A gift of music to Nepali children

Tune in and turn up support for education, say visiting classical musicians

The original dream of Gerwig & González was to bring a grand piano from Germany, and fly it around Nepal from one school performance to another using a military helicopter. That idea was not very practical, so they settled on an electronic keyboard to leave behind in Nepal after their visit.

For the classical musicians from Germany and their two children, the experience does not sound at all like a failure — they were already making new plans for inspiring the growth of music in Nepal before flying home after a busy 15 days with the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory (KJC) last month.

Sitting on a couch during a rare break in their schedule, Efraín González describes visiting a school outside the Valley where one of the teachers sat at the keyboard and played the Nepal national anthem with one hand. That sparked the idea to train at least one teacher in every school in Nepal to be able to perform the anthem daily on a simple keyboard.

“Why not? Why shouldn’t we dream big?” González asks with the passion that obviously drove this latest musical mission to Nepal.

Photos: Efraín González

The pair, based in Germany, say they were impressed by the talent and potential of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory (KJC), but disappointed that the school does not have more resources for instruments and teachers.  There are only three grand pianos in Kathmandu, and a city this size could do with more.

“There are millions of dollars for playing football and for running elections, there are billionaires who have way too much, and yet we have to work so hard to get just a little money for music education,” said González.

Christine Gerwig, from Germany, and Efraín González Ruano, Mexico, (right) have been making music together for 10 years. The duo perform in concert halls and festivals throughout the world, and also regularly conduct workshops for children in schools in Germany and Mexico.

The family worked hard raising money for the trip to Nepal, which Gonzalez had been dreaming about for years. Crowdfunding raised enough cash to cover costs for the parents and Alejandro, 11, a pianist, and daughter Valeria, 9, who plays both violin and piano. It also enabled them to donate the electronic piano. Donations came from friends and friends of friends worldwide, including a supporter in India who paid for two air tickets.

The concert that the family performed at KJC as part of the Katjazz International Festival this month was the first time the four shared the stage – including a piano duet for four hands by the parents -- although both children are experienced performers, and have been playing since age 3.

“We were very humbled to host the Gerwig & González at our annual Katjazz Festival,” says KJC’s  Abhisek Bhadra. “We are primarily a contemporary music school but we have actively started to promote western classical music education from this year. We hope to host more musicians and educators as they play a crucial role in realising competent and holistic music education in Nepal.”

Besides visiting two schools, Gerwig & González also held a master class and teaching workshops at KJC. Gerwig remembers one young musician in particular: “He wasn’t a KJC student but he was very good. He said he had taken lessons only for one year and after that he kept learning on his own, because his parents disapproved of him becoming a musician.”

Her message: “If someone finds their passion in music, if it’s really in their heart, then that is what they should do, even if it is difficult to make a living.”

The two say they would love to return to Nepal to continue working with KJC if support can be found. Meanwhile, they hope to continue working with young musicians here via video-link from Germany.

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