Since our last update our center has been quite busy. A video update will soon be posted, but to peak your interest, let’s just say that it’s been quite a busy month!
Leni Stern, famed guitarist and musician from New York, came for a 2 week residency with at the center. She taught song writing, guitar, and song composition and arranging to students in primary and secondary school, as well as to rising artists in Ouidah. Her work with the Ouidah musicians culminated in us starting a new tradition here are CIAMO, a once a month composer’s circle where artists come to share their music and to have small scale performances for the artists of Ouidah. At the end of Leni’s two weeks with the center, the culmination was a concert held at the American Cultural Center in the economic capital of Benin, Cotonou. She and the students with whom she worked so hard performed songs that they wrote together during the residency. The students and Leni were fantastic and we at CIAMO, along with all of their parents who attended were so proud. In front of a concert of over 300 guests, including ministers, ambassadors, diplomats of all sorts, and local television and radio press, Leni and our students were truly stars!
Leni’s departure was difficult but we had our co-founders, Sarah DuPont and Gigi Hancock there to keep the excitement going! They arrived the final few days of Leni’s residency at the center and stayed for a few days after. Their stay here was so valuable. The connections that were made with the government of Benin and the many foreign service officers that we met with will continue to serve the project for years to come. For example, the Minister of Education promised to work with our curriculum development specialist this coming year to ensure that the primary school arts education curriculum is updated and revised and eventually implemented nationwide. The Minister of Culture was so impressed with our concert; he even came out to visit us and the students in Ouidah the Monday after the concert. We were very honored by his visit and look forward to continuing to work with his office for the duration of the project.
Again, we said sad goodbyes to Sarah and Gigi, but the work continues! Next Wednesday we have an art exposition and concert planned in collaboration with the Francophone Center in celebration of the French language and solidarity among French speakers. So much to do and so much fun to have!