately 900 pesos a day, including all meals
and a nice roof over the head, with scholarships and discounts given to many students. The camp founder, Chris Wilshere, underscored that all proceeds from ticket sales for student and professor performances during the two weeks go toward scholarships for Mexican students for next year’s camp.
“I had to work a little harder in order to save up to come,” said cellist Paloma Valencia, a music student and orchestra player in Zapopan who moonlights as a kindergarten music teacher two days a week. “It’s so helpful to see the type of discipline that musicians from other cultures have,” she emphasized.
The faculty was hand picked by Wilshere and he said he counts many of them as personal friends. “Some potential teachers come knocking on the door, but often the best ones are those you have to seek out.” Some teachers participate out of friendship and due to good experiences at lakeside’s annual Festival de Febrero, which Wilshere also organizes, rather than for big monetary gains, he added.
With so much enthusiasm on hand, the Festival del Lago seems on track to be a highlight in the memories of participants.
Festival del Lago, Ajijic, August 11-26. Public performance schedules and more information in this newspaper and Facebook: Festival del Lago, and www.festivaldellago.com.