Small Musicians With Big Dreams

Palabra/ Comida del dia: Locrio

The Spanish word “locrio” has two meanings:
1. A music theory term for the seventh mode of the major scale
2. A Dominican food that is a mixture of rice and small pieces of meat


Locrio from Comedor Mercedes.

I’ve been giving music theory classes to the bachata guitar teacher at DREAM, and one day after discussing locrio in theory class, we went to the comedor for lunch and ate locrio. We both thought it was pretty hilarious that we were eating the seventh mode of the major scale!

Foto del dia:


The DREAM Project músicos pose with guest artist Doug Wimbish after an exciting workshop.

This blog has thus far focused on my research, through which I’ve talked to interesting people and heard some great music. Research, however, is only half of my project. The rest of the time, you can find me at the DREAM Project in Cabarete teaching piano lessons, jazz ensembles, and musicianship classes, or across the street at the bachata school honing my skills on the bongo or inventing parts for bachata French horn.

The DREAM Project is an NGO located in the Callejon neighborhood of Cabarete. Its mission is to provide transformative education programs that combat the effects of poverty and empower at-risk children and youth to create a better future for themselves and their families. It was founded and is directed by people from the U.S., but employs both local and international staff and volunteers.

mobile van

A student hangs out in one of DREAM’s mobile library vans.

The DREAM Project has an array of programs for students of all ages, and reaches over 4,000 children annually in Cabarete and the surrounding neighborhoods. All of the programs are free. The DREAM Project’s programs include Montessori preschools, the Young Stars after-school enrichment program that focuses on literacy for students in grades 1-8, the A Ganar youth workforce training which prepares young adults for jobs or college, and a program called Deportes Para la Vida which uses sports to promote awareness about minimizing the spread of HIV/AIDS. In addition, DREAM has a summer camp, a parent education program, community English classes, computer literacy classes, teacher training resources, mobile library vans, and a public library. And of course, there’s the music program.

typical Saturday

A typical Saturday morning at the DREAM Project.

If you walk by the DREAM Center in the early afternoons, you are likely to hear my piano students Emily and Ariaquis practicing something from their varied jazz/ rock/ Latin repertoire, which reflects the diversity of their teachers and includes everything from the Art Blakey tune “Moanin’” to the Buena Vista Social Club’s hit “Chan Chan.” Later in the afternoon you might hear Brayan banging on the drum set, or Alexander and Brailin working on improvised solo lines on guitar and base. On Saturday mornings, all of the students come together for chorus practice, ensemble rehearsals, and musicianship classes where they learn basic music skills while listening to everything from Bruno Mars to Mahler.

The DREAM Music program focuses on jazz and popular music. Forty students receive private lessons on piano, bass, drums, or guitar, and participate in group rehearsals, chorus, and classes. The aim of the program is to provide resources that enable students to develop the social and academic skills that they need to be successful and contribute positively to their communities, whether they choose to pursue music or another career.

Here’s a video of the DREAM músicos performing “Sunny” at our end of the year concert in December. It features Ariaquis on voice, Emily on piano, Luis Miguel on bass, Michael on drums, teacher Juan on bass, and myself on French horn.

Across the street from the DREAM Project is the iASO Bachata School, which is a partnership between iASO Records and the DREAM Project. If you stop by on a weekday afternoon, you will find Riki teaching guitar inside the bachata house, and Abel surrounded by small percussionistas out back.


The school was launched by Benjamin de Menil of iASO Records three years ago, and the students have shown impressive progress for a relatively short time period. On Thursday afternoons during group rehearsals, the students play a set of tunes that closely resemble professional recordings, whether it’s today’s top hits or more traditional standards.

Here’s a video of the students performing at the DREAM Brunch fundraiser in December:

Another unique aspect of the DREAM Project is that a few times a year there are visits from guest artists, who put on concerts and workshops with the students. This is especially important in Cabarete, where there are few professional musicians and scarce opportunities to attend live concerts. A few weeks ago, rock bassist/ singer Greg Godovitz came from Canada to do a workshop with the students. And in December, bassist Doug Wimbish from the band Living Colour played with the students in the DREAM Brunch fundraiser. He brought this pedal board with him:


My students had never seen anything like that before, and neither had I! We were impressed with his crazy sounds, and then later amused when he started playing his bass with his teeth. These guest workshops have been a ton of fun, and a great opportunity for the students to get a taste of what is happening in the music world outside of Cabarete and the DR.

During the past few months, I’ve loved getting to know my students and I’ve been impressed by their dedication, respect, and the good-natured fun we have during classes and rehearsals. I’ve also enjoyed figuring out how to teach music, in part by talking to veteran teachers that I know, but largely by trial and error. I’ve realized that my own enthusiasm for music is infectious and that enthusiasm goes a long way in a learning environment. After six months, I’m beginning to see my students progress, which makes me proud of their hard work and satisfied that I may have actually managed to teach them something.

I’m also looking forward to the next few months. We have a new volunteer, Alan, and he’s already helping to solve various organizational issues that we’ve struggled with recently. We’re also working on implementing some new ideas, including saxophone lessons and a system of supervised practice, during which older students mentor younger ones.

To stay updated about the DREAM Music Program, give our Facebook page a like!

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