Saul Emir Pitti Castillo
Saul Pitti, a versatile musician, has taught in the music program at the University of Montemorelos since 1988, when he came to assist Norka Castillo in establishing a conservatory (preparatory) program. Since that time, he has taught piano, guitar, and recorder lessons and classes in woodwind methods and piano repair and tuning. He is a singer, accompanying himself on guitar, and guides the Baroque Recorder Ensemble. Mechanically gifted, he also maintains all of the department's instruments.
Saul was born in Bongo, Chiriqui, Panama, one of eight children born to Elijio and Teresa Castillo de Pitti. From his earliest years, he was inclined toward music. He would make flutes from bamboo and drums from tin cans. His brothers would not let him use the only guitar in the home because he was too small, but when they went to work, his mother would let him use it. He learned basic chords on the guitar from his sister Selayda. After he had gained some proficiency and was playing in church, his older sister Dorila gave him an instrument.
When he finished primary school, he went to Instituto Adventista Panamenio, in Concepción, Chiriquí, and had the opportunity to learn to play the recorder. In his second year at that school, in 1972, the choir from the Adventist College in Alajuela in Costa Rica gave a concert there while on tour in Panama.
For Saul, it was a vivid experience that he still remembers today. The bus carrying the choir arrived on Thursday, sang there, and then went to the city of David. He was so impressed with the sound and the harmony of the singers that he left his school without permission and went to David to hear them again. He still remembers clearly the words from the spiritual, "Soon-ah will be done wid de troubles of de world," F. Melius Christensen's, Lost in the Night, and the power of Onward Christian Soldiers. He asked his father to send him to Costa Rica to study, and his sister Dorila helped him financially.
When he arrived in Costa Rica, he desperately wanted to join the college choir but was still in high school. Ruth Ann Wade, director of the group that he had heard on tour in Panama, later recalled the situation:
I remember well when he came to me to ask to be in the choir in Costa Rica. It was the college choir, however, and he was in the academy. He stood there in front of me, pleading to be in the choir. I told him, "Well, you can come to the rehearsal . . . and we'll see how it goes." He did learn the music and became a faithful member in the choir, along with his sister Selayda.
When he finished high school, he went back to Panama and went to work in Panama City. His parents told him they wanted him to study theology, and in 1975, he went to Costa Rica and studied for a year. During that year, a friend, Eduardo Ruiloba, helped him learn to conduct hymns, and from then on he directed song services in the church.
The two friends formed a male quartet, inspired by the Voice of Prophecy's King's Heralds quartet, with Eduard's brother, Noel, and Enoch Rodriguez. Saul was also able to take piano lessons from Rosyln Ward.
When the director of the University of Montemorelos visited the school in Costa Rica, Saul went to him and asked whether there was a music school at the university. There were plans underway to start a music program, and the director responded, "Pray that we can open a school of music in Montemorelos." When he went home that summer and told his father he wanted to study music, his father became angry and told him that if he studied music, he would not help him.
Instead of working for his father, Saul went to work on a farm. After a year, he went to Panama City to obtain a visa to study music in Argentina. Meanwhile, he also began taking classes in the conservatorio in Panama.
While there, he got a letter from his sister Dorila, who now was a secretary in the division headquarters in Miami, asking him how much money he had saved to study music. He had bought two calves, which was his whole "fortune," both together being valued at about $200. She told him, "If you want to study music, sell the calves and go to Montemorelos." During the year that he had worked, the school of music in Montemorelos was taking shape. Saul arrived to be in the first generation of music students on that campus.
Realistically, staying at UM was impossible financially, but with extremely hard work, and many providential blessings, Saul was able to continue. He went to Falfurias, Texas, during the summers to harvest watermelons for an Adventist farmer, working in extreme heat. His sister Dorila sent him money, and his sister Selayda sold Avon products to help him.
In his last year, for lack of funds, he had no food and no place to stay. At that point, a friend, Julio Quiroz, who also was studying music, paid his debts and Saul was able to finish his last semester and graduate in 1981, a member of the first UM graduating class in music.
For the next four years, Pitti taught at Colegio Linda Vista in Chiapas, Mexico, and then, in 1986 and 1987, he directed the choir and taught piano and guitar lessons in Villa Flores, Chiapas. In 1988 he was invited by Norka Castillo to help her at the university.
Source: Biographical sheet completed by Saul Pitti and translated by Ruth Ann Wade, 2008; Additional observations by Ruth Ann Wade.