English Transcription of Interview with Carolina (Marañon) Gustafson

Gustavo: Welcome to episode number 2 of the VocalEssence and Friends series. It is with great honor that VocalEssence and me introduce you to the great choral musical organization of the Twin Cities called VocalEssence. VE is extending this invitation to all our LatinX families here in the Twin Cities. We spoke a few days ago with Novelli Jurado, a composer, musician, and a great friend of VocalEssence. Today we have the opportunity to chat with an enthusiastic young woman who has been very involved with VocalEssence, but also within other important organizations connecting our communities with resources and opportunities like this one. We have the Carolina Marañón with us today who is part of this Latino council for VocalEssence. How are you Caro? Greetings!

Carolina: Hi Gustavo, good afternoon. Well thank you very much for the invitation. I love being here sharing with you the interesting programs that benefit all LatinX families in the community. Well, that has been my job for several years ever since I moved to this state, and I am happy to be here sharing. As you said my name is Carolina Marañón originally; however, I am Gustafson now. I am from Mexico, I moved to Minnesota about nine years ago. I live in Saint Paul, and I am part of the council of Latino leaders of the VocalEssence Cantaré program, and part of the organization’s board of directors since 2018.

Gustavo: We know a little about your active participation within VocalEssence, and within other organizations. How about we start there Caro? Tell us a bit about your experience within these organizations and within your work here in the Twin Cities.

Carolina: Well, I got involved with VocalEssence in 2012, when I moved to Minnesota from Mexico to work at the Mexican consulate in Saint Paul. At that time, I oversaw cultural affairs at the consulate and very soon I learned about the close relationship between the consulate and VocalEssence through the Cantaré program. Part of my job was to make sure that Mexico was being well represented in the region and that local people had the opportunity to get to know our culture in a respectful and authentic way. Personally, I was at the time adapting to my new identity as an immigrant in this country. I was trying to find ways to stay connected with Mexico and with the Latino community in Minnesota and the region. I saw that Cantaré was a beautiful way to accomplish all of that. Since then, I have been very proud of this program and the effects it has had on our community. It is always very exciting for me to see songwriters every year so excited to share our music. And even more so to see so many children from so many different cultures singing in my language and in other indigenous languages. As well as learning more about us and our Mexican culture. Through my position at the Mexican consulate, I worked with VocalEssence for about six years on the organizational council of Cantaré. As of three years ago I have been working for another administration called Global Minnesota. Ever since then, I made sure to stay involved with VocalEssence in one way or another. And soon after, I received the invitation to be part of the VocalEssence board of directors and which I gladly accepted.

Gustavo: Congratulations on the job! Please tell us a little more. I do not know if you want to help us describe once again the whole project that this Cantaré program entails.

Carolina: Of course, and as I have just mentioned, I got hooked onto this organization ever since I saw firsthand the value and its effects it has on our community. Basically, Cantaré is an annual program that takes place in the summer. We bring composers from different parts of Latin America usually Mexico, but it seems to me that there have been a couple from other parts of Latin America celebrated as well. Career musicians, career composers, recognized in Mexico and Latin America work with kids to adults of different parts of the metropolitan area and the suburbs of the Twin Cities. A “match” is made between the composers and the different primary, secondary, preparatory schools, and local choirs. And the composers create specific pieces of music for those groups according to the singing level of each group. So, there can be songs from children’s rounds with which we grew up singing in Mexico, to traditional music, poems, different things that are completely part of our culture adapted with music with totally traditional features adapted for children to understand and identify. At the end of the year there is a great concert in which all these choirs and all these groups of children and adolescents come together as they show us everything they learned throughout the year with these composers of the Mexican culture.

Gustavo: Very good, and of course Cantaré is just one of those concert programs that VocalEssence has throughout the year. Seeing that you are a part of the VocalEssence board, surely there have been many conversations within recent months about how to do things differently, or how to reach the LatinX community with these marvelous concerts in different ways due to the global pandemic.

Carolina: I believe that all the organizations have obviously been affected by everything that has happened in 2020 and in 2021. VocalEssence saw itself among the need to make a change in the way we reach out to everyone we would like to reach. A big part of our mission is to make sure we bring music to the most people as we can. We usually did it through great concerts with many low-costs or even free. And well, in the end, when it became impossible for us to continue doing concerts, we had to make some changes to remain accessible to everyone.

Gustavo: Very good, and as part of those changes of course is the VocalEssence on-demand series. That we are going to talk about in a few seconds. Also, VocalEssence has established a new internship program with a young man named Saúl Patiño, who oversees establishing these programs and assisting with communications so that the LatinX community here in the Twin Cities knows that they are cordially invited and welcomed to all these on-demand activities now online by way of VocalEssence on-demand. The information for the VocalEssence site will of course be put on the screen. VocalEssence on-demand is a series of concerts, and we are currently in the 2020-2021 season. These concerts are being presented online and you have been invited to subscribe for free by simply following a few steps to enjoy these musical events that are enriching for the whole family. Tell us Caro, what is the impact of these concerts and these musical events within our communities and our families.

Carolina: Well, I have always thought that music is something that unites us all between cultures, right? Between cultures, ages, languages, it does not matter. In everyone’s house there are all kinds of music all the time, right? From the song in the novella, the song our grandmother likes, or the one we remember our grandfather with. Or the songs our children listen to; there is always something and there are always memories and important moments in the family centered around music. So, I feel that it is something that is an essential part of who we are as human beings, right? And well, many times we do not have the opportunity, especially within our LatinX community that is hard working, to take do something together as a family. Also, there are children, many times we do not have the opportunity to enjoy experiences as these and would like. To be able to sit down and be able to go to a live concert or something like that because we only have so many days off work, or we got off work late, or whatever…  The family, the children, where we leave them? Do we take them? What about the cost of it all, right? And well, with that idea in mind, VocalEssence created the on-demand series. We found the solution to continue to be able to bring everyone together through song. Especially right now that it is so difficult to get out, that the mask, and that building is closed, and all of that. It is very comfortable to be able to open your computer, turn on your television, open the page and have the information directly in Spanish so that you understand it, so that you do not have to be struggling with translations or anything like that. It is very easy to understand all the pages of the entire VocalEssence website due to the site being translated into Spanish. It seems to me that in three or four different languages. You can watch any VocalEssence concert from the comfort of your own home. You can prepare yourself a drink, you can watch with popcorn, and you can sit down with the family to enjoy a concert online. That would be much more complicated otherwise.

Gustavo: Indeed, there is the invitation, we have a very good opportunity and you who are watching us can help us spread the word to publicize this opportunity for our families. Registration is completely free to VocalEssence is on-demand. All you have to do is follow this link that is on our screen, or you can also call the telephone number that is on the screen to contact Saúl Patiño, who can very kindly answer your questions and get you to signed up for VocalEssence on-demand and help you become a part of these great concerts. Remember, the concert that is coming up celebrates the 2021 edition of Cantaré. We are very excited for you to share with you these types of opportunities. Help us spread the word! Please share it, and of course thank Caro! Would you like to add anything or maybe have something more to say for our entire community?

Carolina: Just to reiterate that it is very easy and free to subscribe. If you have any doubts lingering or say to yourself, “the decision sounds very interesting, I want to get closer, but I’m scared, nervous, or whatever”. The only thing I could tell you is that the first step would be to sign up, it is totally free. Open your computer, listen to the concerts, watch the concerts from the comfort of your home. See one concert, see another, see another. As I said, we have programs of such a variety that you will surely find a type of program, a type of concert that catches your attention. Get on the page, explore it, read about our programs, and once we can be in person come over to say hello to the team because that is for me the thread that runs through all the programs we have. Aside from world-class music and musical premieres from world-renowned composers, VocalEssence has a sense of community. We strive to create a hard-working team that works behind the scenes of it all to bring you these magnificent shows. We would love to say hello and have you become a part of the VocalEssence family!

Gustavo: Perfect! We thank you all for your presence and your attention! Thanks to Carolina Marañón here at VocalEssence and Amigos. Thanks Caro!

Carolina: Thank you Gustavo!

Gustavo: Good day!