Teaching in Brazil

What happens when an American trained musician goes to Brazil to teach? The following are the experiences of three former teachers in Brazil.


Robert Benfield taught in Brazil at three schools for seventeen years, from 1955-1972. During his tenure there he witnessed significant growth and many changes. He enjoyed his work, remembering his hurried attempts at mastering Portuguese in his first summer there, making band uniforms from scratch at that first school, traveling in a Volkswagen van with a marimba group, accompanying in recording sessions with the newly formed Voice of Prophecy quartet, watching a new music conservatory building being built and assembling and installing a Schober church organ kit for it, and enjoying many years of wonderful music making with people who reveled in the sheer pleasure of music making.


Harry Bennett Jr., and his wife, Marilyn, worked in Brazil for thirteen years, beginning in 1969. He began his work at an academy in southern Brazil where he taught general music and conducted the band and choir. From 1974 to 1981 he chaired the music conservatory at Northeast Brazil College, overseeing a program with twelve teachers. He taught in many areas of music while there and in 1980 was ordained as a minister in recognition of his spiritual leadership in both music and evangelism. During this time he gained government endorsement for the music courses offered at the conservatory and sought to bring high quality music to the Adventist schools. He concertized widely throughout most of Brazil with the school's choirs, performing for government dignitaries and participating in and winning top honors at national and South American music festivals. Bennett recalls with immense pleasure his work with the talented Brazilian youth and their enthusiastic response to classical music.


Harlen Miller was born in the mission field and, following graduation from Walla Walla College in 1972, served in both Puerto Rico and Brazil, as well as the United States. When contacted recently at Shenandoah Valley Academy, where he directs the vocal choral program, he wrote about his five years in Brazil. "I directed four choirs and taught lessons and music classes at East Brazil Academy, a K-11 school (there is no 12th grade in Brazilian high schools) located an hour north of Rio de Janiero. The music program was run by the Conservatorio de Musica and was an adjunct to the regular school curriculum. Our conservatory, like most in the country, was accredited by a national conservatory of which there were two, both located in nearby Rio. Choirs and choir festivals are an important part of civic life in Brazil, sponsored by communities, banks, industries and companies. Teaching there was an incredible experience, the richest I have ever had. Had it not been for a family medical emergency back in the States, we would probably still be there."