Verrier creates remote program for Latin American band directors

Thomas Verrier, associate professor and director of wind studies, teaches band directors from South America via Zoom.

Connecting internationally with music is Thomas Verrier’s forte. He has helped the Vanderbilt Blair School of Music partner with Costa Rica’s Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical in the training of music educators there.

The Vanderbilt Wind Symphony, under his direction, has traveled to Colombia to perform and teach. Verrier is also among a group of Blair faculty who have created an umbrella program called ¡BLAIR! (an acronym for Blair’s Latin American Initiatives and Resources) to develop  cultural exchanges in Latin America through an affiliation with the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies.

Verrier’s latest teaching endeavor evolved directly from the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last fall he created a remote learning program for music directors in Latin America that covers instrument pedagogy, conducting techniques and other topics in band direction.

The yearlong, four-module certificate course is called Curso Virtual de Dirección de Banda. In this first offering, Verrier enrolled 23 band directors from eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia.

“I literally put up a Facebook post,” he says, when asked how his course engendered so much interest. “But you have to realize, I’ve been very involved in the band world in Latin America for the last 11 years, and I know just how great the desire is for these kinds of learning opportunities.

“There is this need, this desire throughout Latin America, to change kids’ lives, and the directors are very hungry for this knowledge,” he says. “Here’s an opportunity. This is the only program at any United States university or conservatory offered to Latin America in this way, let alone in Spanish.”

The enthusiastic response to his initial Facebook post has continued, with a backlog of potential students who are eager to enroll in the fall.

“This is a long-term project in terms of just being able to make an impact in a world where they don’t have any other resources to learn this information,” Verrier says. “This is only the beginning.”