Building Community…from 2,000 Miles Away

Maya Lawnicki, a violinist in Senior Symphony and an eight-year veteran of MYSO, has been helping to build a community of young musicians nearly 2,000 miles away in Guatemala, at an orphanage run by the School Sisters of St. Francis. The orphanage houses about 50 kids, and is in the town of Santa Apaloñia, which is too small to even show up on a Google map! The orchestra in its current format includes violins and cellos, drums, guitars, and piano, and the kids range in age from 7 to 18.

This all started when Maya joined the Guatemala Club at Shorewood High School where she is now a senior. The Club, founded in 1994, visits Guatemala annually during the summers for community service work. For the Guatemala Club’s tenth anniversary in 2014-15, Maya and her fellow Guatemala Club members raised $10,000 online through Indiegogo to fund social programs at the orphanage. In 2015-16 Maya’s suggestion to send musical instruments to the orphanage evolved into developing plans for a youth orchestra there.

In the summer of 2016, a group of musicians from Shorewood and the Tecpán Youth Symphony Orchestra (TYSO) presented a concert at the orphanage. After the concert, many kids dashed up to the musicians clamoring to play the violin. That provided the spark. In 2016-17, the orphanage orchestra took shape.

Every year the Guatemala Club sends funds for continued support. And every summer Maya and her fellow Shorewood musicians help teach the orphanage kids alongside the orchestra director from TYSO.

“Music has been an important part of my life,” says Maya, “and I want to pass on that gift. I intend to maintain communication with the orphanage and the orchestra director of Tecpán even after I graduate from high school.”

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