Composition alumnus Juan Antonio Cuellar, president of Batuta foundation in Colombia, visits the Jacobs School April 11-13

Cuellar-200Alumnus Juan Antonio Cuellar, executive president of the Batuta National Foundation in Colombia, will visit the IU Jacobs School from April 11-13 to give a master class and lecture on transforming society through the musical arts. The foundation, which he has been president of since 2008, involves the music education of over 40,000 children in pre-orchestras, orchestra, and choirs throughout all of the states of the country.

Cuellar’s visit follows a sabbatical visit to the country by Professor Don Freund and his wife  last year. “Sandra and I experienced, coached and conducted several sessions during our five week stay in Colombia last fall,” said Freund. “We were moved by the effect of the program that creates life-empowering social change to the children of the country.”

The following two presentations will be offered to Jacobs School students during Cuellar’s visit:

Thursday, April 11, from 7-9 pm in MC036:
ASTA/NAfME Guest Master Class: Juan Antonio Cuellar with Brenda Brenner
The Batuta/Sistema Approach to Transforming Lives though Music: Professional Development Opportunities for Teaching Artists.

Saturday, April 13, from 10:30am-12pm in M242
Project Jumpstart Session
The Power of Music: Transforming Society, Business and Government.

The Batuta National Foundation, a government initiative of Colombia, was established in 1991. It has been modeled in part on the National Youth & Children Symphonic Orchestras Organization of Venezuela (“El Sistema”).  Batuta was created in response to significant societal interest in youth social development in Colombia, through an enhanced appreciation, practice and teaching of music. This national vision has informed the work of Batuta from its inception. The result has been a transformative impact upon the lives of many thousands of Colombian families from a broad range of social classes and backgrounds. Batuta is now one of the largest arts programs of any kind in Latin America and has gained much international attention.

About Juan Antonio Cuellar’s vision for the Batuta program

In 2008, Juan Antonio Cuellar, an IU-trained Colombian composer and the dean of a Bogotá university music school, took over as Executive President of Batuta with a mission of change.

Driven to address a sad reality that without a strong orchestral program, Batuta was losing many of its students at around age twelve, the very time when young people are most vulnerable and most attracted to the self-destructive choices that surround them. Cuellar set about improving both Batuta’s orchestral commitment and its professional development opportunities for teachers. His aim for Batuta and its partners was to achieve results similar to the miracle in neighboring Venezuela, but in their own Colombian way.

To achieve the mission of significantly increased orchestral focus, Cuellar set two goals as his first major priorities: the launch of vigorous and sustained teacher development initiatives, and the creation of “iconic” youth orchestras. To meet the first goal, he tapped a wide range of resources, including Venezuelan teachers and overseas visitors.

The second goal was addressed through the formation of youth orchestras on regional levels and through the creation and development of a national youth orchestra under the artistic direction of U.S. conductor Matthew Sydney Hazelwood. These two goals  intertwined in many ways: students need examples to look up to, teachers need excellence to aspire to, and high aspiration raises the reach of everyone’s achievement. Integral to both priorities is the expectation that teachers perform in orchestras, so that teachers can learn by doing, and students and community can know and be inspired by their teachers as artists.

For more information about the program, visit:

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