Welcome to the Cleveland Harare Music Exchange: the brainchild of two CIM alumni striving to bring Suzuki-inspired instruction and musical enrichment to the Chisipite Junior School in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Ellie Glorioso-Wible and Sylvia Wehrs, two of our CRC regulars, are driving this intriguing undertaking! Read more here and join us on Tuesday, March 6 at the Euclid Tavern to learn more about how you can support their mission! #suzukiinharare
“What’s your story? How did the Cleveland Harare Music Exchange originate?”
Ellie: I’m Ellie Glorioso, I’m a recent graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and now I teach there as well in the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies. I grew up all around the Midwest (and a few outliers) but am happy to call Cleveland my home-base now.
Sylvia: I’m Sylvia Wehrs, and originally I’m from Auburn, Alabama, although I moved to Cleveland in 2013 to attend CIM. Ellie and I met at CIM playing quartets together, and we realized we both cared about the education and well-being of children when we began nannying for the same family. We both ended up going into Suzuki teaching after we graduated with our graduate degrees, and when I wanted to bring a Suzuki cellist to Zimbabwe, Ellie was my first choice. The program has grown out of our relationship and our shared careers and values.
We formed the organization, Cleveland Harare Music Exchange, in March 2017. The idea for this program came after Sylvia spent a few weeks touring around southern Africa with a program called Music Inspire Africa.
“What makes your project unique here in Cleveland?”
Sylvia: In Cleveland I believe our program is unique because I do not know of other programs that combine Suzuki philosophy with the outreach and social components that are traditionally seen more in El Sistema-inspired programs. Growing up in Alabama, I really appreciate what a richly artistic place Cleveland is, and we want every child to experience being surrounded my music and art.
In Harare what we do is unique because traditionally the musical environment has been very competitive and stressful for the children. Almost all musical activities are competitions, and lessons and ensembles are geared to get kids passed through the next competition. With our program we focus on Suzuki principles, like always playing with beautiful sound and pitch, fully understanding the music that is being played, and learning in small, achievable steps. We also want to encourage collaboration through lots of group work and ensemble playing. We hope this will make the musical environment more enjoyable for the students in Harare.
“Any upcoming events here in Cleveland where people can learn more and support you?”
We have many performances scheduled all around the city in the next couple of months including a house concert on March 10. To see a complete list of our performances or to sign up to host a house concert visit our website at clevelandmusicexchange.org and follow us on Facebook at Cleveland Harare Music Exchange.
“On a side note, what Cleveland-centric community engagement do you guys undertake?”
Sylvia: Yes! One of my favorite parts about Cleveland is all the amazing outreach concerts that go on here, and I’d really like to bring that concept to Harare. We’re talking to teachers now about performing in more unconventional venues around the city. All of our concerts in Cleveland or Harare are always free.
Ellie: One of my favorite things to do is to perform in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. The excitement that it brings to others is more gratifying than any concert hall performance. We also have plans to bring outreach and community engagement to a new Cleveland branch by partnering with local schools to incorporate Suzuki education into their curriculum.
“What are the long-term goals for the Cleveland-Harare Music Exchange?”
Long-term, we’d really like to see Harare grow into a pillar musical community for southern Africa. This means having several fully trained Suzuki teachers working in the city, who can not only produce excellent students but can inspire and motivate each other as colleagues. Ultimately, we’d like to see a Suzuki Association for the continent of Africa, so they can train teachers at a fraction of the cost it is now.
We’re also trying to find a cost-effective way of incorporating the Suzuki Method into Cleveland city schools to ensure that this teaching method is available to all CMSD children.
“Describe an affirming performance memory from Zimbabwe.”
Sylvia: I went to Zimbabwe first in 2016 with a program called Music Inspire Africa. While I was there that summer, I met a violin student who did not have a correct bowhold, which meant she couldn’t make the kind of sound she wanted on her violin. We spent 45 minutes working on her bowhold, posture, and tone. One year later when I went back I had another lesson with her, and she started playing with the most perfect bowhold and beautiful sound! I couldn’t believe what a difference one lesson had made, and how closely she had listened to me.
Ellie: This past summer I was privileged to work with one of the more advanced student cellists in Zimbabwe. After asking her about her dreams and goals for the future she told me that she wanted to be a Suzuki teacher and conductor. This moment reminded me that the teachers there are raising a generation of excellent musicians who are passionate about what they do and want to share that with their community.
“Alright, what about your favorite NON-musical activities?”
Sylvia: Unsurprisingly, Ellie and I do sometimes hang out for non-work reasons. Hah! We both really enjoy reading, shopping, lunch dates at Luna in Cleveland Heights, and lots of fun nights at Fairmount.
Ellie: Sylvia and I are both avid readers and last summer we both brought a stack of books with us to keep us occupied during the 36 hours of travel. By the end of the trip we had each read our own books and each other’s!
“What about your favorite NON-classical music or artistic inspiration?”
Ellie: While in Zimbabwe this past summer I had the opportunity to take a marimba lesson with one the teachers at the school. As a cellist I have very little experience with percussion instruments. To make things even more complicated, the marimba they play in Zimbabwe doesn’t use the same scale as western classical instruments nor do they use sheet music – they play and learn the instrument entirely by ear. During my half hour lesson with this marimba master I fumbled my way through the most rudimentary building blocks of their music. Later that same day I observed a class of young students playing marimbas together at incredible speeds with weaving melodies and rhythms. It was awe-inspiring to watch the skill and finesse these students demonstrated when playing their country’s native instrument.This year I’m hoping to collaborate with the marimba students (but I think I’ll still stick to cello)!
“What do you love most about Cleveland’s independent classical music scene?”
Sylvia: I love the creativity and outreach that goes on here. A specific example is the partnership between Judson Senior Living and CIM in which a CIM student lives for free at Judson by providing entertainment and companionship to the residents. Citymusic Cleveland is such an amazing idea, and I love playing for them. I’m also really impressed by the new music I hear in Cleveland, and last fall I really enjoyed premiering Margaret Brouwer’s new oratorio, Voice of the Lake. I feel constantly challenged to be more innovative in my own career.
Sylvia: I love that on any given night you can hear all different types of music – jazz, blues, classical, Indy… you name it and Cleveland has it. I also love that the people in this city are so passionate about music, about the arts, and about funding the arts. Just yesterday I was sitting at Luna Bakery and Cafe and at the table next to me I could hear two middle-aged men talking about their bands and all the different collaborations they were interested in. Cleveland really is a city for musicians and music lovers – the city that rocks, right?