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March: An Opportunity to Connect Music in Our Schools Month to International Women's Day

Angelica Durrell is a guest blogger for SpreadMusicNow.  She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the INTAKE Organization (Instrumentally Native Taking on the Classics).  SpreadMusicNow is a proud sponsor of several of INTAKE's March events.

March is an exciting month; and it's always been this way for me, ever since I discovered the violin and piano Romance by Amy Beach - a female composer from New England. While a student at the University of Connecticut and a full-time violinist, I wanted to program repertoire that was not the usual Beethoven Sonata (and don't get me wrong, I love Beethoven sonatas!). I decided to program a piece by a Latina composer and thereby discovered the music of several great artists, including: Gabriela Lena Frank, Mexican composer Consuelo Velasquez, celebrity conductor Alondra de la Parra, Cuban composers Tania Leon and Isolina Carrillo, Chabuca Granda from Peru, Violeta Parra from Chile, and so much beautiful music that needed to become part of me and to become featured pieces in my repertoire.

Four years later, I never imagined that this initial "experiment" would become my conviction and lead me to be recognized by the National Assembly of Ecuador on International Women's Day. That was the breakthrough moment in which I discovered my vocation for art, culture and advocacy. I was determined to become a social entrepreneur who identified a need and created opportunity in an innovative way - to blend these things together through music, native instruments, the voices of diverse cultures, and most importantly, youth education.

In 2011, the INTAKE Organization was established and the City of Norwalk became our first concert host. Immediately after, our first public concert occurred through a grant from the City of New Haven's Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism. Can you guess what the proposed project was? An International Women's Day Concert on March 8th at our local community church in Fair Haven, St. Rose of Lime, home of a large immigrant (particularly Ecuadorian and Mexican) community.

Now, it is even more exciting to see an entire month dedicated to Music In Our Schools and that INTAKE will have the honor to combine these two events on Sunday, March 8th - when our students from the INTAKE Native Instrument Academy will be performing at the Latino Expo on International Women's Day. On this momentous occasion, we also will showcase our PBS documentary with the country's leading female (and Latina!) composer, Gabriela Frank, and our dear and talented professional teaching artists, like rising-star Lu Miranda and charango virtuoso Carlos Boltes.

March has been such a busy month for our core educational program, since we are preparing for our largest and most exciting annual event, our Annual Cultural Crossover Gala. For this occasion, we will have over 150 artists on one stage. They will showcase the progress that they have made in just ONE YEAR! As we look back at this progress and what has enabled our rapid growth, we cannot help but thank our partners and dedicated instructors, our committed parents and supportive community that has created this cultural demand and those who always say "present" at every single one of our public events.

As an educator I feel the most accomplished when our students come to us and say "Miss Angie [or Mister Carlos], today I practiced my violin [or charango] for 2 hours because there was a school delay". That, my dear friends and readers, is the best reward that we can receive after having instilled in our youth the discipline and the commitment to bettering ourselves by preserving our culture and our music, and by embracing the ideal that music will be our passport to success.

To learn more about Angelica Durrell, visit: www.intakemusic.org.

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