Teaching the Musical Cultures of the Andes

Teaching the Musical Cultures of the Andes

Preview from the January 2018 issue of Teaching Music 

By Susan Poliniak

The musically-rich cultures of the Andes Mountains can make for valuable additions to your general music classroom. For students whose families hail from the region, learning about this music can be of particular interest. “It only makes sense to expand the general music curriculum to include the music and culture of the many countries from which they came, including Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and many of the other countries of the Andes and South America,” says Kenneth G. Schleifer, a retired elementary instrumental music teacher who taught at Rehoboth Elementary School in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. For other students, the knowledge can increase understanding and appreciation of the cultures of their classmates.

Panpipes on a market in Peru. Photo: iStockphoto.com | Cameris

Rehoboth Elementary’s program—which was conducted after school—was open to students from grades three through five. “The curriculum worked well with all of the students, but was particularly suited for the fifth-grade students,” notes Schleifer. The musical styles with which these students became acquainted included “huayno, bailecito, and cueca rhythms and tunes,” says Schleifer. “My colleague, Marco Hernandez, is a master Andean musician who has spent much time in the Andes, and was able to share his personal observations and experiences of living, playing music with, and absorbing the rich music, comida, and sociological culture of the Quechua, Aymara, and Mestizo Andinos.”

There is a rich variety of recorded music that can be shared with students. In the Rehoboth program, “We introduced our students to the recorded music and concert videos of the original masters of Andean music including Los Kjarkas, Illapu, Bwiya Toli, Inti-Illimani, Quilapayún, and other influential individual artists,” says Schleifer.

Andean music encompasses a wide range of instruments. “We introduced the children, and taught them to play antara, chuli, malta, and toyos zampoñas,” remarks Schleifer of the range of panpipes. The students also learned about Andean flutes—the quena and quenacho—as well as stringed instruments such as the charango, ronroco, Venezuelan quatro, and guitar, and percussion instruments like the bombo, chajchas, and cajon. In addition to learning about the instruments, students were able to create their own. “Part of our curriculum for the children to understand the construction of the instruments included building a five-tube, pentatonically-tuned antara, and in the second session a 13-note chromatic malta zampoña.”

iStockphoto.com | Uwe-Bergwitz

And the students didn’t just learn about and build instruments—they performed with them as well. “We found that the third- to fifth-grade students were very eager to learn to play their own constructed antaras and zampoñas,” remarks Schleifer, but were more successful on the other instruments that were purchased through a grant. “We performed five pieces in our program showcase evening, and then on the spring concert program for our school.” See below for Kenneth Schleifer’s list of helpful online resources. 

Online Resources for Andean Music and Culture

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January 18, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)