Evan Ritter is a student at the Eastman School of Music, originally from Texas. He’s a junior, studying piano performance. He’s also co-director of the South East Asia Music Festival in the Philippines. Teaching and leading this intensive music festival for students in one of the most impoverished districts of a troubled country is both rewarding and challenging.
The challenges include the fear of extrajudicial killings, strict curfews, and even the occasional pack of wild dogs.
Simply, the reality of living in fear is very real and very different from what I experience in my day to day life here. So, yeah, it’s dangerous, and yeah it’s terrifying – and you have to be careful, you have to be smart, you have to not go out past 8 o'clock. But, at the same time – while it’s still super risky for me to be over there, it just makes me want to do it even more. I have to. I feel I have even less of an option knowing that.
Evan Ritter is returning for third year as a teacher at the South East Asia Music Festival, along with 10 other student musicians who will teach alongside him during the two weeks of the festival.
They just have one music teacher, for hundreds of kids – and there’s no way you can teach music to that many kids with just one person filling that role.The kids start showing up at 7:30 in the morning, because they’re crazy, and they want to get started, and they’re just in the courtyard, practicing instruments, and that is so cool to see. They just really really really want music. They want to understand it. They want to speak the language. They want to get into it.
I remember the first year I went, there was this little girl, and she was 12 at the time, and she had never played piano before. I spent the two weeks on basic technique stuff, basic how to read music, how to play the piano. And I came back the next year, and still had the notes I had given her, the notebook paper with the staff on it, everything. She had spent the entire year teaching herself, basically. Just practicing reading music, and going on YouTube and watching videos of people playing the piano. She had improved so much it was crazy – I wouldn’t have imagined anything like that.
Read more about the South East Asia Music Festival here.