Academia de Bachata is the only music program in the world to focus on teaching bachata and merengue. A music education focused on local traditions motivates children, empowers communities, and preserves diversity. Based in Cabarete, the Academia is a collaborative venture between iASO Records and The DREAM Project, an educational NGO that provides holistic education to more than 15,000 at-risk youth in the Dominican Republic.
The Academia opened its doors in 2013 and has more than 300 K-12 children enrolled in free, intensive daily instrument and voice classes. The Academia's faculty of celebrated musicians endeavors to transmit bachata’s traditions to future generations, while encouraging children to develop their own musical expression. Our touring student ensemble performs dozens of concerts and workshops per year for thousands of US children and adults.
We emphasize collaborative learning through band practice, performances, and group exercises.
QUALITY AND INTENSITY OF MUSIC EDUCATION
The intensity and quality of musical immersion are critical to a student's progress. We offer frequent classes with accomplished musician teachers who develop enthusiasm among students.
Our Suzuki for folk music approach engages children by teaching through local traditions. Children are enthusiastic and better prepared to learn a musical tradition that is popular in their community.
We are preparing the next generation of teachers. Our advanced students train as teaching assistants. TAs play an important role in expanding access to our curriculum.
We seek to empower communities to preserve and develop their musical culture. A community that takes pride in its culture is strong and has much to offer to humanity.
INCLUSION OF ALL PEOPLE
Academia de Bachata welcomes children of all backgrounds and genders. We seek to empower underrepresented voices through music.
Academia de Bachata is fortunate to count some of the country's leading musicians on our faculty. Our teachers combine formal training with deep empirical knowledge of local musical cultures. Through their mentorship we aim to help student develop innovating careers in traditional and popular music.
Abel Mendez ‘Abelito’
Abelito is Dominican Republic’s leading bachata percussionist. In a career spanning from the 1970s until today, Abel played a leading role in developing the rythmic structures that define modern bachata. Abelito was a founding member of Monchy y Alexandra, a Grammy nominated group. He has recorded with almost every well-known bachata artist including Romeo Santos and Antony Santos.
Eduardo Abi Harb
Eduardo studied and taught for more than 30 years in Venezuela's El Sistema, where he was charged with establishing new nucleus schools under the Sistema franchise. As a violinist and orchestral leader, he has toured the world. More recently, he was founder and musical director of Fiesta Clasica, a music school in Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial. Now he leads our choral program, and supervises operations.
Wilson has more than 30 years experience as a leading saxophonist of the Dominican North Coast, heartland of Merengue Típico. He has worked over the years as a vocalist, saxophonist, band director, and a teacher. He studied music theory and saxophone at Escuela de Música Luis Lopez. The saxophone is a principle melodic instrument of both orchestral and traditional Merengue. Wilson shares with his students a profound knowledge of this Dominican tradition.
Kedley heads our Kompa music program. He plays piano and is experienced as a band and choral leader. Kompa is the national music of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic. As many of our students are of Haitian origin, we have launched an initiative to teach Kompa to all of our students, and so to encourage their exchange of musical cultures. Kedley studied music at Ecole Notre Dame de la Victoire de Balan and Lycée National Jacques Roumain de Balan.
Martires de León
As bachata’s top session guitarist and the arranger for megastar Romeo Santos, guitar maestro Martires de León has toured the world and performed in iconic venues such as Madison Square Garden. Widely traveled and formally trained, his mission is to broaden his students’ horizons, fostering in them the skills and discipline necessary for a professional musician.
Kelvin de Leon
Kelvin is one of the Dominican Republic's finest guitarists, with a deep expertise in traditional Latin American music. He has arranged and served as lead guitarist for Frank Reyes, Yoskar Sarante, Andy Andy, and Monchy y Alexandra among others. Since 2018, he has studied music theory and pedagogy at Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Kelvin is the son of Dominican maestro Martires de Leon.
Marcos has more than 30 years experience as a pianist, orchestral director, and music teacher. He is an expert in a range of Dominican and Latin American genres, including bolero, merengue, and salsa. Marcos graduated from La Escuela de Bellas Artes, one of the Dominican Republic's top music programs.
Before becoming a coordinator of the El Sistema music program in 2013, Yakelim's background was in small business management. She left Venezuela's Sistema in 2017, and has played a key role since joining us in 2018 as logistics coordinator. From enrollment, to attendance, to scheduling; from parent conferences to concert planning; Yakelim's attention to logistics and intuition for human relations helps to insure the success of the Academia's endeavors big and small.
Benjamin de Menil
Benjamin de Menil is the founder of Academia de Bachata and iASO Records. For two decades, he has produced recordings, performances, and educational programs that foster Dominican musical traditions. Benjamin’s productions, which feature pioneers of bachata, have been critically acclaimed and have topped music charts. His traditional bachata music and dance videos are viewed by tens of millions. In 2013, inspired by the success of the Dominican Republic’s baseball academies, Benjamin established Academia de Bachata to incubate the next generation of professional bachateros.