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Brazilian musician teaches Homer youth rhythms, songs and games during week-long residency

Eduardo Mendonça will be performing live at the Mariner Theatre this Friday, April 21, at 6 p.m.
Courtesy of Eduardo Mendonça
Eduardo Mendonça will be performing live at the Mariner Theatre this Friday, April 21, at 6 p.m.

Brazilian musician Eduardo Mendonça began a week-long residency at Fireweed Academy in Homer this week. He’s an award-winning recording artist, vocalist, percussionist, guitarist and musical arranger, who has toured around the world, and he says he’s happy to be back performing and teaching in Alaska.

"It has been wonderful," he said. "By seeing their acceptance of Brazilian music, to see their creativity, curiosity and expression. They're playing, they're singing, they're learning. We are all having a lot of fun together."

The residency is thanks to a $15,000 grant that Homer Council on the Arts received last October.

Scott Bartlett, executive director of HCOA, said the grant from the Alaska Community Foundation aims to support community building through art and recreation.

"We've taken that opportunity and we're doing a lot of music programming with that — to help build our community up in the wake of COVID," Bartlett said. "We're trying to make our community more connected and healthy through music."

Bartlett said the residency with Mendonça is a big part of that mission. The grant is also being used to support HCOA’s weekly community jam sessions and workshops from other performing artists, like an Irish trio that played in Homer in January, and Norwegian dance and fiddle performers, in March.

The decorated Brazilian musician has performed for Pope John Paul II, former South African President Nelson Mandela and the 14th Dalai Lama. He has received the Spirit of Liberty award from Congress for an immigrant who has made an outstanding contribution to his adopted country while maintaining his ethnic heritage, and was named Outstanding Brazilian Male Singer based in the U.S. in 2007.

Mendonça performed at the Alaska Folk Festival about 15 years ago, and this is his first return trip north.

Bartlett said in addition to the residency at Fireweed Academy, Mendonça is visiting Homer high and middle school students this week, as well as Chapman Elementary School students in Anchor Point, presenting two community workshops and teaching Brazilian rhythms, songs and games.

"To see him teach is really mesmerizing," Bartlett said. "He's just got an amazing connection with students of all ages. I’ve been wanting to bring him up here, and this was a wonderful opportunity. He's a great performer and really an amazing educator."

Mendonça is holding a creative rhythms workshop Wednesday, April 19, at 6 p.m. at the Homer High School band room, which is free and open to the public. And he’ll be performing live at the Mariner Theatre this Friday, April 21, at 6 p.m. Mendonça said the performance will incorporate traditional Brazilian tunes, as well as jazz and contemporary styles.

"They will hear some Brazilian standard songs — Brazilian tunes that have been well known outside of Brazil," he said. "They will hear some others that are not too familiar to the North American audience. And as well, a very good deal of original songs. It will be very informative, because I will be telling stories behind each song that we'll be playing."

Tickets are $30 for general admission or $25 for HCOA members. The performance is free for youth under 18.

Tickets are available on the HCOA website, or in person at the HCOA office on Pioneer Avenue between 1 and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In 2019, Hope moved to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor to work for Alaska's Energy Desk and KUCB — the westernmost public radio newsroom in the country. She has lived, worked and filed stories from California, New York, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba and Alaska.
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