Kayla Mernoff stops by to let us in on her summer music volunteering in the Galapagos! Within minutes of arriving on the island of San Cristobal for my music volunteering program in the Galápagos, I had already seen a beach,…
Add a remarkable opportunity to your resume and gain an intricate understanding of international music when you participate in a volunteering project in the Galapagos! You will work with local youth at schools and community centers, leading workshops or after-school programs. You will have a good deal of input in creating the specifics of your volunteering project and deciding what you would like to learn from this experience. The placement requires at least ten hours a week for a minimum of one week. You will have plenty of free time to explore the natural beauty that surrounds you, and travel by boat to other islands in the Galapagos. You will live with a local family who will provide you three meals per day, and will be given the chance to participate in conservation work helping protect the many varieties of rare species that fill the island.
“A truly amazing experience. I learned so much about myself and about teaching music in my eight weeks abroad. I made life-long friends, and loved being immersed in the culture with my host family! I would recommend Performing Arts Abroad to anyone!”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
Puerto Ayora is the largest town in the Galapagos Islands. Nightlife includes restaurants playing music ranging from latino hits to 80s music to jazz.
La Juiliana is the self-proclaimed primer Latin Club in Quito. The vibrant venue houses local bands playing salsa, rock, and merengue music. The club also hosts concerts as well as their weekend dance club.
El Pobre Diablo
El Pobre Diablo, translates to “The Poor Devil,” is the most popular spot for live music in Quito. The restaurant bar is open from noon to 3:00pm and closes until reopening at 7:00pm until 2:00am open everyday except Sunday. Music ranges from jazz to world music to blues.
Café Libro is an attraction for local artists and visitors looking for live music and dance classes in Quito. The cafe ranges from a relaxing atmosphere where you can grab a cup of coffee and play chess or a lively venue with salsa dancing and live music.
PAA Home Base
We share our headquarters in San Cristobal with a local volunteer organization that offers several spaces for tutoring and English language learning. You are welcome to stop by anytime to ask questions or use the computers and internet, and some volunteers will volunteer using the arts to teach English in the center’s classrooms.
About the Location
The Galapagos is a string of islands that make up one of Ecuador’s most beautiful national parks. With a combined population of about 23,000 people, this beautiful area is quite remote. You’ll encounter plants and animals you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and ones that helped contribute to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Truly a natural paradise, the Galapagos offers many opportunities for adventure, exploration, and environmental observation. Our program is located on San Cristobal, which is the island where Darwin first landed in 1835, and home to the oldest settlement of all the islands. Expect to share the beaches with lazy sea lions, swallow-tailed seagulls, giant Galapagos tortoises, blue and red footed boobies, tropical birds, marine iguanas, dolphins, and much more!
While staying in the Galapagos you will be living with a host family, allowing you to become immersed in the local way of life and to practice your Spanish. Participants and host families alike are able to establish and nurture relationships and friendships with people from all over the world, and develop the self-confidence and cultural knowledge needed to deal with different cultures and languages in a professional and friendly manner. The homestay includes all three meals every day, as well as laundry service.
Most homestays host multiple volunteers at once, which gives you the chance to make friends with other English-speaking international volunteers. During the fall and spring, you may be one of only a few PAA volunteers (or in some cases, the only one!) but will join a dozen or so volunteers in other areas such as conservation and health for group activities and excursions. In the summer, PAA has more volunteers on site and the total group is much larger. You will make friends quickly, and most volunteers hang out regularly with their roommates: having barbeques, going to the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring other nearby islands.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
The moment you step off the plane, the laid back island lifestyle of San Cristobal will wash over you. The pace of life will immediately slow down, and worrying about the little things will cease. You will likely find more time to create meaningful relationships with the people you meet, and will place more importance on the communal nature of meals. Our onsite staff will be there to greet you at the airport and help you adjust to this way of life that is often quite different for those of us accustomed to a constant hustle bustle. You may come to San Cristobal hoping to change the lives of those you encounter, but you will quickly find that it is you who are changing, and we hope you will use that transformation to improve your own community when you return home.
For volunteering, most musicians teach as a guest artist in the public school system where music and the arts have been cut from the curriculum in some cases. Performing Arts Abroad believes that music education is essential to childhood development, and you will be joining others who share our mission. We also collaborate with an after-school music program that offers daily instruction in a variety of instruments, and help is always needed! If your Spanish level is too low to teach in a school, we may place you in an after school program using music and the arts to help teach English. All details will be arranged with you based on your language level and music background.
When you arrive in the tiny San Cristobal Airport (SCY), one of our on-site staff will be there to greet you holding a PAA welcome sign. Note that you will need to pay $100 in cash as a national park entrance fee before leaving the airport. The entire island of San Cristobal is a national park (and all the islands in the Galapagos for that matter). You will then be taken to your homestay, where you will meet your host family and settle into your room after a brief orientation to the home and neighborhood. Your homestay family will have a meal ready for you and if you arrive earlier in the day, a staff member will then take you around town to show you the ATMs, post office, etc. before going to our office for an orientation with our site director about health, safety, your volunteer project, etc. If you are arriving later in the day, this may happen the following day.
A Typical Day
On your first day of volunteering, one of our staff members will accompany you to show you the way and introduce you to your placement and supervisor. We will also check in with you after the first few days to see if any adjustments need to be made.
After your first few days, you will be on your own to get to your placement(s) at the agreed upon time every day, and to use your free time as you see fit. There will be opportunities for travel around the island, and to other nearby islands, as well as volunteer work with conservation projects working with tortoises, seals, sea lions, beach clean up, and other endeavors. Several times a month, there will be an organized activity for all volunteers, such as a salsa dance class or a group barbeque.
You will be working with a non-profit organization based in the Galapagos whose functioning depends entirely on foreign volunteers. Playing an important role in the group, your time on San Cristobal Island provides youth with structured activities run by an enthusiastic leader. By spending time interacting with these children and teens, you’ll give them the chance to practice English with a native speaker as well as providing cultural exchange. Some of the residents have not interacted much with outsiders since they live in such a small community, and it is one of the goals of our host group to provide this opportunity. You’ll also be sharing the transformative art of music, giving these youth self-confidence and the chance to use performing arts to express themselves.
Music volunteers also have the opportunity to work with a music center that offers musical instruction in a variety of instruments to young people after school each day from 2-7 p.m. For those with a higher Spanish level, you may be able to work in public schools assisting in music classes.
Each volunteer’s experience will be customized to his/her interests, and we are making new connections and finding new placements all the time.
Deb is the primary PAA contact for all participants once they have applied to their programs. She processes applications, conducts applicant interviews, communicates with overseas partners regarding acceptance decisions, orchestrates all pre-departure preparation, supports participants while they are on their programs, and oversees re-entry counseling as she ushers them into joining the ranks of our fabulous PAA alumni.
Deb grew up at a small, independent school surrounded by the languages, music and cultures of students from around the globe. Her passion for exploration has brought her to many out-of-the-way places such as studying variable stars at a Nantucket observatory, flying a small plane over the skies of New England and mapping ancient lava flows in southern Arizona. Without a doubt, though, her favorite place is anywhere in a theater. As an award-winning stage manager, Deb has collaborated on productions throughout the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts and always enjoys challenging and innovative theater. She happily admits to an obsession with all things organizational and considers a trip to the office supply store a totally valid form of therapy.
She has studied and traveled extensively in England and Scotland, has journeyed through parts of France and currently shares her space with cats, humans, and far too many books.
Erin Hardee Patterson
Erin advises everyone who expresses interest in PAA’s programs. She responds to e-mails, answers questions submitted in online forms, makes and receives phone calls about our programs, and communicates with those who begin an application.
Erin Hardee Patterson earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Therapy at Berklee College of Music, and her Master’s in Music Therapy from Florida State University. Her professional adventures as a cellist, singer songwriter, board-certified music therapist, event coordinator, admissions professional, project manager, and newly trained birth doula have helped her to live all over the United States – from her home state of Virginia, to New Orleans and Maine, to Tallahassee and Vegas (to name just a few!). In addition to her US travels, a ferocious case of wanderlust inspired Erin to travel to The Netherlands, Canada, Germany, France, and Belgium. (The wanderlust is no joke – this bio was written on a plane!). She enjoys practicing her conversational French and American Sign Language, and has aspirations of one day carrying on conversations in Spanish (hopefully on a beautiful balcony in Spain). Erin is a new transplant to the Northampton, MA area with her firefighter/paramedic spouse Max, their dog Eleanor, and 3 very fat house cats. She is passionate about tiny humans, music, yoga, beautiful bodies of water, succulents, two steppin’, empowering families to have joyous, satisfying births, and being a smiley muppet.
Galapagos Site Director
William supports all participants on our Galapagos programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay on the islands. He coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing, leads cultural excursions, and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
William was born in the Galapagos on the island of San Cristobal. He has worked with volunteers for more than 20 years and has worked for various organizations, such as the Galapagos National Park. Besides being director of Projects Galapagos Association and PAA’s Site Director, he is also a town councilor for San Cristobal Municipality and has spent many years improving the local education system through government and community programs. He also runs conservation and care programs for the local community. William likes physical sports and hiking in his spare time.
I had an incredible time, and I was definitely fully immersed in the culture. I was always aware of where I needed to be and when, both for my placement and for other activities, and I felt comfortable no matter where I was.
This is a great program and is administered well with a lot of support before, during and after your trip.
“Going to the Galápagos with Performing Arts Abroad changed my life. Between working with my students at the music school, meeting so many new people, and exploring one of the most beautiful places in the world, I could not have asked for a better experience.”
From the blog
Olivia Kapell is a musician and English Literature student at Columbia University-Juilliard School Exchange. She participated in the Music Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands program. Upon signing up to be a music volunteer in the Galápagos Islands, I had no idea…
From September 2014 to January 2015, Performing Arts Abroad is hosting a family of four in the Galapagos Islands for a music volunteer program. This family is no newcomer to the idea…they have played together for years as “Kentucky T.…
|Session||Application Deadline||Start Date|
|Session 3||Apr 02 2018||Jun 03 2018|
|Session 4||Apr 16 2018||Jun 17 2018|
|Session 5||May 07 2018||Jul 08 2018|
|Session 6||May 21 2018||Jul 22 2018|
|Session 7||Jun 04 2018||Aug 05 2018|
|Session 8||Jun 18 2018||Aug 19 2018|
Important Summer 2018 Dates
|Session||Application Deadline||Start Date|
|Session 1||Jul 09 2018||Sep 09 2018|
|Session 2||Aug 06 2018||Oct 07 2018|
|Session 3||Sep 03 2018||Nov 04 2018|
|Session 4||Oct 08 2018||Dec 07 2018|
Important Fall 2018 Dates
Apply today — How the process works
Submit a simple online application
Schedule a live video interview with a Program Coordinator
Upload program specific materials to an online portal
Receive your aceptance decision and begin your journey!
How the Process Works
To apply, click the “Apply Now” button below. You will fill out a simple initial application online and pay a deposit that is refundable if you are not accepted, and will be applied toward your overall program cost if you are accepted (not an additional fee). At this point, we will ask you to send us the following materials:
- Your resume/CV
- Music audition video (optional, required for those wanting to teach in a school)
- Your availability in U.S. Eastern Time for a 30 minute video interview with your Program Coordinator.
- Be clear in your interview about your goals for the program. We work hard to prepare your hosts and give them the chance to design an experience that is customized to you as much as possible. To do this, we need a clear picture of who you are and what you want out of your time in the Galapagos (and don’t want!).
- The Skype interviews are our first face-to-face impression of you. Show up on time, dress well, and be personable.
- If you choose to submit a video, you should highlight the musical style you do best, and should choose a high quality video with a strong opening. Videos with other musicians are fine, as long as you clearly identify yourself and display enough solo time. We prefer videos to be uploaded to an online platform such as YouTube to allow us to easily share with teachers who will be supervising you.
Participants must be 18 or over the day they begin the program.
GPA / Student Status
There is no GPA requirement for this program, students and non-students are welcome to apply.
While there is no Spanish language requirement for this program, it is important for applicants to understand that very little English is spoken by locals in San Cristobal, including in the homestay. Our Site Director William speaks very good English, and some of our onsite staff speak basic English. We will provide 15 hours of one-on-one Spanish instruction during your time in the Galapagos, and we will encourage you to prepare for your trip by learning as much Spanish ahead of time as possible.
We give preference to applicants with at least one year of music experience. An audition video showing your current skill level is helpful, but not required.
We are looking for open-minded, flexible applicants who can clearly convey their passion for music and an acute interest in international travel and exposure to new ideas.