THE Costa Rican-North AmericanCultural Center is celebrating 60 years ofbeing a conduit to the language and arts ofthe United States.To mark its anniversary this month, thecenter has invited the University ofNorthern Iowa Symphony Orchestra toperform free concerts, both in its auditoriumand at venues around the country. Thegroup of 60 students and faculty, under thedirection of conductor Rebecca Burkhardt,will perform with musicians from theSchool of Music of the University of CostaRica as guest artists. They will switch uptheir styles and instruments at each performance,ranging from classical to jazz.The center has three locations: an artgallery and center in La Sabana, in westernSan José, and a center in Cartago, east ofSan José, which are offshoots of the originalcenter in Barrio Dent, in the easternsuburb of San Pedro. All are equipped withlibraries and offer courses in English. Thecourses are long – two and a half years,three hours a day, either two or three daysper week – and effective. Many peopleleaving these programs speak English fluentlyand with only a trace of an accent.Both the gallery in La Sabana and theSophia Wanamaker Gallery in the originalcenter display art, photography and mixedmedia exhibits that sometimes includemusical accompaniment through headphones.The center’s Mark Twain InformationCenter and its Web site outline the exhibitsand what’s to come.The Eugene O’Neill Theater is amongthe best auditoriums in the country, and aleader in hosting both edgier, experimental performances and classical music. U.S. actors, poets, jazz bands, pianists,funny people, oddballs and orchestras have strutted the stage over the years.It has also hosted theatrical works by Costa Rican and U.S. playwrights.One of the guidelines for the selection of the acts is that they must havesome educational and socially conscious content. Businesses and institutionsback the theater to defray costs.The beginning of this millennium has seen droves of young U.S. performers– college students, mostly – in the spotlight, performing for internationalaudiences as part of the center’s “Promising Artists of the 21stCentury” program.When not on stage, these jazz bands, symphonies, interpretive dancersand other artists hold free workshops for Costa Rican students.Jazz, rock and pop music bands from the United States, some more readilyrecognized than others, play the theater throughout the year. Performanceschedules are available at the center and are often printed in The Tico Times.Not to leave out children, clowns, concerts and puppets entertain kids inperformances in the children’s theater.Free, monthly, morning cultural activities are offered for senior citizens,sometimes held in old folks’ homes or event centers nearby.To disseminate one of the most striking and multi-layered aspects ofU.S. culture – its music – and to help cultivate Costa Rican musical talent,the U.S. Embassy sponsors a jazz recording in the center’s theater for playon radio station 95.5. Musicians can participate for free and record theirmusic for the country to hear.For more information on the center and event schedules, call 207-7500 orvisit www.cccncr.com. For a schedule of performances by the University ofNorthern Iowa Symphony Orchestra, see the Calendar on page W-10.
Today in Costa Rica