Giving Voice to the Guatemalan Community

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Giving Voice to the Guatemalan Community

Angela Șindeli, Voice Pedagogy Lecturer, The National University of Music Bucharest; alumna, Global Leaders Program


Rigoletto. Photo: Santiago Castillo – @Hockitay.

“We prepare good artists, but amazing human beings,” said Maria José Morales, the founder of the Querido Arte / Opera de Guatemala, during our first conversation. Herself an alumna of the Global Leaders Program, Maria José is determined to give a voice to Guatemalan singers by offering them a chance to educate themselves, train, and perform at the highest professional level. I treasured hearing her words, which struck me as the essence of music education.

Open-minded, good-hearted, and always with a smile on her face, Maria José developed Querido Arte alongside her husband, famous tenor Mario Chang (General Director), and conductor Nimrod David Pfeffer (Music Director). Designed primarily to help young singers with their emerging artistic careers, Querido Arte also seeks to educate audiences and increase visibility of the arts in Guatemalan communities. It is a place where everyone belongs—where one can share their passion for music, learn, teach, and exercise their artistic and pedagogical skills. In short, it is a small musical family, sharing the transformative power of music with both musicians and their communities.

The organization aims to fill a void felt by Maria José and Mario when they were just beginning their own opera careers. For all its rich musical history, Guatemala does not have a strong operatic tradition. In fact, it doesn’t have many education programs for aspiring opera singers; even The National Conservatory of Music Guatemala doesn’t offer a specialized curriculum for opera studies. Seeking to address this need, Querido Arte is open and free to aspiring opera singers and to anyone with a special interest in the genre.

Una Historia de Navidad. Photo: Querido Arte.

For participating children and teens, that means a cool, friendly, and professional environment where they can shape their musical talent. They learn to sing and play different instruments; they attend choir and orchestra rehearsals and live performances; they work with guest teachers and lecturers invited by the organization to lead master classes and workshops; and they take their first steps in teaching music theory, solfege, and conducting. Those who take care of these amazing young people—educators, singers, conductors, instrumentalists—work on a voluntary basis or for small, symbolic fees.

The atmosphere at the rehearsals and during the performances represents a boost for the teens at the beginning of their musical journey. They get the flavor of each level of a final show. For instance, when taking part in an opera production, they go through each step of preparation: singing lessons, movement, body awareness, dress rehearsals, staging, lighting, costuming, and so on.

Auditions, opera productions, concerts with repertoires that range from choir to opera and church music—Querido Arte dedicates all their musical offerings to the communities in which they work. In doing so, they reach audiences in different places and who have different backgrounds, offering them live music experiences they might not otherwise have. This includes those who are suffering or unable to travel; they perform A Christmas Story (Una Historia de Navidad) in Guatemalan public hospitals (Hospital Roosevelt, Hospital General San Juan De Dios) every December. For many, these experiences are their first as performers, expanding their sense of community as well as their sense of what’s possible.

Querido Arte knows that any community’s future lies in the hands of its children. Themselves parents to a young music-maker, Maria José and Mario have transformed children playing into the serious work of making music and being together. Before they even realize it, children are singing and performing as a common extracurricular activity. They know that Querido Arte is a space where their voices matter.

Something magical happens when a professional development organization sees itself through the lens of its community. Rather than simply offering the arts to others, it begins to foster new creative exploration. Rather than educate, it integrates, meeting people where they are both physically and culturally. Throughout it all, Querido Arte never forgets its mission: to reach out for community, and to enrich and heal others with the power of music.

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