Music as a Course From Hardship

When Dafne Guevara took the stage for her flute convocation on Sept. 13, she needed to stand on a pedestal to reach the microphone. In spite of her small stature, Guevara’s accomplishments are anything however little.

With resourcefulness, charm, and the assistance of a Summer Doctoral Research Fellowship from the UNLV Graduate College, the School of Music doctoral trainee arranged and directed the first annual Panamanian Flute Festival in the summertime of 2017.

Guevara was born and raised in El Chorrillo, Panama, so she knows firsthand how life-altering art can be for residents who have sustained widespread violence and despair. She calls Panama a “contemporary middle ages civilization” since of its severe wealth disparity, but Guevara believes that music can be a balm for the country’s suffering.

“They are losing hope, however music is a powerful tool,” she says.

Guevara was the youngest of 17 children, a number of whom were seduced by the appeal of violence and loan in the face of frustrating hardship.

“We had nothing,” she states.

At 6 years of ages, she found a skill for music when her mother registered her in a music program to keep her off the streets. Despite the pessimism and discouragement of an elementary school instructor who informed her that she would “never get out, never make anything of [herself],” Guevara excelled.

After graduation, she won a Fulbright scholarship and made her way to North Carolina to study flute performance. She made her master’s degree but says she “wasn’t ready to go back to Panama,” so she enrolled in the doctoral program at UNLV.

While studying, mentor, and tutoring here, Guevara recognized that she wished to give back to her home nation. She arranged the first-ever flute celebration at the University of Panama, which has very restricted funding for music education. Planning a global festival from 4,000 miles away was tough, Guevara states, but “I understood I had a duty. It’s not something I’m providing for myself,” she states.

Guevara initially had to establish a tax-deductible organization– Asociación Panameña de Flautistas, or APAFLUT– so that her celebration could recruit sponsors and raise funds via trainee recitals.

She then connected to coaches at UNLV and around the world and made an application for scholarships and grants to assist fund the festival. She won a Summertime Doctoral Research Study Fellowship from the Graduate College, which supplied most of funding for the project.

In overall, Guevara collected 67 students from six countries, in addition to 17 artists and instructors. She used her fellowship money to pay for her instructors’ plane tickets and hotel rooms. And she recruited sponsors for her trainees, a lot of whom were unable to contribute to their tuition. She wished to reveal these students that with enough “nerve and concentration,” success is possible.

“I desired the entire music community to see that they can do it,” she states. “If you set your mind to something, you can do it.”

Guevara remains in the process of establishing the very first Panamanian flute choir, and she wants to one day have a physical office for APAFLUT. Though she intends on continuing the flute festival, her experience as a kid in Panama has taught her that children require innovative outlets all year long to assist them cope with the criminal activity and hardship that surrounds them. Guevara knows that one week per summer is insufficient.

“I wish to keep kids busy for the whole year,” she states. “These programs battle [their surroundings]”

Guevara intends to start flute celebrations all over the world to provide trainees an opportunity to share in this unique experience and refine their abilities with talented experts. However initially, she will end up with her doctoral music degree. With only one term left, she is hectic mentor classes at UNLV and studying for her certifying exams. When asked if she feels anxious, she is unphased.

“I will pass. I know I will,” she states.

Possibly it is that type of confidence that makes Guevara’s story so engaging. Guevara’s advisor Jennifer Grim, who participated in the festival, encouraged the audience at Guevara’s convocation to chase their dreams with self-confidence, even when they seem frustrating or impossible.

“You can all do exactly what Dafne did. Let this influence you,” she stated.

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