UNO professors share their talents with Central America

Photo courtesy of Christie Beard
Greg Staskiewicz

There is a different face to Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, than the one that presents itself to the eye: the crime, barbed wire and military patrols. That other face is full of joy and music.

Tegucigalpa recently hosted the International Flute and Percussion Festival of Honduras, where over 100 Honduran and Central American students, and more than a dozen musicians played folk, ethnic, jazz and other kinds of music in ensembles. The festival ran from June 18-22.

Two faculty members from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) attended the festival. Dr. Christie Beard, Regent’s Foundation Professor of Flute, and Stacie Haneline, pianist and lecturer, played alongside percussionists and flutists from countries including Chile, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada and the United States, Beard said.

Beard said the festival was founded in order to bring music to students in Honduras and other Central American countries, where there is a lack of music teachers that specialize in their instruments.

“They are lucky to find a teacher that does music as their specialty at all,” Beard said.

She said the festival tries to bring music to the students in Honduras in any way possible.

Every time she has traveled to South America, Beard said, she is struck by how the students are simply eager and excited for the opportunity to play music.

“That’s the one thing about the kids in this particular festival,” Haneline said. “There was so much joy, and they were just so glad to be a part of something.”

Beard said the trip to Honduras was “nerve-wracking” at first – she had never been to Honduras, a country said to have a high crime rate, where the musicians’ hotel had guards, and there were soldiers patrolling the neighborhood.

On the other hand, she said, they saw people walking around in the streets, which was uncommon ten years ago.

“I think for me, that was probably the most striking thing, to see that it’s not all doom and gloom as you read about in the online reports, and that it’s actually a very beautiful country,” Beard said. “They’re very welcoming, they’re very friendly.”

Haneline said there was a “poignancy” to the last dinner the musicians and students had together. Though the musicians did not all speak the same language, they did have one language in common: music.

Haneline said that after the dinner, the students wrote musical notes on paper for the musicians to read and improvise with.

“It was like an hour and a half of just this spontaneous, generated music,” Haneline said. “Having lived in Central and South America, they embody this high-spirited energy. It’s the culture, it’s the way they’re born.”

The festival was held this year for the 12th time, Beard said. It was coordinated by the Honduran musicians Jessie Godoy de Pineda and her husband Cristobal Pineda. The first festival was first held in 2002.

Haneline has been at UNO for 8 years. She grew up in a military family and lived around the world in places like South America, Africa, and Australia, which she said made her background in music unconventional.

Beard has been teaching at UNO for 17 years. She grew up singing in her Catholic school’s choir, also taking piano and flute lessons.