When I first joined the Ball State Jazz Program, I couldn’t anticipate the kinds of experiences I would share with the faculty and members of the program. In October 2018, we were treated with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which was extraordinary! The Costa Rica trip this past May was an added bonus to an incredible year with this group.
Monday, May 6
During our first full day we were stationed at the Hotel Presidente in San Jose, the nation’s capital. We took a tour and were introduced to Costa Rica’s diverse culture. One of the facilities we toured was the National Theater, where we would perform on Tuesday afternoon. We were also introduced to San Jose’s primary central market which is where most businesses and entertainment are located. At the conclusion of the tour, we traveled to the National Institute of Music to present a master class. I befriended one of the trumpet performers in their jazz group, Francisco Perez Fernandez, and am currently in the process of recruiting him to Ball State to begin graduate studies in Spring 2020.
Tuesday, May 7
On Tuesday, we performed at the National Theater. The National Theater is one of the most important structures in San Jose and Costa Rica. The performance was sold out and I was looking forward to sharing our performance with the audience. The concert was one I will remember for a long time to come. The audience was into every single song we performed and the ensemble used that energy to enliven the musical experience. My favorite moment of the concert was the conclusion. The audience clapped in unison chanting “encore.” I looked over at Mark Buselli, the director of jazz studies, and his expression was one of surprise and happiness.
Wednesday, May 8
We had more free time to explore San Jose before traveling to our second performance location at the National University of Costa Rica in Heredia. A few members of the group and I decided to explore San Jose further. We met up with Manuel Vasquez Ramirez, a saxophone graduate assistant at Ball State, and he gave us another tour of the city. Our performance at the National University was well-received, but could not compare to our performance at the National Theater.
Thursday, May 9
Beach day! We had a long extended road trip to the West Coast and Manuel Antonio Park at the Beach. The coast was gorgeous and the environment was perfect for relaxing and enjoying the views. Unfortunately, I lost my prescription glasses to the Pacific Ocean. I thought I could reach a rocky platform to take photos, but a large wave surprised me and my glasses flew off, never to be seen again. Before boarding the buses, some of the group members encountered 3 local Panamanian white-faced capuchin, a monkey commonly found in Costa Rica and Central American.
Friday, May 10
On Friday morning we hiked through the rainforest jungles at the Cloudbridge reserve, located at one of the mountain peaks of San Isidro de El General. The rainforest was breathtaking, full of all kinds of plants, animals, and various landscapes such as waterfalls and small caverns. The reserve is dedicated to preserving the rainforest and recently underwent a successful 10-year forest restoration project. Towards the end of the hike, it began to rain. In this particular reserve, the rain usually starts around 2 p.m. and does not stop until near sunrise the next day. It was relaxing to walk down the peak in the rain.
Following our hike, we traveled back to our hotel and began preparations for our final performance at La Escuela de la Musica Sinfonica Perez Zeledon, or “The School of Symphonic Music of Perez Zeledon.” Mark Buselli and several members of the jazz band present a master class prior to the performance. It was another packed show with over 400 people in the auditorium. The performance was most enjoyable because of how the audience received the music and wanted more after each piece. Professor Buselli did an excellent job putting together each program throughout the trip.
Saturday, May 11
Today we traveled back to San Jose in preparation for our departure to the United States on Sunday. We stopped at the Doka Estate, one of the primary coffee plantations of Costa Rica, for a tour. We discovered how coffee beans are processed and produced into different brands of coffee. I was intrigued to learn how long it takes for a coffee bean plant to grow. It takes 5 years to grow one plant and 10 to 15 years to grow a small farm of coffee bean plants. All coffee beans, good or bad, are used to make coffee. I am not a super fan of coffee myself, but I became a fan of this particular brand of coffee because of its unique taste. I made sure to purchase coffee for myself and for my professor Stephen Campbell who absolutely loves coffee.
My favorite parts of the trip were the performances. I loved hearing the applause from the audiences. It was not only a confidence booster, but it was incredible to experience such warmth and enthusiasm for new kinds of art, music, and dance. I hope to return to Costa Rica and perform there once again with a greater knowledge of its history and culture. Pura Vida!!
Eric Rodriguez is a second year doctoral student pursuing a degree in trumpet performance.