In mid-October, all three divisions at D-E – Lower, Middle, and Upper – were treated to special assemblies sponsored by the School’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and student club INSPIRE (Introducing New Solutions to Promote Integrity & Respect Everywhere). The assemblies were held in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which was celebrated from September 15 to October 15.
As described by MS INSPIRE club members Rudy LeDuc ’20 and CJ Trentacosta ’20 during the MS assembly, “Hispanic Heritage Month is the period when the nation recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans in the United States. It is also an opportunity for all to celebrate the heritage and culture of Hispanic people. The observance, which began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, was approved by President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.”
On Oct. 15, Lower School children gathered to enjoy a reading of the book “Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez” by US INSPIRE officer and senior Wendy Grullon ’15. Then on Thursday morning, Middle and Upper School students and faculty were thrilled to experience the vibrant sounds and stories of Afro-Peruvian culture, courtesy of musical ensemble guests Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet.
Performing on the Schenck Auditorium stage (which fittingly featured large Peruvian flags), Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet gave two performances which were both fantastic and fascinating – particularly given the specific Peruvian instruments used, which included the cajón, the cajita and the quijada (that’s a donkey’s jawbone!). The group formed in January 2005; they have produced two albums and performed more than 400 shows in North America and Peru. Appealing to audiences globally, the ensemble has a legion of dedicated fans who work directly with the band on various projects including Alegría Tours Perú, a successful concept by which fans of the band literally join the musicians on the road in Peru.
As experienced first-hand during both assembly program performances, within the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s detailed fusion of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and jazz harmonies lies a very authentic, “earthy” and honest interpretation. The group explores and develops a uniquely Afro-Peruvian jazz music concept by combining the common African roots found in American jazz music and Afro-Peruvian music from the coast of Peru. In all of their works, the rich legacy of the music of coastal Peru can be heard in the context of contemporary jazz expression.
Clinton Carbon, Director of D-E’s OMA and faculty advisor to INSPIRE, noted: “Our INSPIRE officers and I wanted to find a different way of celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month this year. We have had other elements of the arts but never celebrated with music. Since there is no one Hispanic music, we decided to showcase the music of a specific country. This year we chose Peru as I was familiar with Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet.”
“This group was a perfect choice for our celebration. Their approach and sound is a meld of coastal Peruvian folk music with strong African rhythms and they further fuse their sound with African-American jazz. They were very giving of their talents and knowledge. Each member of the group was a master of their instrument and the history of Afro-Peruvian music. We are very pleased and proud to have introduced both the Middle and Upper School communities to this innovative music from Peru.”
Questions about the OMA and diversity initiatives at D-E can be directed to Clinton Carbon by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet, visit http://gabrielalegria.com/eng/.