“Flexibility. Not to be too tight to the schedule. I like to be free and explore what we can explore in the moment, to be ready to improvise when it is necessary. Then you can enjoy more when you are traveling.” - Freddy Vilches
Put an instrument in front of Freddy Vilches and music is soon to follow: guitar, charango, Venezuelan cuatro, African American percussion instruments, Indian flutes. Whether strumming, humming, tooting or keeping the beat, Freddy loves music. He fondly remembers as a young child in Chile, watching his sisters play and sing together and thinking to himself, “I want to do that.” Music wasn’t the only area that fascinated him. He was an avid reader. “I was a pretty good student. I’d say very curious and always trying to see beyond what was presented.”
While Freddy is Chilean, his family spent two years in Ecuador. Living in Ecuador allowed him to see Latin America from a broader perspective and opened his eyes to new horizons. Adventurous, he decided to study abroad and spent a year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Madras, Oregon. “It was great. I was hosted by a wonderful family.”
He also has a passion for Latin American film and literature, especially crime fiction. “I really enjoy teaching about the connection between music and literature and how they combine to create great poetry and music.”
To say Freddy has a few irons in the fire is an understatement. He just finished work on a documentary film and completed the script for a detective series pilot. His original orchestral composition A Latin Suite, is being practiced in Cuba, Bolivia, and Portland, Oregon. He is producing the 70th Anniversary album and documentary for Conjunto Chappotín, regarded as one of Cuba’s premiere Son Cubano bands, or roughly translated, “the Cuban sound.” He regularly plays with his group, Matices Latin Ensemble. Composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, writer, father, husband, and educator are a few of his hats.
If he’s not making the music, he might be coaxing friends out onto the dance floor. It may be in the small town of Viñales at sunset, or downtown Havana in the wee hours of the morning. Even avid “I don’t dancers” may find themselves swinging to the beat at his bidding.
Having been introduced to the Pacific Northwest as a teenager, he was interested in teaching on Palatine Hill. “Lewis & Clark seemed like the perfect place to continue to develop my music. I appreciated the emphasis on studying abroad; I saw myself being able to continue to travel to Latin America and study abroad.
“Before embarking on a journey, I recommend you read as much as you can about it. Watch movies and documentary films so you can enjoy at a deeper level what you are going to see. Read about the history and politics.”
“Alumni are former students. I am used to working with students 18 to 22 years old, now they are at a different stage in their life. They are able to appreciate what we are going through with a more experienced point of reference. We had a lot of common interests right away. It’s not just going with them on a trip but more lasting relationships are formed.”