The Canadian Club Connection with the Cornell Winds and Costa Rica
by Joan Ritchie Dewar

It was another elegant and fun-filled performance when the Cornell University Winds Ensemble performed a benefit concert in support of the Asociación Caritativa Canadiense at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, Cultural Center in San José on January 12th. Close to 100 guests enjoyed the afternoon performance, with proceeds of $1200 to help fund school projects undertaken by the ACC.

Amazingly, of the 44 students performing, only seven are actually enrolled in Music studies, the rest studying everything from Animal & Food Sciences to Chemical Engineering, Biology, History & Government – you name it! But, they all share a love and expertise in music.

The selections they performed under the wonderful direction of Professor Cynthia Johnson Turner, ranged from the rich serenade of October (composer Eric Whitacre) and Pineapple Poll (a ballet suite by Sir Arthur Sullivan), to everyone’s favourite 76 Trombones (Meredith Wilson) and more!

What is the connection between Cornell University, the Canadian Club and Costa Rica?

First, came the charitable arm of the Canadian Club, the Asociación Caritativa Canadiense and its founders Lyn Statten & Fred Boden who have since the year 2000 championed the need for improved infrastructure in Costa Rican schools.

ACC’s vision is “that every Costa Rican child has access to a clean, secure, well-maintained and healthy school environment in which to learn and grow”. Their fund-raising has contributed over $300,000 to help schools in 95 needy communities, repairing badly deteriorating roofs, bathrooms, septic tanks, providing classroom materials, erecting security walls, playgrounds, and more.

Then, along came Lyn’s Canadian cousin Cynthia (Cindi) Johnston Turner, who is Director of the famed Wind Ensembles at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Professor Johnston’s leadership integrates the theories of her Masters thesis on the musical and personal transformations for students that occur while on tours. Before joining Cornell, Cindi received her D.M.A. at the Eastman School of Music, NY where she was the recipient of the Eastman Graduate Teaching Award in conducting.

Since January 2006, Cindi has led her talented students to great acclaim on biennial tours to Costa Rica. CUWinds tours include community performances across the country, master classes with Costa Rican teachers, instrument master classes for Costa Rican children, and the donation of over 250 instruments to music schools.

Here’s where SINEM connects the dots between CUWinds and the musical school network, arranging for CUWinds’ master classes and community performances. Sistema Nacional Educación Musical is the perhaps little-known arm of the Ministry of Culture and Youth of Costa Rica, established in 2007. SINEM’s mandate seeks to give children outside the metropolitan area of San José, and in at-risk urban areas, opportunity for high quality musical training & education, along with academic studies.

Nine SINEM music schools and 20 Children’s & Youth Orchestras are currently established throughout the country, each in turn performing outreach for further musical education in their communities.

CUWinds’ students benefit equally from this partnership, past participants quoted as saying that the tour is “probably the most significant thing I’ll do in my life,” “is an incredible experience,” and “taught me the true meaning of service.”

We hope you, too, will join us for a memorable, musical Sunday afternoon when the Cornell Winds return to Costa Rica in two year’s time!