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Music Beat

A passion, not a profession: new orchestra aims to broaden access to music

Today at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in San Pedro, music will be offered as a luxury not only for listeners, but for the musicians themselves: students from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) who set their instruments aside to focus on non-musical majors and careers, but who have been given a second chance by a new extracurricular orchestra.

Pablo Zamora, a UCR student of political science and music with an emphasis on conducting, created the UCR Humanities Orchestra at the end of last year, and will lead the inaugural concert today at 7 p.m.

“In Costa Rica we have a very strong musical environment. There are a lot of people who play instruments, [but they] choose majors such as medicine, engineering and administration and leave their instruments aside,” Zamora told The Tico Times. “The Humanities Orchestra focuses on providing these students with the opportunity of playing with an orchestra that has a flexible schedule in terms of time.”

Students at the UCR and other universities in Costa Rica general balance strenuous academic demands and part-time or even full-time work; the academic system also requires a focus on specific careers very early on, leaving most students without time for the extracurriculars often associated with the university experience in the United States, for example.

Zamora seeks to address this and awaken the humanity within both the performers and the audience.

“The secret behind this orchestra and the reason why it is called Humanities Orchestra is because the main objective of the university is not to create ‘button pushers,’” Zamora said. “This is an industrialized society in which we are seen as ‘entities’ that produce to consume more and more; it’s a vicious cycle.”

With the help of the university’s School of General Studies, school director Ana Delia and composer and professor Marvin Camacho, Zamora has united 50 musicians from majors such as philosophy and chemical engineering to business administration and agricultural economy. A group of electric engineers has created their own group called ElectrizArte, which will also perform at today’s show using instruments they have built themselves, along with animations and a light show.

The concert will also integrate actors: a preschool education student from the university used the main concepts of the concert to create a script for the performance.

The orchestra will tackle a wide-ranging repertoire including “La Pavana” by Costa Rican composer Benjamín Gutiérrez, Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March,” movements from Stravinsky’s “Firebirds,” and a surprise from Pink Floyd.

“When you learn to play an instrument and are used to playing with bands or orchestras for a long time and when you start college, leaving your instrument behind is like giving up a big part of yourself,” Zamora said, reflecting on what he hopes the concert will restore to its participants. “It’s something that you really love.”

The Inaugural Concert of the UCR Humanities Orchestra will take place at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center (CCCN), Barrio Dent, San Pedro, Monday June 29, 7 p.m. Free. More information: Event Facebook page.

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