La Superior: A Clear Mission and Good Vibes

Superior's facade

Superior’s facade

Walk the halls of “La Superior,” or Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey, and there’s no doubt you’re in a music school—a very good one. A graceful ballerina walks by wearing a “La Superior” sweatshirt. In a nearby room filled with sunlight and mirrors, more young women stretch at the barre. Melodies float from practice rooms where Mozart and Bach challenge future pianists. Students with instrument cases walk past bulletin boards filled with flyers for upcoming concerts, auditions and exam schedules. A typical classroom includes rows of student desks, a teacher’s desk, a white board, a piano—and a large stained-glass window. Those windows, and the extraordinary building that houses La Superior, are the first signs that this is no average school.

Superior bulletin board

Superior bulletin board

Colonia Obispado was Monterrey’s most upscale neighborhood in 1913 when the building opened as the Sacred Heart of Jesus School. The nuns who ran the girls’ school survived the Mexican Revolution and, for a half century, went about successfully educating their female charges. By the 1950’s and 60’s many families in Monterrey’s professional classes were moving out to newer suburban areas. The nuns followed and, in 1964, opened a new building in San Pedro.   

Exterior walkways

Exterior walkways

A rambling school building with an immense patio and fifty years of use is a rather unique property. The building housed various groups until the federal government and local philanthropists joined to create the Superior (or Upper) School of Music and Dance of Monterrey which opened its doors in 1976. Affiliated with organizations like Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) and Julliard School of Music, its graduates receive the equivalent of a four-year college degree.

The last thirty-eight years have been good ones for the remodeled building. In addition to the stained-glass windows, there are numerous sound-proofed practice rooms, a smaller performance hall and an auditorium.  The school’s intention, stated on its website, is “to produce professional dancers and musicians for symphonies, chamber groups, soloists-singers, pianists, violinists.” It has been successful. Today, La Superior’s graduates perform all over Mexico and beyond.

The school accepts a wide range of students. As early as age six, students can participate in choir and music appreciation, using the Suzuki Method. For older students, the commitment requires a minimum of four to five hours a day, six days a week.

Socorro González' classed glass

Socorro González’ class

The day a former student took me to visit, we ran into Socorro González, a veteran teacher, on her way her Introduction to Music class. Before she started teaching, Maestra González and some of her students posed for the photo here. Afterwards, my guide and I peeked in through the back door of the smaller performance hall. There, a student was so engrossed in her performance at a concert grand piano on the lighted stage that she didn’t notice us. In another part of the school, we opened the door to a practice room and asked if we could record a video for an American blog. Superior students Jorge Rodríguez and Rodrigo Zárate graciously allowed strangers to record an improvised marimba practice. The amateur video, which doesn’t do them justice, is below.

Successful schools with high standards and high-performing students are exciting places. Spend even an hour in La Superior and you’ll catch the wonderfully infectious good vibes. You can’t help but think that those Sacred Heart nuns of a century ago would be happy to see their school today.   

 

 

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