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Be the Mule Blog

Ayotzinapa Workshop

Yesterday I gave a workshop that was more of a cultural exchange at the “rural normal” school in Ayotzinapa thanks to a friend Sarai who had reached out to me and the 70 some people who support Music Mission. 

The students at the workshop, about 30, were very nice and generous, and like anywhere, have ideas and hopes both simple and grand they want to express through music. The first question the group’s coordinator asked, also a student, was why I came there, not meant in an accusatory manner, but out of curiosity, at least as I understood it. I wasn’t sure how to really express that, and maybe didn’t know at the time and kind rambled a bit, but now I see it was perhaps not only because I thought they could use music and whatever support I can give, but that I might need them in order to feel, and find, my music. Maybe that is why I have this odd life of where Im from and where I am that seems to make little sense to anyone but me. Im following music over common reason.


We all began our time together timidly but by the end were joking, hugging, and making plans for the future. This is the impossible romance of connecting through art.  


Time at the school is colored by the impossible sadness of the tragedy and crime of September 2014 when 43 students of the school went missing, some of the parents still wait there for the kids to return. Throughout the school are photographs of the missing students, flowers, declarations, and notices. But I left feeling hope above all else. There is an almost impossible dignity the kids had in the way they treated me and communicated their thoughts and experiences, the way they listened, and how they spoke. We did not talk about tragedy, we talked about what they want to do, that one student is in love with a girl up the road and another likes Nirvana while another likes traditional music and the songs of the school and another is tired of the traditional music of his town and another likes singing romantic songs because he “feels a lot of need for romance as an adolescent”.


It was not that different of an experience than a recent clinic we gave at Jefferson College in Missouri with A Love Electric, or the same at Univ of Colorado. Young people who connected with music and found hope in it at some point in their life, and want to explore with and by it. 


The students invited me back to play a concert and I look forward to doing that. Not for the spectacle nor charity, but because we need each other. All of us.


A few moments that will stick with me :


A younger student asked me about my family in the US, if they were worried that I was in Guerrero. I told him yes, probably, like any parents, like any Mother, they would worry. I asked him the same, if his Mom was worried. He said, straight faced asking no sympathy, “I don’t have one, she and my brother were killed, but yes my Dad worries a lot that Im here, but Im learning.”


Part of custom at the school is not to recognize by applause. I played a few songs and no one applauded  looked up and saw half of them with cellphones recording. I knew it wasn’t for lack of interest the applause, and from there on kind of enjoyed the silence. It requires a breath and consideration after playing that doesn’t come when you get sound of immediate approval. After about 90 minutes, we finished our time together, mostly joking and talking music, and the students helped me pack up and head back to Chilpancingo. One of the students spoke to me in a quiet voice, saying “here we have a little different ideology, we don’t applaud because of the idolatry, its a Marx or Lenin or I don’t know, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t like it.” I had already understood that, but thought it was sweet and meaningful of him to say that.



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