Studying bandoneón at the Buenos Aires Conservatory

Tips, experiences, false myths

This article is about my experience as a bandoneón student in the Argentine capital, and particularly at the Conservatory. When I left Italy in 2017 to deepen the study of this instrument at the Buenos Aires Conservatory, I didn't know what to expect. If I had read such an article before leaving, several things would have been simpler, and it is for this reason that I decided to share my experiences.

Premise

This article describes in general terms some of the aspects of studying at a Conservatory in Buenos Aires. It particularly refers to the institute where I study, the Manuel de Falla. There are other institutions where bandoneón is studied, but I will not be talking about them since I am not familiarised with their specific characteristics. If you need more information about them, you can contact each institution directly.

Is there a "classical bandoneón"?

There is a false myth which states that there is a dichotomy between tango bandoneónists and those who dedicate themselves to the study and performance of other genres. I would like to quickly dismiss this question: music is music. By restricting the study to the tango repertoire one is severely limiting the possibilities of the bandoneón. The same applied to the opposite situation: studying only "classical" music means giving up knowing a fundamental and proper field of expression of the instrument (tango). The aim of studying a "classical" repertoire (but what does "classical music" mean? Bach? Mahler?), is to enrich and deepen the knowledge of the instrument and the musical language. Studying bandoneón at the Conservatory does not therefore mean playing only "classical music". It means knowing the musical tradition and the musical language and being able to interpret any musical creation with the instrument we love, the bandoneón.

And, by the way, yes we do study tango at the Conservatory.

Can foreigners study at the conservatory?

And how much is it?

In Argentina education is public and free. If you are not Argentinian but wish to study the bandoneón in a Conservatory of Buenos Aires (or any other Argentine city) you can do it. By enrolling in the Conservatory you can apply for a temporary residence for students: it lasts one year and must be renewed from year to year up to 3. At the end of the third year it is possible to request a permanent residency. (more information is available on the Migraciones website). The school year begins in late March and ends in early December.

The Manuel de Falla Conservatory

I want to specifically talk about the institution I know best as it is there where I study, the Manuel de Falla Conservatory. It is not the only conservatory in the city (there is also the Astor Piazzolla conservatory) but historically the Falla is the nation's first conservatory. The bandoneón chair was established in the 1950s by Pedro Maffia and Catulo Castillo.

Where is it?

The Manuel de Falla has several locations (here they are called anexos). The head office is in Gallo 238, in the same building as the Piazzolla Conservatory. I mainly study in the Suipacha location, a few meters from the Obelisk. In general it is possible to choose the courses in such a way that they are all in the same location.

How is the study plan structured?

The course lasts eight years and is divided in two parts. The initial four years are called T.A.P. and the next four years are the Ciclo Superiór. The study plan of the T.A.P. is divided like this:

1° year 2° year 3° year 4° year
Audio Perceptiva 1 Audio Perceptiva 2 Formación Musical 1 Formación Musical 2
Educación Vocal 1 Educación Vocal 2 Senso Percepción Folklore y Musica Ciudadana
Instrumento, Inicial 1 Instrumento, Inicial 2 Instrumento, Pregrado 1 Instrumento, Pregrado 2

You will expect around six or seven hours of lessons per week.

The structure of the Ciclo Superiór changes a lot depending on how you decide to continue. For example, if you want to perfect the technique on the instrument, or deepen Composition, Choral Direction, among other options.

Is there an entrance test?

While the most popular courses of study (piano, guitar, violin) require an entrance test due to the high demand for enrollments, the bandoneón chair doesn’t. As the demand is not very high, the number of vacancies is not limited. That’s why there is no formal entry test. Teachers do verify your previous musical knowledge. If it is high enough, you may skip some of the basic courses.

Which repertoire do you study?

The bandoneón chair at the Manuel de Falla Conservatory in Buenos Aires was established by Pedro Maffia and Catulo Castillo in 1954. The repertoire ranges from the pre-Baroque period to contemporary music, including tango. This follows a very clear aim: allowing the musician to access the type of formation that he would have if he or she had chosen to study any other solo instrument. What is more, the repertoire is strongly inspired by the piano course.

To give some examples: in the last 2 years I played Bach's Inventions, Scarlatti's sonatas, the sonatinas op. 36 by Clementi, works by Frescobaldi, arrangements of famous tangos, studies by Chopin, original compositions for bandoneón.

To know the program in detail, I invite you to visit the website of M. Rodolfo Daluisio.

Why studying bandoneón in Buenos Aires?

Why would a bandoneónist choose the Argentine capital in order to study or improve his/her knowledge? A myriad of reasons comes into mind. he concentration of musicians, the presence of great masters of the bandoneón, the strong tradition of tango and the stimulating and musically active environment of the city: all this and more makes Buenos Aires a unique place in the world. Just as Florence, Paris or Milan represent compulsory destinations for art students, so does Buenos Aires for the bandoneónist.

I like to think that if bandoneón was a religion, Buenos Aires would be its Mecca.

Contact me

f you are curious about the possibility of studying bandoneón at the Buenos Aires Conservatory, and you feel that I have not answered all your questions, I invite you to contact me by email - - or through social networks (find links below).I will be happy to share my experiences with you and listen to your suggestions to improve the article's information.

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