Project Panamá

         Hello and thank you so much for your interest in a project that is really special to me. This summer I will travel to Panamá City to help students repair their instruments and give specialized lessons and classes. I won a prestigious grant from the New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department. To fund the production of my repair videos, I’ll be asking my network to contribute to this cause through a kickstarter campaign. 

My History with Panamá City

    In January 2012, NEC sent me to teach at the Panamá Jazz Festival’s classical program, Música Clásica.  This past September, I personally funded a five day trip to Panama. I gave private lessons in the mornings and afternoons and held studio class and cello choir rehearsals after dinner. In January of 2013, NEC sent me back to Música Clásica to teach and perform. 

     The country of Panamá does not have a single string shop or luthier; the closest repair shop is in San José, Costa Rica. Most students that want to pursue a career in music buy factory made instruments off of the internet.  These instruments are overpriced and horribly crafted. On top of the tragic state of the instruments, Panamá has a hot and tropical climate this is very harsh on string instruments. When an instrument breaks, students use anything they can find to repair the instrument.  A functional instrument will allow them to work on sound principles and general cello techniques with a bit more ease. 

Nuts and Bolts 

    With the help of luthier Erik Grausam, I plan on creating a solution for Panamanian string players. I will create a series of videos to help musicians stabilize their broken instruments using materials that are available at their local stores.  I will write scripts for my videos in Spanish with the help of my Spanish teacher.


     I am my student’s link to granting them access to decent instruments and advanced instruction. They are very passionate, have a lot of natural ability, and they are extremely hardworking. I believe that all Panamanian string players deserve a first class music education. I am ready to play a large role in that process now, and well into future.  Your generous support is greatly appreciated and will offer my Panamanian students a stronger musical education!

The Canal Club is comprised of generous Kickstarter backers:

Project Panamá Benefactors ($200-250):
 Ashley Vandiver and Alastair Eng 
     Vladimir Cuellar

Project Panamá Friends ($100):
     Ann Victor 
     Dan Harp
     John Grausam
     Patrice Moskow 
     Paul Biss and Miriam Fried     
     Roger Tapping and Natasha Brofsky
     Michael Webster and Leone Buyse
     Long Pham
     Courtenay and Sabata Vandiver Pereira 

 Looking Back-

Reflecting back on my time in Panamá brings a wave of wonderful memories to my heart. I managed to work with numerous musicians and I everyone I met was just wonderful. 

My trip started seamlessly when I arrived. My student Alejandra arranged for me to stay at the Espinosa-Richards house. She drove me to their house and I met their son Jorge. He is a guitarist, amateur cellist, and teaches general music at the Metropolitan School of Panamá.  Another bonus- he’s completely bilingual! 

The next day Alejandra and I headed off to the “Do- It” center; it’s basically like Home Depot. A really kind man, Raul, helped us find all of our supplies! That night, Nestor, Jorgito, Maricel, Jorge, and Alejandra and I went to work! We made clamps out of wine corks, broom handles, and metal bars. 

After a night of rest we head off to the Universidad and the National Music school. I knocked on practice room doors and told everyone to join me and my students at 12:00. When we were together I looked at the instruments and made a list of the repairs. That afternoon we steamed bridges and glued seams. I chose to do those first because those two repairs require 24 hours to dry. 

The following day, we sanded nuts, pegs, and bridges. We cleaned all of the instruments and then removed the clamps and replaced the bridges. I also gave away 30 sets of strings to various cellists. 

This was my first time teaching something besides just music (cello, chamber music, solfege etc.) I have never taught a group of people how to repair anything!  (Hopefully the next time I go I will have a bow maker with me to rehair bows.) I can’t believe how successful this was and I’m excited for the future!!!!