Juan Carlos Dos Santos, Paraguay’s National Symphony conductor, visits Pittsburg State University


The Morning Sun

Apr 03, 2010


Music may be a universal language, but each nation has its own accent, developed from its people, culture and history.

Pittsburg State University students had an opportunity to learn about the music of Paraguay during the past week from one of the best possible teachers. Juan Carlos Dos Santos is conductor of Paraguay’s National Symphony, chairman of the music department at the National University and has used been named head of the National Conservatory.

Craig Fuchs, PSU music department chairman, went to Paraguay last year and had the honor of conducting a concert with the National Orchestra. He then applied for a grant to bring Dos Santos to PSU for a week, and received it.

“We have about 30 students from Paraguay at PSU, including eight musicians,” Fuchs said.

One of them, Gustavo Aquino, who’s working on a master’s degree in conducting, served as interpreter when Dos Santos discussed Paraguayan music during a recent world music class at PSU.

“Paraguay is a small country in the heart of South America, just as Kansas is in the heart of the United States,” Dos Santos said. “Every country in South America has a partnership with some state in the United States.”

Paraguay’s culture comes from Spain, he said, just as American culture was inherited from Britain. However, Dos Santos noted that the indigenous population of Paraguay, the Guarani Indians, have also had a strong cultural influence.

The country has a long musical history, starting with the natives and extending into the years when the area was a Spanish colony. Jesuit priests brought their own musical influences during this time.

“Music was an important part of the evangelization of the Indians,” Dos Santos said.

Other important European musical influences came in the second half of the 19th century, when the president of Paraguay hired French musicians to form military bands, and in 1912 when an Italian musician came to form a police academy band.

The famous Paraguyan polka first made its appearance in 1850. Dos Santos said it is like the European polka in name only.

Sadly some of the early music scores were lost because of war. Most devastating was the War of the Triple Alliance, known in Paraguay as the Great War, fought about the same time as the U.S. Civil War. Paraguay battled against the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It caused more deaths than any other South American war, and particularly devastated Paraguay.

“Only about 10 percent of the population survived this war,” Dos Santos said. “Only children and adolescents survived. All the adults were gone.”

Efforts of the country to recover and develop culturally were delayed further in 1932 when Paraguay and Bolivia went to war.”

Nonetheless, Paraguay produced composers and performers of great ability. Dos Santos told of Jose Asuncion Flores, who created the music style Guarania  in 1925.

A distinguished conductor and conservatory head from Paraguay, Juan Carlos Dos Santos, visited this week in the Pittsburg State University music department. Pictured, from left, are Craig Fuchs, PSU music department chairman, Dos Santos, and Jim Clanton, PSU percussion instructor, who will be teaching this summer in Paraguay.

Main instruments in Paraguay are the guitar and the harp, first brought in by the Spanish conquistadors. One of Paraguay’s greatest composers for guitar was Augustin Pio Barrios, also known as “Mangore,” Dos Santos said that some music critics consider him the finest composer for guitar in the world. He was also the first guitar player to record his music.

Music is now thriving in  Paraguay. A youth symphony was created in 1992, the National Conservatory was recreated in 1996 and in 2004 the National Symphony was formed.

“Last year we created a bachelor’s degree in music at the National University,” Dos  Santos said.

PSU is playing an important part in the continuing development of music in Paraguay in several ways. Dos Santos noted that there are eight Paraguyan music students in Pittsburg.

“We have high expectations for them to bring what they have learned here back to Paraguay,” Dos Santos said.

Fuchs is also enthusiastic about the university’s role in promoting musical development in Paraguay.

“One of my goals while the maestro is here is to explore the possibility of developing distance learning in Paraguay,” Fuchs said. “There’s a lot of potential for us to do a lot of programs with them.”

The Paraguay-PSU connection will continue this summer as Jim Clanton, who teaches percussion in the PSU music department, goes back to Paraguay to teach for a second time.

“The first time was so successful that we hired him again,” Dos Santos said.

Copyright 2010 Morning Sun. Some rights reserved


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