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Atitlán Music School

Panajachel, Guatemala

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HOW IT CAME TO BE… and NOW

In November 2010, Steve Ulrich and spouse Elisabeth Rogolsky retired to Panajachel, Guatemala. It was where they met and always intended to return. Elisabeth had a volunteer job waiting for her, but Steve had only a desire to “find something to do”.

Shortly after their return, Steve’s great friend, Sergio Garcia, died. Sergio had been a music mentor to children in Pana for many years. He introduced them to the joy of playing music. A few months after his death, Steve and Carlos Cush, a nationally respected percussionist, were talking about Sergio and the idea for a music school for kids surfaced.

Of course, there was neither money nor instruments and no understanding of how to bring this idea to reality. In the fall of 2011, while visiting Portland, Oregon, Steve talked about the idea with Richard Columbo, founder of the Artichoke Music Foundation. Richard was supportive, and the foundation donated several instruments to Steve. Then, the fund-raising began. Over the next year, with events in Portland and Austin, Texas, Elisabeth and Steve raised the money necessary to purchase Guatemalan handcrafts and jewelry. In 2012, along with sons Quinn and Nick Ulrich, they made a music and merchandising tour from Texas to Minnesota. When they returned to Guatemala, they had just enough money and musical instruments to get the school open. The doors opened in December of 2012.

For the next three years, the school slowly grew in students served and as a viable organization in the community. Now, a third of the way through our fourth year, we are providing about thirty-five individual private lessons every week. We have classes in violin, ukulele, guitar, bass guitar, piano, saxophone, drums, percussion, voice, and marimba and music theory. Our current staff includes three multi-instrumental Guatemalans, an Argentinian, a volunteer from Alaska, and Steve.

In 2016:

We hold one major fund raising event each year in Panajachel and, several events during the year in the United States. We are a tax exempt charitable organization 501(c)(3). We look forward to qualifying for monetary grants from various organizations and foundations in the United States. Our expenditures at this time are $1100 per month.