Fellowship: 2008 / 2012
“The only way to compete with television and media for our kids’ attention is to show them how much fun it is to make music themselves,” says Marisol. “Let’s fire it up!”
Marisol has a PhD in ethnomusicology, but her first education came from a childhood in Puerto Rico, where she was soaked in music. “I studied music academically, but the way I learned music — who sings well, what had a good rhythm — was sitting down and listening with my dad.” She also credits her mother. “She is the encyclopedia. She knows everything about Latin rhythm and dance.”
Marisol teaches in layers, one rhythm at a time. She recently completed a residency at Alki Elementary School, teaching Latin rhythms to 120 fourth and fifth graders, which culminated in a concert. “They were the best!” she says, “curious, engaged, respectful. 30 years ago, when I came to the United States and was teaching people the clave, it was almost impossible for them to get it: the side-to-side movements that accompany the rhythm can be difficult. But these kids nowadays hear more Latin and African rhythms, they are more exposed to world rhythms.” (A clave rhythm is a repeated five-note pattern.)
“The interlocking rhythms and call-response singing of Latin Caribbean music have a special power to generate participation,” says Marisol. “People need to get back to playing music themselves,” she says, “all the generations: mamas with babies, teenagers, elders. We are community building through music making. And that’s amazing.”
As co-curator of the Smithsonian traveling exhibit American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, Marisol helped develop a classroom curriculum, educator resources, and guided listening programs.
“One of my purposes is to share the joy and happiness of music and dancing,” says Marisol. “This is my way to free the creative impulses in our children, so they have such intense joy in the learning and doing.”
(photo by Glowing Heads)