Courtesy of Allen Baraldi
A group of local music educators of Marcheta Williams and the Driven Operation, from left, Marcheta Williams, Mike Yturralde, Savannah Thompson, Marco Paim, Diego Zarate, Matthew Mazzei and Nick Gilroy have been invited to perform in Taiwan and will leave Sunday.
After a company of musicians and dignitaries visited Madera from its sister city of Yilan, Taiwan, in mid-August, a group of music teachers from Madera will be making a visit of their own to the island nation.
The group, comprised of six music teachers, and a district accompanist (who also holds a music degree), will leave for Taiwan on Sunday to represent the United States in the International Arts Festival in Yilan, where they will play jazz and perform with musicians from 11 other countries from around the world.
They’re being led by Marchieta Williams, director of visual and performing arts for Madera Unified School District; she will provide vocals for the act.
“It’s exciting to be in an environment with people from different countries, so they’re serious about music, and it really feels good to be able to represent a style of music that is America’s only original music,” said Williams. “So that’s pretty special.”
According to Williams, the group was invited in August, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that they were confirmed to go, when their trip was okayed by the school board. Despite the short amount of time, however, Williams said that she, and her players, are prepared.
“We’re taking professional and high-quality musicians, so really, the hardest part, getting it together, was figuring out what we were going to do, and getting arrangements,” Williams said. “They’re very skilled musicians, which made that preparation super-efficient.”
Among those going with Williams is teacher and violinist Matthew Mazzei. Although this is his first year of teaching with Madera Unified, Mazzei has been playing his instrument for approximately 23 years, and has performed in Austria, where he took part in an opera festival, and played in the orchestra pit.
“At first I was a little intimidated, because it’s very short notice, obviously, but we have a great group of musicians, and they’re all very talented players, and Dr. Williams is a very talented musician in her own right,” said Mazzei. “Now it’s more just kind of anticipation and excitement, as we prepare. We have come up with our set list, we have to rehearse, and I’m still not entirely sure what to expect when we get there.”
This trip will be an educational experience for the teachers embarking, Williams explained.
“We are also going to the classrooms to learn strategies that they’re using to teach students there, because they have a really high caliber of student playing, in performance, and work ethic,” Williams said. “So we’re hoping we’ll be able to learn some of those strategies, and bring them back, and implement them with our kids.”
This sentiment was reflected by teacher and clarinetist Diego Zarate, who, after seeing the performance of Yilan’s Formosa Melody musicians when they visited Madera in August, was impressed with both their ability to play, and their learning methods.
“What’s really exciting to me is when the (musicians) from Taiwan came here, they brought their instruments from their culture. And actually, I added them on Facebook, and I get to see what they’re doing,” Zarate said. “They’re performing with their kids, so I’m excited to see what their classroom music looks like, and what their instruments look like, and what their teaching methods are.”
According to Williams, her company will return on Oct. 17. Funding for the trip was paid for by donations from the Madera community.