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Salvadorans headline music workshop

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–The former concert master and principal violinist with the El Salvador National Orchestra and two other musicians from the Central American country were the featured speakers at the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Instrumental Workshop Feb. 27-28.

Elmer Amaya, the former symphony musician, now is the music leader at Temple Cristiano in San Salvador.

Joining Amaya for the workshop were his son Alex, a cellist, and Mauricio Solis, a violinist and luthier (someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments), who also are Temple Cristiano members.

John Francis, the Missouri convention’s worship specialist, met the three classical musicians during a series of trips to El Salvador in conjunction with the state convention’s partnership with Salvadoran Baptists.

“They really charmed me with their music and their love for Jesus,” Francis said.

The workshop is an annual training event for musicians of every stripe; this year’s gathering highlighted the new Baptist Hymnal and its new instrument-by-instrument orchestral arrangement of new and old hymns and choruses.

“We learned from them as much they learned from us,” Francis said of the Salvadoran musicians, “especially in terms of improvisation. They have a lot of experience playing unprinted music.”

Aside from the cold temperatures — and 21-year-old Alex’s first sight of snow — the Salvadorans said they enjoyed their first “mission trip” to Missouri.

“It is interesting to see how you use music in churches,” Elmer Amaya said. “I will take some of it home to use in our church.”

“We have never gotten together musicians who love Jesus,” Solis noted. “We have concerts of popular music and classical music, but we have never had a concert of religious music. This will be a good way to worship Jesus and reach out to musicians who don’t know Jesus.”

Solis said a similar hands-on workshop in El Salvador also would open up communication with non-believers wishing to learn. “I like the doing and playing instead of just listening or writing some notes,” he said. “That is different from anything I have done.”

Solis said that apart from the national orchestra, there is very little music education in El Salvador and very little music appreciation except for those from musical families. Elmer Amaya’s father was the director of the national choir, while Solis’ father is a composer and is known as the father of music education in El Salvador. Both Elmer Amaya and Solis began playing the violin at age 7. Alex Amaya began playing the violin when he was 4 and later moved on to the cello.

Besides the technical instruction provided by the Amayas and Solis during the workshop, their musicianship during the concert that followed were testament that worship transcends a barrier of language.

“I understand that [talent] is a gift,” Elmer Amaya said as his son interpreted. “It is important to give my gift back to Jesus. This is the first thing I have in my mind. After I became a Christian, I changed the way I played to worship God.”
Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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  • Brian Koonce