All the way from Chicago! Caldo presents Carambola Community Music!

Carambola is led by Maria McCullough and Yahví Pichardo, longtime educators and practitioners of community music. This pair learned and taught together at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for over 10 years. Maria and Yahví fell in love with El Paso and the Southwest after participating in Basketball in the Barrio over the last three years. They are excited and energized to be a part of this vibrant community.

You can learn more about Maria y Yahví and their on-going musical projects here. Join us in welcoming El Paso's newest music school to the family! CC: What is your background as an artist/collective? What drives you? CCM: We both taught for over 10 years at a the Old Town School of Folk Music. The age range we teach is from birth to seniors. We are driven to share the power of music as a tool to help connect people of different ages and backgrounds. Music really is a universal language. Music, like other arts can communicate on a deeply visceral level. We both started playing music as children in group settings (as well as private lessons) and I believe that has shaped our world view as well as the way we teach and why we teach. CC: Each artist who is presenting their ideas at this feast comes to the table with potential to make a lasting impact in our community. What do you find most inspiring about this city/this community? How does/will your work intersect with the community? CCM: The kind of music and dance we teach is meant to be shared. All can participate. There are many people who say that they aren’t musicians, but we are all musicians, we are all dancers, we are all artists, we are ALIVE. Our hope is to instill this practice of finding the music within with this community for generations to come. CC: You relocated here from Chicago to open a music school! What about the city drew you to make such an incredible move? CCM: The sun, the air, the land, the bi-cultural community, the openness. The musicality of the young people we met. The open arms that embraced us. We wanted to be closer to México. We wanted to plant seeds here from the tree we grew off of together in Chicago.We fell in love with this community after teaching at Basketball in the Barrio for three years. We can’t imagine a more exciting place to share our work than on the border in this community.

CC: Caldo's mission focuses on the role of the artist in shaping community through contemporary art projects and programming. As folk musicians, you are in a unique position to redefine what contemporary can be in our community. Do you foresee your practice intersecting with contemporary ideas? CCM: We do. Music is a living, breathing thing. It shifts and changes. As we explore our roots and sing and play together, we evolved the music together in this place at this time. We hope to collaborate with other artists in the community which will help us grow and evolve as well. CC: What support have you received in El Paso? What support would you like to have access to as an artist? CCM: We have been very openly received by everyone we have met. The way people treated us is one of the reasons we wanted to move here. We felt this was a community we wanted to be a part of and people are being so helpful. We plan to apply for different types of funding and grants. We will definitely need help with this. We need materials and instruments for our space. We are in partnership with the Paso del Norte Foundation which I hope will help us provide community projects, classes, workshops and concerts. We want to meet as many people as we can so that we can join in song together. CC: How would you compare the climate for artists in El Paso with that of other cities? What makes El Paso's art community unique? How can it be strengthened? CCM: What’s really neat about El Paso is it seems that so many people know each other and each other’s work. There are people here whose families have been here for generations. The history and the pride of place is striking. Finding more places to interact, connect and share art with each other will strengthen this community. Learning to work with people whose beliefs aren’t exactly in line with yours is a challenge and an opportunity for growth and strength in community. CC: What do you believe the role of art and artists in a community can be? In society? CCM: I think artists are here to inspire and ignite motion in the community. Artists inspire people to think, to communicate, to share, to wonder, to question, to change, to explore, to evolve. CC: How could artistic practices address the cultural identity and needs of this community? CCM: It helps to answer the questions “Who am I?, What can I do to strengthen and help my community?, How can I be a positive participant in my community?” The practice of art is a continual search of our creativity and finding our voice - it defines who we are. CC: It's our understanding that many people associate folk music with folklorico when you tell them about your work. What would you say is a better way to describe the type of music you specialize in? CCM: We teach and play music for togetherness, convivencia. We play together, sing together, dance together. We teach and share a social music. We want to inspire people to have musical lives. CC: Can you tell us about the process/programs you will use to generate points of contact between your work and the community? CCM: We have started with classes and jams. This is just be one aspect of our project. We want to do school residencies and concerts, jams and events outside of our space to allow more of the community to participate. CC: What role does the community have in the production/creation/inception/initiation/activation (choose which words you feel best applies) of art? CCM: The community is the inspiration for the artists and the artist in turn inspires the community. The community creates the need for the art and the art feeds the community. Each community shares unique ways of communicating and a unique environment that informs the way we express art together. CC: As an artist, how best do you feel a community can support its artists? CCM: By asking questions, giving feedback, being curious, participating, being brave about trying new things. CC: Can you paint a picture, briefly, of your ideal artist community? What's the dream? CCM: Ideally, we all support each other either through participating in each other’s projects (which can be hard when you’re busy making art!), sharing each other’s projects, being friendly to each other, collaborating, giving a hug and a high five when someone needs encouragement. Our dream would be to inspire more people in the community to practice music, dance, art, and song themselves which will help us grow as individuals and as a community. Come and feast with us!

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