WHO: Elsa Galan Sarmiento

RESIDEN OF: Mississauga, Ontario Canada

WHAT: The Violin in My Life

WHERE FROM: Bucaramanga, Colombia

WHEN: 2002

When I came to Canada, one winter night in December 2002 I brought with me a special treasure filled with unforgettable memories.

The story of this beautiful treasure began when I was 12 years old. My parents, mindful of our need for an education and eager to protect us from the prowling suitors of our adolescent years, enrolled my 4 sisters and me in the Franciscan’s academy of the city of Bucaramanga, Colombia. There, besides studying, I came in contact with a beautiful musical instrument that held a special attraction for me from the first moment I saw it:

A violin.

Mother Bautista, an Austrian Nun, was my first music teacher. She played multiple musical instruments, among them, piano, violin and accordion with masterly proficiency. When the school year ended the school held special presentations to which our parents and all other students were invited. I remember being part of those presentations in the company of the Rosales Sisters. One of them played the second violin and the other played the piano. We practiced thoroughly and were very successful, but every year I had to confront my own stage fright, which little by little I’ve learn to overcome.

Our family tradition was to reward us with a watch when we graduated but I broke that tradition by asking Mom and Dad to instead give me a Violin. I will never forget the look of happiness in their faces when they presented me with a Stradivarius Violin at my graduation that day of November 18, 1965. I was on top of the world that day and that gift signified a great moment in my life: My personal triumph at receiving my High School Diploma after 12 years of studies and of having my very own violin.

When I arrived in Bogota, Colombia to start my University studies, I continued my violin lessons at a local academy, but unfortunately the instructor did not agree with the technique I had learned and discouraged me to continue playing. After that I went overseas to further my education for two more years.

I got married and returned to Bucaramanga and enlisted in an academy where a young violinist guided me into the study of the violin, once again, after a recess of more than 12 years. The academy also held yearly concerts which I enjoyed immensely partly because the audience included my four children.

When I went back to live in Bogotá in the 1990s I continued to play in my spare time and a young friend of my children, Angela Cantor, gave me classes the last year before moving to Canada. One year after arriving in Mississauga I found an academy near my place of work and had an excellent teacher named Esther for 3 years, but for reasons beyond my control I had to suspend those classes. Just as it has been with my own life, my musical path with the violin has been one of achievements, abandonments, retreats, disagreements and new beginnings.

The violin is still with me. Along the way I gained a faithful follower who joins me in duo, singing the melodies that my beautiful violin generates, Kilombo, a puppy that I ended up adopting when my daughter married and her husband did not wish to take with them.

Music, I think, besides being a universal language that reaches the soul, connects us with other cultures and is also a path to healing. It has been so in my case during difficult moments of my life.

Searching for such healing paths using music I joined a drum circle four years ago and in August of 2016 started to learn to play the guitar with a group of friends whom like me, longed to play that musical instrument.

This does not mean that I have been unfaithful to my beautiful violin, which has been with me now for half a century. On the contrary, it, along with the drum and the guitar, have joined forces and help me to improve my knowledge and my musical skills.

I found unforgettable experiences in the beautiful sounds and rhythms of the drums and of those two string instruments and the experiences have allowed me to discover the universal magic of the music we carry within and its healing, creative and liberating power.


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