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Founded in February 2007      Located in El Tejar, Guatemala

   165 preschool to middle school youth served annually

• 100% believe that their LI Program is having a good impact on their life!


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 ”The music program makes a profound impact on these children's lives. Coming to school a couple hours a day to play music is what these children look forward too. And parents donated whatever possible to make this happen! Now that is inspiration!” -Celeste Dunn, LI Ambassador

“The children have really been able to develop pride in themselves, pride in their culture, pride in their community."
  -Dr. Jon Van Keppel, Guatemala Country Director for Child Aid


Project Overview

LEAF International works with Child Aid and the CEDIN School in Gautemala, a FUNDIT-sponsored Montessori preschool. Through this project, an extra-curricular music program meets at the CEDIN School, who allow LEAF International to use their space after school. 15 classes are offered each week that immerse students in their own cultural traditions and empower them to pursue their talents. The music teachers work with around 105 preschool students and 55 primary and middle school students. Students are introduced to rhythm, music theory, singing, musical instruments, and dance. LEAF International funds the music teachers' salaries and local instruments made by local artists.

In 2012, a group of young musicians from this program, ages 11 to 18, left their village in Guatemala for the first time to give an inspiring performance at the Fall LEAF festival. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read more about this life-changing visit!

Through the project, students gain:
  • Classes in Marimba, Guatemala’s national instrument, Mandolin, Keyboard, Recorder and Guitar
  • Percussion Skills
  • Orchestra & Choir ensemble practice, learning how to play in a group
  • Regular performance opportunities at village concerts and regional competitions

Meet a StudentLIGuatFlutePlayerhatweb

Mario Rene Figueroa Niche: At 16 years of age, Mario dreams of being a percussionist in a large orchestra. His father is a farmer, but makes very little money. The family can't afford school so Mario helps his father. Mario's parents don't see the value in obtaining an education. Sara, Mario's percussion teacher, says he has a natural talent. She invited him to participate in the band even though he is not studying at the school. Gangs are very prominent in El Tejar, but Mario receives a sense of belonging from the music program, something positive. The band has become Mario's passion. 
“From an early age, I have had contact with marimba music because my grandfather is a marimba player (marimbista, in Spanish) and have learned to love and admire our music, but as a student in LEAF International I have found that music is universal, that speaks the same language, that unites us, that there is no border.” -LI Guatemala student, 2013

 Meet the Teaching Artists

We are honored to have THREE extremely talented teachers: Sara Morales, Estephany Munoz Ajqui (assistant) and Nelson Subuyuc Patzàn are trained music teachers (a rarity in Guatemalan schools).  Estephany, a former CEDIN student, recently graduated from San Carlos University with a degree in music instruction.

"In my experience as a teacher, I have worked with many people from different cultural, social and economic background, different ages, political or religious beliefs, but when we join at unison the Marimba with that beautiful music, we become as one, regardless of our differences as people, we are just Guatemalans proud of our music." -Nelson Subuyuc Patzàn, 2013

  Watch the students in action:


LI Guatemala youth open many hearts on journey to LEAF 

LIGuatDavidGroupweb BLACK MOUNTAIN, OCT 12 - When they arrived in the United States in October, leaving their small Guatemalan village for the first time, the musicians with Las Estrellas Musicales de el Tejar wanted to know everything about this country, about our food and our music—and also something very, very basic: our clothes.

Their group was composed of four adults, plus three boys and five girls, ages 11 to 18. They came to this country—specifically for fall LEAF 2012—as part of a music program that started in 2007 as a partnership between the non-profit organization directed by singer-songwriter David LaMotte called PEG Partners, Child Aid and LEAF International.

Shortly after they arrived in Raleigh, they were met by Sarah Hipp, a LEAFer who helped set up the Guatemala program and who also hosted them during the visit. At the airport, they packed the van full, mostly with instruments—mandolins guitars, bongos and congas, recorders and marimbas, the signature instrument of Guatemalan music.

LaMotte, who has raised more than $100,000 for the Guatemalan people through PEG Partners, was with the group most of the time here and performed with them at LEAF.

“I’m so glad their first experience of America is LEAF,” he said from the Lakeside stage before they performed traditional songs, as well as a crowd-friendly rendition of “La Bamba.”

As they performed, several people in the audience wept, cheering through tears.

No matter where they were, they were constantly singing and sharing their culture through music.

 "Marching bands are a culturally significant part of the frequent parades in Guatemala, but poor children rarely get to participate, as their schools can’t afford the instruments or music teachers. LEAF and PEG created a band for poor Maya children in El Tejar.” -PEG Partners

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Guatemalan Culture

Guatemala has a population of almost 6 million. Nestled in the rising Chimaltenango highlands near Antigua, EL Tejar is a rural village of 16,000 people, mostly indigenous Mayans. 21 Mayan language groups still thrive today in the country, mostly in the western highlands where the village of El Tejar lies. EL Tejar is just east of one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the world, Lago de Atitlan.

Opportunity is limited and poverty is a challenge. The children of El Tejar often start working when they are as young as six years old by mixing clay for bricks. El Tejar is known for the production of candles, textiles and musical instruments. Mayan instruments include drums, made mostly from wood and tortoise shell, and maracas. Pre-Hispanic music was mostly instrumental; ceramic ceremonial flutes, ocarinas, and conch trumpets have been found in the area. Recently there has been a blending of Guatemalan and Mexican music.

For more information see the Popul Vuh, translated as “the Book of Community,” which contains mytho-historical narratives of Mayan culture in Guatemala.

Learn more about Guatemalan musical traditions here: LInat-geo-music
Flag of Guatemala

Project Highlights

Fall 2013
The Musical Stars of El Tejar perform a "didactic" concert in their community; teaching children about their cultural traditions and working with them in groups!


 2 new Marimbas bought for the program
- thanks PEG!

LEAF October 2012 welcomed LI Guatemala kids and teachers.

Their first U.S. visit and LEAF performance- Extraordinary! Step inside the journey with David's story:
David LaMotte's Blog
"Very More Awesome"


Music students perform:
Six public concerts,
Five school graduations,
Special government concert


Patch Adams visited with a clown troupe and LEAF staff!


Five students participated in music competitions in Chimaltenango. All won either first, second, or third place in their age ranges!

A graduate of the program won a trophy in a music contest playing the song Luna de Xelaju.

Parents built an addition onto the school for a music classroom.

LEAF International, Child Aid, PEG, and David LaMotte partner to launch the program.



Featured Partners

PEG Partners: PEG Partners (Proyecto par alas Escuelas Guatemaltecas) was founded by peace activist and musician David LaMotte. The non-profit organization works to improve learning environments in Guatemalan schools. PEG is composed entirely of volunteers, with all donations going 100% to projects in Guatemala. They oversee the music program at the Cedin School and provide local instruments and teaching artists.


Child Aid: Child Aid provides scholarships for each student to attend the Cedin School. Child Aid’s mission is to create opportunities for impoverished rural and indigenous Latin Americans through childhood literacy and education programs.



Instrument Wishlist

2 Soprano Recorders
1 Contralto Recorder
1 Tenor Recorder
1 Base Recorder

2 Guitars and 4 sets of strings
4 Mandolins  and 4 sets of strings


Teacher: $80/month $1200 annual
Assistant: $40/month $600 annual

All donations are tax-deductible and make a 100% significant difference now!


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