—by Maria Luisa Rayan
Baltazar Juárez and I were students together at Indiana University with Susann McDonald back in the late ’90s and early 2000s. We had much in common, both having come from Spanish-speaking countries to study in Bloomington—Baltazar from Mexico, and I from Argentina. I had a chance to catch up with Baltazar, a man of many hats, whose tireless work to promote the harp in his native country is raising the profile of Mexican harpists on the international scene.
Baltazar is one of the most active harpists in Mexico, and is even busier as we approach the month of November, when the contest he founded—the Mexico International Harp Competition—will take place for the fifth time in Mexico City. We had a nice, long chat via Skype—Baltazar in Mexico City, I in Chicago—and had many good laughs along the way.
Harp Column: Tell us about the Mexico International Harp Competition that you founded. It will hold its fifth contest this fall—how has the competition changed and evolved over the years?
Baltazar Juárez: Yes, we started the competition in 2006, it has evolved and matured, of course. It has gotten bigger and gained more importance internationally. We also have more students coming from many other countries beyond Latin America. In the first competitions we only had Latin American people, which is very nice, but now our spectrum is wider.
HC: Yes, I saw that you have people from all over.
BJ: Yes, it’s very nice, but of course now the work is bigger.
HC: So you had five competitions in 11 years so it would be an average of every other year; is that when you host them?
BJ: Exactly yes, it will be every other year yes. It has kind of depended on the political situation of our country, but now I think it will be every other year.
HC: Starting an international competition and festival from square one is a massive undertaking. What was your inspiration for starting the Mexico International Harp Competition?