Honkin’ in Lima, Peru

honkin' in peruIn 2007 I traveled to South America to perform at the XVII Festival Jazz en Lima, Peru, with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra. One of the highlights of the festival was a concert we performed in the Lima neighborhood of La Victoria. This is where I met a young saxofonista named Claudia Medina.

More about Claudia in a minute…

The Concert

The U.S. Embassy sponsored this outreach concert in a very poor area of Lima — they provided an outdoor stage, lighting and a sound system for the show, and a charter bus to the gig. The stage was set up in front of some ruins, called a huaca, that had served as a storage area on the Inca trail. The “green room” for the musicians was the building archeologists used to clean and inspect the artifacts found at this site. Before the sound check we explored the huaca, hung out in the garden under avocado trees, and checked out the exotic spiders on the huge cacti.

The stage from the top of the Huaca
The stage from the top of the Huaca
Backstage from the Huacha
Backstage from the top of the Huaca

The sound check for the gig was pretty challenging—the music stands and the electric piano had not yet arrived, the lighting was still being set up and it took a long time to get the sound system adjusted correctly. To their credit, the Peruvians accommodated our explanations in wobbly Spanish about our need to hear ourselves correctly, and they worked hard to make things right. When the concert began, the sound was excellent, the lighting was good, and as I looked behind me, I could see a light-show projected onto the ancient ruins behind the stage.

The concert opened with the mayor of La Victoria and a representative from the Embassy giving a welcome speech to the crowd. Then, as a band, we had a fantastic performing experience and couldn’t resist the serious groove created by the addition of our guest Peruvian percussionists. The concert was made even more special as the audience engaged with us by clapping and singing with the music. Because it was dark and the stage lights were so bright from the stage, we couldn’t see that all the chairs were filled, and the park was full of people all the way to the back fence. Festival organizers estimated that there were at least 1,500 people in attendance.

Sound check
Sound check on the stage in front of the Huaca
The concert in front of the Huaca
The concert in front of the Huaca

The Girl

We finished the concert and then headed backstage through a line of police officers keeping the crowds at bay. The barrier proved to be unnecessary but apparently the Embassy didn’t want to risk an incident. The amount of good feeling from the audience was very encouraging and refreshing, despite the language difference.

We got to meet audience members and give out CDs. There were many teenagers and their parents waiting for us at the barrier, and with the help of a translator, I talked with a young 13-year-old girl who said she loved playing the saxophone. I gave her one of my CDs and told her to keep playing and never give up, and that I expected to hear good things from her some day.

A few years later a young woman named Claudia Verónica Medina Quispe contacted me via Facebook. She asked me if I remembered our conversation at the huaca and called me her “hero.” She said she was studying music at the conservatory, that it was her dream to be a professional musician, and that saxophone was her life. Well, of course I remembered her, and I was moved that she took my words to heart. As we stayed in touch, I started to see more photos and videos online of her performing with bands in Lima, including a video of her playing on a cover of a Snarky Puppy tune. She was also looking for ways to come to the U.S. and pursue her dreams of studying music here.

cactus in PeruThe Visit

In January, as I was jogging around Green Lake listening to Snarky Puppy on my iPod, it occurred to me that I should invite Claudia to attend the Centrum Jazz Workshop, since I wanted to go this year. As it turns out, she was already making plans to visit the U.S. this summer. Now the plan is in place for Claudia to visit people in L.A., and then fly up here to Seattle. After attending Centrum and spending time exploring the Seattle jazz scene with me, she’ll head off to Boston and New York to check out schools, teachers and opportunities there.

I couldn’t be more excited about her visit and the chance to play music with her now that she’s a talented young adult. It will be interesting to watch the possibilities unfold for her as she ventures out into her career.

Keep playing and never give up. I’m thrilled that these words transcended nationality and language to inspire another young woman to keep honkin’. I’m looking forward to hearing more good things from this dedicated saxofonista Peruana!

Two Seattle Performances with Claudia Medina & Cynthia Mullis

Monday, July 27, 9:00pm
EntreMundos at Capitol Cider
818 E Pike St, Seattle WA 98122

Friday, July 31, 7:00pm
Egan’s Ballard Jam House
1707 NW Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107

Claudia Medina, Saxofonista, on YouTube

Treasure: Concierto de Claudia & The Funkin’ Band en La Feria de Barranco – Lima, Peru.
Claudia Medina, Saxo tenor; Jorge “Awelo” Miranda, Guitarra; Rodrigo Elías, Bajo; Alex Pacora, Teclado; Rodrigo “Cajas” Zalles, Batería;


Binky (Snarky Puppy Cover): Los Hackers – Lima, Peru.


Toro Mata: Claudia Medina, Saxofonista

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