n the world of shipbuilding, “keel” refers to the main structural member and backbone of a ship or boat.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that with “keel” as part of her name, Rosemary Keeling has been the “backbone” of Ajijic’s charitable organization, Viva la Musica, since 2008, when she took on the role of president.
In Viva la Musica’s latest newsletter, Keeling addressed the approximately 160 members of the lakeside organization, stating her plans to resign from her longstanding position. It should come as no surprise that she expresses feeling “burned out and tired,” seeing how much work it takes to organize ten concerts and two dozen bus trips annually, oversee a scholarship program, all the while watching the organization’s volunteer activity steadily decline.
“Our board is aging,” she says, “and it’s becoming almost impossible to find new volunteers.”
Thankfully, one board member is organizing a search committee to identify suitable volunteers to step into the roles of as president and vice president.
Says Keeling, “We’re hoping the committee can find new volunteers by the end of March, when we will be winding down our activities and also sponsoring our last concert of the season – a mandolin concert on March 28.”
Viva la Musica has brought not only classical music to lakeside music lovers, but taken them to concerts in Guadalajara, Zacatecas and Morelia. They’ve also been providing financial aid to local, talented Mexican music students since 2001, when the organization first took root as “Opera Buffs of Lake Chapala.”
“Members who sell tickets at Lake Chapala Society on Thursdays and Fridays are more than happy to share their knowledge about what this wonderful organization is about,” says Keeling. “We are proud of the fact that we’ve sponsored a concert in Ajijic nearly every month of the year. Our next concert, by the way, will be on January 24.”
Viva la Musica’s long-term goal has been to bring talented international and Mexican musicians to perform at lakeside, sponsor bus trips to concerts in Guadalajara, and provide financial aid to promising local Mexican music students – all of which they’ve succeeded in doing.
She says, “Our organization has succeeded in donating over 100,000 pesos each year in scholarships. Our yearly membership dues of 300 pesos has provided a comfortable cushion if we happen to incur losses, and helps provide the scholarships.”
Unfortunately, the board’s task of recruiting retirees who can perform volunteer jobs year-round has become increasingly difficult. In addition, the current plethora of events at lakeside are competing with all that Viva la Musica has been providing music enthusiasts for all these years.
Says Keeling, “There are now more organizations and charities offering entertainment events at lakeside, and more theaters and halls in which to hold them, which has been pulling people, along with their entertainment budgets, away from our events.”
In addition to scholarships, the organization also supports Ajijic’s CREM Music School, donating money every year to fund teachers’ honorariums.
Says Keeling, “CREM’s director, Emmanuel Medeles, was one of our scholarship winners years back, and we’re thrilled that he’s in Ajijic working with local young, talented musicians.
“It’s a wonderful thing when our scholarship students return to Ajijic to perform, [especially] those who’ve become professional opera singers or play in the Jalisco Symphony Orchestra, even orchestras worldwide.”
Born in England, Keeling has been a music lover since a young age. With a gift for piano, flute and singing, she’s lived in Ajijic for 16 years, arriving from Toronto with her husband John Keeling, Viva la Musica’s treasurer.
The fact that she enjoys listening to classical music every chance she can get explains her longtime involvement with Viva la Musica. In 2004, only a few years after settling in Ajijic, she got involved with the organization as their membership secretary.
Says Keeling, “I’ve always been an active, involved, passionate person, so once I step down as president, it’s not likely I’ll be sitting around sipping martinis. I have no current plans except to walk my dog and work in my garden. Yet, I’ll be happy to help anyone get involved working with Mexican music students and music lovers, and will even invite them to my house for tea and talk about what they would like to do.
“Viva la Musica has been a shining light in the classical music scene at lakeside for these 16 years, and I feel honored to have led the group for many of those years. I only hope the organization can attract new volunteers to become its new ‘backbone.’”