In July I was the invited U.S. guest at the Festival y Concurso Internacional de Flauta, an international festival and flute competition in Colombia, South America. Hosted by the city of Tocancipá near the capital city of Bogotá, the festival included concerts, masterclasses, and an international competition with a final round performance of Francois Borne’s “Carmen Fantasy” for Solo Flute and Concert Band. The excitement of the audience filled the auditorium, and the band accompanied the three finalists with energy and refinement.
The musical culture in Colombia includes marching and concert bands with participation by elementary and high school students, senior adults, and disabled persons. The common love of band music is evident in the participation by all ages and levels of society.
The high point of the festival occurred on the 20th of July, Colombian Independence Day, celebrating the Colombian Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1810. Like the 4th of July in the United States, the holiday featured an early parade, speeches by the mayor and other dignitaries, a concert in the town center featuring Colombia’s national anthem, and fireworks to end the day. Band music began and ended the day, and as I observed the crowd, the music’s impact stirred the crowd in the same way as “The Star-Spangled Banner” or John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Music is an international language, connecting cultures throughout the world, and my experience in the Colombian festival showed the power of music to unify and inspire all. With participants from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Austria, Germany, Poland, and the United States, the festival was international in every way, with multiple languages used to communicate; however, when words are inadequate, music always brings us together.