Thursday, June 13, 2024

World-class music school in Zihuatanejo remains a dream

A music school that caters to the poorest of the poor in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, is facing eviction barring a miracle.

Elvis “Aikeke” Rose  is the director of the school of music and art, best known as EMAZ, a school that operates on a shoestring budget and on borrowed or donated instruments, which are still in short supply.

Although the government has set aside land to fulfill the dream of a world-class school, the reality is that for now the school is set in a courtyard adjacent to a cabana-like structure where Aikeke lives.

No one with talent is turned away. Somehow Aikeke makes it work and has turned out fine students over the years who have gone on to sing in opera houses in Mexico and play with groups or as solo artists locally and beyond.

The few students who can pay barely cover the rent, so the school is facing eviction this month if a miracle doesn’t happen soon.

Christopher on the piano, watched by his sister and teacher Aikeke.
Christopher on the piano, watched by his sister and teacher Aikeke.

An accomplished musician who began playing professionally at 11, Aikeke is proud of his military musical training at the United States Navy School of Music in Virginia. He describes it as the best training anyone could possibly have, with emphasis on theory and technical proficiency.

Following service in the U.S. Army, the native of St Vincent in the Caribbean honed his craft by working as a studio musician for some of the greatest in Jazz — Rubén Blades, Roland Prince and Elsworth (Shake) Keane to name a few.

Aikeke played drums for a touring band known as The Equitables, playing throughout the U.S. and Canada, but it was when he came to Mexico around 1995 that he first discovered Zihuatanejo and decided he could make a difference here.

He asked me to visit the school to meet one of his most promising students, Christopher, age 24. Christopher started to play the piano a short year ago and is now playing full compositions in many genres. Among his favorites is John Lennon’s Imagine, which he played for me, but he is proficient with many more.

Aikeke used the word genius to describe him. He is also Aikeke’s first autistic student who is blind.

The pair first met at a local school that specializes in helping children and young adults who are challenged either physically or mentally or sometimes both.

An architectural rendition of the proposed new music school.
An architectural rendition of the proposed new music school.

Although Aikeke has taught other blind students, it has taken an inordinate amount of patience to be successful with an autistic student like Christopher, but the effort has been well worth it.

In addition to his playing ability, Christopher can sing in perfect pitch and loves to perform for anyone who will listen. For Aikeke, music has been the perfect way to help students like Christopher reach their potential.

As I listened to Christopher play, I could feel the passion this young man had for the music, and I wiped away a tear when Christopher finished the number.

For Christopher’s parents, music is a way for their son to grow, to learn and best of all, find normalcy in his life.

For Aikeke, music has been the perfect way to help students like Christopher reach their potential. “I don’t just teach kids who can afford to play,” Rose stated. “I teach kids with talent. And Christopher has talent.”

Unfortunately, judging by the school’s dire financial straits, “payment in apples, oranges and sometimes coconuts doesn’t pay the bills.”

A guitar student at EMAZ.
A guitar student at EMAZ.

• To find out how you can help, either by sponsoring a student or supplying instruments or just donating, visit the school’s website. EMAZ is a fully recognized Mexican charity.

EMAZ student Christopher at the keyboard.


Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Obnoxious man in a sombrero smoking a cigar

The American Know-It-All

We all know him, we all (barely) tolerate him, we should absolutely all ignore his advice.

I was only going to stay a year, but now it’s been 7!

Columnist Bel Woodhouse explains how a short stay in the Caribbean turned into a full blown love affair with Mexico.
An old woman tailor

Taxistas, Baristas and Tailors: Why making connections is easier in Mexico

Forming meaningful, yet casual, connections with people in Mexico is easily done and can make a huge difference to your quality of life.