Abi Nelson participated in PAA’s Music Internship in Ecuador in Fall 2017. She is from Edinburgh and has just begun a job at The Orpheus in Surrey just outside London, an opportunity she says grew directly out of the work she…
Volunteer abroad with a foundation in Quito, Ecuador using music and the arts as means of providing therapy and education to youth and adults with disabilities. An intermediate level of Spanish is suggested, but all music volunteers will receive one-on-one Spanish instruction for 6 hours per week throughout the program. During your stay, you will live with a local family in a homestay where you will be provided two meals per day. Volunteer placement requires at least ten hours a week for a minimum of one week. Take this chance to discover the true power of music to improve lives. You may go to Ecuador planning to teach and inspire others, but you will undoubtedly return inspired yourself and full of new knowledge we hope you will share with your community at home.
“Working with the students in Ecuador through PAA was incredible. My spanish wasn’t the best, and their English wasn’t great either, but through music we could communicate and grow.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
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
About the Location
Ecuador is an incredible place where you can see natural beauty, rich history, and diverse cultures in one small area. Ecuador is on the Equator in the northwest corner of South America, and much of the country remains untouched by developers and surveyors.
The performing arts have been central to life in Ecuador for centuries, producing stories of the people and their complex histories. The capital city of Quito houses several music organizations specializing in folk music, a national symphony, the Teatro Nacional, and dozens of other performing arts groups. Ecuador sits on 120,000 square miles of land where you can go from sea level to 12,000 feet in a six-hour drive, visit a fishing village and see a highland town, all in the same day!
You will stay with a host family in a middle class home located in lovely neighborhoods throughout the city with your own private room in most cases, depending on availability. We work with many families in Quito, all of whom are carefully vetted based on interviews, background checks, family income level, safety of the area where they live, and previous experience hosting international visitors. In addition to building relationships with your family, you will receive breakfast and dinner daily, and laundry service once per week while living in your home stay. Many interns create lasting relationships with their homestay families, and stay in touch long after the program ends.
Most homestays have multiple interns staying with them at a time, and most interns have their own private room during the program unless you are traveling with a friend or family member and request to stay in the same room. In the case of shared rooms, your roommate will be another participant of the same sex around the same age. The participants on our program range widely in age, but the most common age group is between 18 and 25. In the fall and spring, PAA usually has between 1 and 5 participants onsite at one time who join with a handful of other volunteers and interns in collaboration with our onsite partners. The summer brings closer to ten PAA interns joining another couple of dozen volunteers and interns in other fields.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
From the moment you step off the plane, you will be enveloped in the beauty of the Ecuadorian landscape and people. Your sense of time will likely change as you adjust to a slower pace of life and a culture that takes more time to greet each other and express genuine interest in how the day is going.
Our EcuaPals program will connect you with a local student who shares interests with you, and you will meet up with that person regularly during your time during the country to learn each other’s language and culture. In your volunteer placement, you will join a second family of artists seeking to use music to better their community, and raise awareness both locally and globally of the unique and vibrant culture that infuses every aspect of life in Quito. You will have the chance to join a local orchestra or other performing ensemble that performs regularly for tourists visiting the foundation. Your weekends will be free for exploring the vast array of landscapes throughout the country, and even a trip to the Galapagos Islands if you choose. Throughout it all, our friendly staff will support you in whatever way you need, and encourage the inevitable transformation you will experience, both personally and in your artistic pursuits.
You will book a flight to arrive in Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) on the Friday of your arrival. Our on-site staff will meet you at the airport with a sign that has your name written on it, and will take you to a hostel in the nicest part of Quito where you will stay with other volunteers arriving that day for the first four nights of the program to have your own private space for adjusting to the crazy altitude! You will be given a quick orientation to your hostel and a tour of the neighborhood, then be given time to unpack, settle in, rest, and explore the immediate area with other volunteers for the rest of the day.
The following morning, our on-site staff will pick you up at the hostel and do a full-day orientation, including a city tour of Quito and a cultural lunch. On Sunday, you will participate in a full-day excursion, usually to a volcano and crater lake, huge traditional crafts market, or a cloud forest with a visit to an organic chocolate factory. Monday will be a final day of engaging with the community and reflecting on adjusting to the new culture with our staff, and on Tuesday morning you will check out of your hostel and be taken to your homestay family where you will be staying the rest of your time in Ecuador. Tuesday is also the day you will begin working with your volunteer placement.
A Typical Day
On Tuesday, you will be accompanied to your volunteer placement by a member of our on-site staff, where you will meet your supervisor and review your hours and responsibilities. From that point forward, you will travel to and from your placement every day, and take one-on-one Spanish classes with a private tutor 6 hours per week (usually 2 hours per day 3 days per week). Every week, usually on Wednesdays, we host a cultural activity which you will be invited to join along with other participants who are there at the same time as you.
On your final day in Ecuador you will have a personal meeting over coffee with our Site Director to debrief about your experience, and will stay the final night in a hostel before being driven to the airport for your departure.
Volunteers work at a Foundation with 20 years of experience providing care and education to children and young people with disabilities. They have different programs according to the skills and abilities of their students and prospective students. Volunteers will assist with academic programs, music therapy, day care programming, and any other tasks needed during your stay. In the summer, volunteers may be able to get involved with a music camp as well.
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Reynolds lives in Northampton, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and his daughter Lily who is a cute baby. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, “cups”, and Kubb.
Joanna makes Performing Arts Abroad tick. She handles many behind-the-scene tasks such as processing applications, reviewing and approving participant tasks, collecting payments, and welcoming newly accepted applicants to the PAA family.
Ever since she was little, Joanna Wright has loved the creative arts. Whether organizing a backyard circus or putting on plays in the living room, she showed an early flair for the dramatic- and also the pragmatic, selling tickets and popcorn to neighbors, and even attempting (unsuccessfully) to charge her parents a penny to watch her plays. While in high school, she balanced AP classes with the responsibilities of being president of the juggling club, and her education at Swarthmore College as a Dance and Theatre Major prepared her both to perform in shows and to write about them. While at Swarthmore, she embarked on a semester-long study abroad program in Kolkata, India, where she studied Kathak (North Indian classical dance), pantomime and Bengali. Joanna continued her international education after college, earning an MFA in Lecoq-based Actor-created Theatre at the London International School of Performing Arts in collaboration with Naropa University. After leaving London, Joanna moved to Austin, Texas and rekindled her love for the circus arts at the Sky Candy Aerial and Circus Studio. Pragmatic as ever, in addition to performing and teaching circus skills such as Aerial Silks, Trapeze, Juggling and Clowning, she was hired as Sky Candy’s Marketing Director, and happily held that position for eight years. Now living in Easthampton, Joanna focuses her creative energy on teaching at SHOW Circus Studio and knitting extremely elaborate scarves. As Administrative Assistant at Performing Arts Abroad, she is thrilled and honored to help young artists find the same joy and inspiration as she did from her international studies.
Ecuador Site Director
Diana supports all participants on our (mainland) Ecuador programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country. She coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing by vetting homestay families and fostering relationships, leads cultural excursions, and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
Diana was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Maybe this is why she loves so much the Andean landscapes and gets lost when there are not mountains around her! She is trilingual (Spanish, English and French) and has worked with people from all over the world for many years already. This has allowed her to see the world from a different perspective and be friends with people with different backgrounds, ideologies and cultures.
In high school, she studied five years at the Compañía Nacional de Danza. And, during her junior year of college (at the State of Indiana) she took a pottery class that made her fall completely in love with plastic arts and decided to get a minor in this area. After this time her life took a different path; she never lost the interest in ballet and although she doesn’t practice it anymore, she enjoys every piece she watches. And she is still involved in culture and art through a family business that runs an Ecuadorian magazine focused in these areas.
Diana has traveled extensively around Ecuador (a lot by foot and through the mountains since during her free time she practices trail running). She has also backpacked in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico and Venezuela and has run 50km ultratrails in Ecuador, Colombia and at the Argentinian Patagonia. She has also camped in some National Reserves in the US and Canada, and visited Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, among others, knowing she cannot die before diving at the Great Barrier Reef!
Diana is also an active volunteer of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Development and Hospitality (and a minor in plastic arts) and a Master’s degree in Social and Environmental studies. Her other hobbies, besides trail running, include other sports such as mountain biking and swimming, and, although she does not claim to be good, she loves photography.
“I truly believe my experience in Ecuador not only gave me life-long friends and memories, but it also gave me a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do and a huge boost into my career.”
“The family I stayed with for the 3 months were wonderful and very patient with me and my Spanish. My placement was great; I was doing music with special needs which is exactly what i’d wanted to do. I also got to see some amazing places in Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands and the Rainforest. I had a really great 3 months and I wish I could go back and do it again!”
My experience with PAA was incredible! I was able to learn so much that will apply to my music education career in the future. It will be an experience forever with me and I will definitely be back to visit. I quickly developed a whole separate life over there with a great family and local friends who welcomed me warmly. It’s a wonderful country to visit, especially for those involved in the arts.
From the blog
Hello, there! Yes yes yes, I made it all the way from a small old city Bethlehem, Palestine to Ecuador. Let me tell you first a little about myself. My name is Aleen Masoud, a 22-year-old Masters student in Arts,…
Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of stepping off the plane in a strange country that you’ve never been to before, knowing you’ve got to function in a different language and a different culture for the next 3…
Summer 2020 (Note that the minimum program length is 2 weeks, and the maximum length is indicated in the far right column below. If you don't see dates that work for you, please contact us to see if other options may be available)
|Session||Application Deadline||Start Date||Maximum Duration|
|Session 1||Feb 27 2020||May 15 2020||12 weeks|
|Session 2||Mar 13 2020||May 29 2020||11 weeks|
|Session 3||Mar 31 2020||Jun 12 2020||9 weeks|
|Session 4||Apr 13 2020||Jun 26 2020||7 weeks|
|Session 5||Apr 29 2020||Jul 10 2020||5 weeks|
|Session 6||May 12 2020||Jul 24 2020||3 weeks|
Important Summer 2020 (Note that the minimum program length is 2 weeks, and the maximum length is indicated in the far right column below. If you don't see dates that work for you, please contact us to see if other options may be available) 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 on this page. You will fill out a simple initial application online and pay a deposit that is refundable if you are not accepted. Otherwise, this deposit will be applied toward your overall program cost (not an additional fee). We will review your initial application and contact you within a few days to let you know if we are inviting you to the final step. At that point, we will open an online portal for you and ask you to upload the following materials:
- Your resume/CV
- An audition video (optional)
- 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 Ecuador (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 you have enough solo time to gauge your level. We prefer videos to be uploaded to an online platform such as YouTube to allow us to easily share with the placements.
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.
There is no Spanish language requirement for this program, but it is important for applicants to understand that very little English is spoken by locals in Quito, including at the placements and in the homestay families. We include 6 hours of one-on-one Spanish instruction with a private tutor every week. Although it is not required, a basic understanding of Spanish before beginning your program will improve your experience and the impact you are able to have at your placement.
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 [discipline] and an acute interest in international travel and exposure to new ideas.