67 Songs / 25 musicians / 10 days
Supporting education in Penas Blancos, Nicaragua
November 12 - 23, 2015
Un Educacion Internatcional Musica Colaboración Apoyo
The genesis for Nicaraguan United States of American Musicians (NUSAM), A Real PURPOSE's (ARP) third effort at supporting education through music, began at a coffee shop in Oakland, California on November 28, 2014, when founder Joe Baker met with Ashley Busby, founder of The Arte Sana Foundation. Kathleen Standfill, a personal friend of Joe's and a longtime supporter of ARP projects is credited with bringing Joe and Ashley together. It was a great fit. It became apparent during this first meeting that Joe & Ashley share a common passion in life; helping those less fortunate improve their lives through education.
NUSAM is supporting ArteSana Foundation, which refers to both artisans and art heals.
Based in Oakland, The Arte Sana Foundation is focused on helping the residents of the village of Penas Blancos, Nicaragua, through two primary initiatives: They collaborate on community development projects utilizing local resources and they work closely with local community members to develop artistic expression and artistic capacity. For young people in the village it helps develop problem solving skills & creative thinking that will help them to adapt to the consequences of climate change and its effects on their primary livelihood, coffee farming.
By learning new skills, the adults in the village can develop markets for their artisan goods which will provide supplemental income to their traditional way of life, coffee farming.
The goal of the third ARP project, NUSAM, will be a CD/DVD product release supporting The Arte Sana Foundation and the village of Penas Blancos, Nicaragua through product sales. On Thursday November 12, 2015, 349 days after Joe and Ashley first met in that Oakland coffee shop, the ARP crew of Jordan Feinstein, Garrin Benfield, Brian Rogers, Chris Zanardi and Joe Baker boarded a plan for Nicaragua. The crew arrived in the capital city of Managua and was greeted by Ashley Busby and Jorge Real. Jorge is a gifted bass player and a resident of Penas Blancos. Jorge and Joe corresponded many times prior to the trip to discuss project goals, arrange equipment rentals and other logistics. Jorge would play a key role in selecting Nicaraguan musicians to play on the recording sessions. The next morning the 7 took a minivan about 5 hours north to beautiful Penas Blancos. This small but vibrant community met them with open arms and warm hearts.
With all the equipment in place and multitasking the order of the day, Chris put on his recording engineer headphones and with help from the NUSAM crew, converted the village "auditorium" to a full recording studio. Jordan, Garrin, Brian, Chris and Joe settled into their new studio where they played host to 25 musicians during ten days of recording. The recording sessions were very productive, they collaborated and recorded a total 67 songs and freestyle jams. Some songs were very constructed and detailed while leaving room for others to be completely engulfed in a "freestyle" form that really opened up the channels of creativity and collaboration to produce some of the projects most inspirational musical moments.
Each day the neighbors would begin gather in the early afternoon. Some would watch and listen outside and look through the windows while others entered the "studio" and sat quietly during the recording sessions, offering applause when a take was completed. Men, woman, children all stopped by and had a listen and peaked into the transformed community center. Most had never seen anything like the transformation of their community center to a recording studio, much less seen an electric guitar or full drum set up close. This openness of the community provided the opportunity for many spontaneous recordings and jam sessions with professional musicians, local amateurs and the ARP crew. The music never really stopped from daylight to dark.
For a community that is working hard to redefine itself and prepare for change, NUSAM hopes the 10 days of music and friendship brought smiles and memories that will last long after departing home.
Performing and recording were not the only goals of the project. The PURPOSE of the NUSAM trip was to pass out school, art and music supplies to promote creativity and imagination among the students. On Wednesday November 18th the crew hosted a musical workshop providing an opportunity to interact with students from Penas Blancos School No. 1. The musicians set up learning stations for each of their respective instruments and students were encouraged to interact with the musicians and have a "hands on" experience to make music, smiles, and memories.
The greatest difference between NUSAM and the other ARP projects is scope. NUSAM initially went to Penas Blancos to record local music and help out The Arte Sana Foundation but as it turned out NUSAM helped out the entire community. A community which made NUSAM feel so at home, embraced them with open arms and touched their hearts.
Climate change is real and its effects are being felt first and hardest in communities like Penas Blancos. In communities where locals depend on the coffee industry for 90 percent of their income the impact of climate change will reduce incomes and impact the quality of life. Organizations like ARP and The Arte Sana Foundation can't reverse the effects of climate change but they can help shine a light on the problem.
During the 10 days that NUSAM brought music to the mountains they helped bring smiles and maybe a little escape to those whose lives are so much different than ours back in the USA.