Chile’s Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, may be more famous for the giant moai statues that dot its hills than for its musical tradition, but thanks to a new school created by concert pianist and Easter Island local, Mahani Teave, that might be about to change.
“Music is a really big part of the culture on the island,” Teave told the BBC’s Gideon Long. “If there’s a guitar or a ukulele in the house, you can guarantee that everyone in the family, even the five-year-old kid, can play it.”
But despite the natural musical talent of many islanders, living in the most remote inhabited place on Earth has its drawbacks, and few have the opportunity to receive professional music training.
It’s for that reason that Teave’s parents left the island after its only piano teacher moved on, when Teave was a child. Two decades and numerous musical prizes later – including winner of the Concerto Competition of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she is now based – it seems that their decision was more than justified.
However, even though she had to relocate to continue her training, you won’t hear Teave complaining about her island origins.
“I was in complete contact with nature, swimming in the ocean, climbing trees, running freely,” she said of her experience growing up. “I wish everyone could enjoy that kind of childhood.”
Teave is now working to give other children on Easter Island the same opportunities that she had – without them having to leave for the mainland.
The young musician has started a music school using donated instruments from around the world. The school has already begun teaching piano and violin, and has plans for expansion.
“The idea is to add cello, guitar and ukulele lessons,” she said. “One very generous gentleman has kindly offered to donate a grand piano.”
Teave hopes to ensure that teachers can be paid now and into the future, as she believes that the school has the potential to make a positive long-term effect on the island’s community.
“It’s been shown that youth orchestras have a real impact on society,” she said. “If you’re in an orchestra you learn to respect the conductor, to listen to your fellow musicians, to work together. And those are important values.”