“It’s a very symbolic word,” she said, “because we believe the present carves the future.”
That vision extends to social concerns and the environment. Toki is self-sustainable, using rainwater collectors and solar panels. The building was constructed from recycled tires and the glass and plastic bottles left behind by hordes of tourists. Teave conceives of it as a kind of reversal of the traditional pattern of colonialist exploitation. She believes the school — and Rapa Nui, which has already been hit by the effects of climate change — can be a model for the outside world, showing the urgency of taking action on environmental issues.
Normally about 100 students, from 2-year-olds to teenagers, study each year, enrolled in classes in both traditional Polynesian and Western classical music that meet after regular school hours. The classes were free until 2018, funded mostly through philanthropy, with supplements from Chilean government grants; the Fundación Mar Adentro; and the island’s cultural corporation. During the pandemic, the student body has dwindled to 60. Rapa Nui has been especially hard hit because of its reliance on tourism — the chief engine, along with farming, of the island’s economy. But even before 2020, a general lack of opportunities has led to high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence.
“If the children want to be musicians, they get the possibility to study here and later continue off the island when they are old enough,” she said. “But the others who will not pursue music as a career learn values that come just with learning an instrument. I see it as a tremendously necessary element, especially in a community which is as vulnerable as ours.”
Given the ills that historically have come from the West, did people on the island greet Teave’s interest with suspicion? “Quite the opposite,” she said. “Because of the history, everything which is brought in from outside is always looked on with great skepticism. But when it’s born from the community, it’s accepted wholeheartedly. I performed two concerts before we ever started the school, and the people were moved and so grateful.”
Teave said she would like to travel a bit more to concertize. But whenever she leaves the island, Rapa Nui remains a part of her music.
“All of these experiences are in my playing and the pieces that have accompanied my life,” she said. “Always.”