Art is to share and it is very important to teach our traditions to our youth so that they value and appreciate our culture. When our students perform music it gives importance to our traditions. The people in our community value the work that we do, and our students are a positive example for other young people in our community who think only foreign music has value. We are preserving our culture by passing it down to new generations. This work is important because there a fewer spaces [for our traditional culture] because of globalization.


El Tejar, Guatemala  | Founded 2007 | 165+ Youth Served

Why Guatemala?

Local North Carolina musician David LaMotte started PEG Partners, a small NGO focusing on issues of literacy, critical thought, and artistic expression, in partnership with Guatemalan schools and libraries. LEAF Executive Director Jennifer reached out in curiosity of, “Why not collaborate to start a music program,” and the bricks were laid for this vibrant and extensive partnership & program.

Program Overview

LEAF International works with PEG Partners, FUNDIT, and the CEDIN School in El Tejar to provide an after school music and cultural arts programs. 8 classes meet twice a week, immersing students in their own cultural traditions and empowering them to pursue their talents. Classes include:

Classes are designed by teachers to not only give children a firm base in the instrument they are learning, but a firm base in Guatemalan music culture. The goal is to give youth a strong foundation in cultural traditions so they feel confident in pursuing a career in music. LEAF International supports the teachers’ salaries and local instruments made by local artists, as well as cultural exchanges for the students and teaching artists to perform at LEAF Festival.

ONEmic Studio Guatemala

LEAF Guatemala launched their ONEmic Studio in 2022. The group has a mission to share the interplay of traditional instrumentation with Mayan history – amplifying the Marimba, Guatemala’s national Instrument. 

“I am honored to represent Guatemala
and my passion for music, using my mandolin
and the marimba.”
Ashley Garcia
Guatemala Student & Musician


From music instruments to child sponsorship, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to supporting Global Arts education & preservation!

Explore Guatemalan Culture

Take a journey that will immerse you into the heart of LEAF and its mission. Learn about the cultures, preservation methods, and musical traditions of the First Nations of Costa Rica and the cultivation of art in Guatemala. See how LEAF International is contributing to the vivacity of these traditions by supporting cultural knowledge transfer to the next generations.

LEAF is a 501(C)3 charitable organization. Your generous gifts in support of cultural arts education go directly to these programs.

Program Highlights

  • 11 Youth represented Guatemala and created 6 cultural exchanges for the May Retreat. (Owen Middle, The Christ School, Burton Street, Munos, Grove Covenant Church, Mars Hill Elementary)
  • Dynamic connection and musical collaboration between Guatemala and the youth of Dance of Hope from Uganda. 
  • LEAF International Guatemala has been invited to participate in the Resolution Song. The Resolution song has been sung by thousands of people in over 100 countries and is a demonstration of global unity and the will to act now to protect our planet. This invitation was extended by the Resolution Project  – a global music and climate action project.
  • Launched LI’s newest ONEmic studio program
  • Meet Guatemala Culture keepers:

Guatemalan students created a beautiful pandemic pivot by recording themselves practicing so teachers can help them improve their instrument skills (violin, guitar, flute, mandolin). Innovation is magical in El Tejar, Guatemala as most students do not have the option of virtual learning. 

June: 7 LEAFers will take an adventure on the Guatemala Cultural Expedition this summer. This trip is being led by David LaMotte, LEAF Partner, and Artist Ambassador.

May: Despite challenges with visa processes, 3 leaders from the Guatemala program came to the
48th LEAF festival and represented their country and culture with great pride. The trio completed
a 5-day residency at Barnardsville Elementary, 3 community cultural exchanges, and 4 festival

LEAF International Guatemala Cultural Expeditioners embrace the traditional customs & music culture of the country.

January: The new Music room at the CEDIN school launched on January 21, thanks to Build Lightly Studios.

LEAF International Cultural Expedition Jan 20-25.

May: 4 Guatemalan teaching artists come to the LEAF Festival for several cultural exchanges across
Asheville including Avery’s Creek Elementary, The Asheville School, and Burton Street LEAF
ONEmic Studio.

LEAF International Guatemala debuted their first CD at the 45th LEAF Festival.

Older students in the Artistic Groups were invited to the Norwegian Embassy in Guatemala City
to perform for government officials and share their cultural heritage. Additionally, they were able to interact with other music and cultural students from around the country.

Pepe, a former student of the program, officially became a Teaching Artist. This is the first time a
LEAF International Student has become an official Teaching Artist. He starts in 2016, teaching two
classes per week.

“Diploma in Music” program is launched, providing students with an extensive, 3-year long Music Foundation Course!

4 LEAF International Guatemala participants, 3 students, and 1 teacher participated in the first-
ever multi-tiered cultural exchange at October LEAF. The exchange featured students from Guatemala and Haiti, and consisted of a week-long residency whereby LEAF International students taught their cultural traditions at a local school, participated in various cultural activities throughout the Asheville community, and performed at LEAF festival!

15 classes are now offered year-round at the El Tejar program. 1 of the additions this year was the
implementation of a year-round Teacher Training course, allowing older students to increase
their skill base from playing music to teaching music. The finale of this year-round class is the
Music Camp, which has now become regular programming of the LEAF International program. In
November, the Music Camp once again allowed older students to step into a leadership role as
they facilitated music classes at two local schools in El Tejar that have no cultural arts education
programming. We double our outreach while empowering our older students!

LEAF International Guatemala hosts its first annual Music Camp!! This has been a dream of both
the Teaching Artists and older students for quite some time. Through the Music Camp Intensive,
older students are able to step into a leadership position as they teach younger students for a week a basic introduction to the music of Guatemala. The Music Camp focuses on providing cultural arts education to surrounding schools in El Tejar that have no arts education. In this way, LEAF International is able to expand its outreach and impact.

LEAF International Guatemala hosts the first-ever LEAF International Teaching Artist Exchange,
welcoming LEAF International Costa Rica Teaching Artists and Partners, Luis Porras, and Alexis
Rodriguez. The opportunity to connect programs to one another builds a sense of solidarity and
community around the programs, giving teaching artists the inspiration they need to continue
doing the important work of cultural preservation that they have dedicated their lives to.

The Musical Stars of El Tejar perform a “didactic” concert in their community; teaching children about their cultural traditions and working with them in groups!

2 new Marimbas bought for the program- thanks PEG!

LEAF October 2012 welcomed LEAF International Guatemala kids and teachers.
Their first U.S. visit and LEAF performance- Extraordinary! Step inside the journey with David’s

Five students participated in music competitions in Chimaltenango. All won either first, second, or
third place in their age ranges!

A graduate of the program won a trophy in a music contest playing the song Luna de Xelaju.

Parents built an addition onto the school for a music classroom.

LEAF International, Child Aid, PEG, and David LaMotte partner to launch the program.

Sara Morales has been teaching for LEAF International for 16 years. An avid music lover and an individual proud of her Guatemalan heritage, she finds teaching for LEAF not only a rewarding opportunity, but important work. Why? 

She tells us that this work is meaningful to her, 

because art is to share and it is very important to teach our traditions to our youth so that they value and appreciate our culture. When our students perform music it gives importance to our traditions. The people in our community value the work that we do, and our students are a positive example for other young people in our community who think only foreign music has value. We are preserving our culture by passing it down to new generations. This work is important because there are fewer spaces [for our traditional culture] because of globalization.”

Student Ashley Garcia has been in the program for more than 8 years. In 2019, at the age of 12, Ashley came to NC to share her love for Guatemalan music culture. Due to an unattainable visa process, no other student in the ensemble made it to NC; However, Ashley represented her country and ensemble with great pride and courage.  

In 2023, Ashley returned to Asheville accompanied by 10 other young Guatemalan musicians. Along with their teacher Estephany, the group hosted 6 cultural exchanges, 4 festival performances, and taught more than 100 youth.

Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.