By Michael Pearl
Tim Hazell died on Feb. 3 at the tragically early age of 69 years from stomach cancer. He had been ill for a short time and received first-class treatment for his condition here in San Miguel de Allende including chemotherapy, but sadly he lost the battle. Tim is known throughout our community as a Renaissance man who brought joy, enthusiasm, and expertise to everything that he did. He was a scholar, composer, multi-instrumentalist musician, painter, and writer. He will be familiar to many of you through his weekly culinary column in this newspaper where there was always a wonderful recipe from any one of the five continents, combined with fascinating historical background and a flavor not only of the dish, but also the culture from which it came. Tim was a master at weaving a story around a recipe and in just a few hundred words made you think you were sitting alongside ancient Egyptians in 3000 BCE, eating the very dish he was mouth wateringly describing.
As a painter, Tim’s works always convey a deep meaning, but in a light-hearted way that makes you smile when you look at them. He was widely recognized for his unique style drawing on pre-Hispanic influences; and his paintings are to be found in the collections of many serious art collectors throughout North America. He had a wonderful ability to mix colors and shapes and juxtapose them in a way that drew you in to the story he was telling. In a marvelous Tree of Life that he gave me, the primary colors leap out of the canvas as the tree waves and shivers in the air with Aztec masks hanging around the branches and birds and other indigenous symbols clustered around looking on. It’s a simile for the way Tim lived his life–full of color, vigor, meaning, deep intellectual curiosity and, above all else, humanity.
Tim was a noted composer and much of his work is rooted in his love of indigenous music. In 2007 he, along with Doug Robinson, wrote “A Forest of Americas,” a suite that combined classical, jazz, and pre-Hispanic instruments and musical styles, which premiered at St. Paul’s church in San Miguel and, more recently, “A Walk In Wild Herbs,” written with violinist Turkkan Osman, both performed with Collar del Viento, a pre-Hispanic music ensemble from Pozos. Tim worked extensively with other renowned musicians living in San Miguel, including collaborating with Ken Bichel on “Kid’s Incredible Adventure,” performed at the teatro Angela Peralta, and more recently with pianist Liz Stone, for “Recipes for the Senses,” a nine-movement suite of tone paintings for solo piano.
One of the crowning achievements of Tim’s life is undoubtedly the more than a decade which he devoted to bringing music to young people in and around San Miguel. He did this principally through his position as Vice President of Pro Música and Founder and Director of its Youth Orchestra, its Academy of Music and its Rhythm Rhyme & Reason (RR&R) programs. Together these are a huge undertaking, but Tim managed single handedly through these structures to bring musical instruction and the opportunity to perform to many hundreds of young people between the ages of 8 and 28 from schools, universities, colleges, and the wider community. Without Tim’s leadership and his gift and passion for teaching, encouraging, and inspiring these young people, most of them would not have had the opportunity to develop their skills and enrich their lives through their playing.
It’s been more than 12 years since Tim founded RR&R, which teaches the basics of music to hundreds of pupils in schools scattered around the campo outside San Miguel. Like many things that Tim did, this program was unique in the way it inspired youngsters to connect with music, including through the use of pre-Hispanic instruments such as nose flutes and log drums, as well as modern ones like ukuleles and guitars. Parents, children, and teachers alike all adored him. This experience led to the foundation of an embryo Academy of Music at Cinco de Mayo school in San Miguel where children between the ages of 8 and 12 are taught the theory of music and to play both string and wind instruments. The best graduate to a children’s orchestra.
One of Tim’s crowning achievements was in founding the Pro Música Youth Orchestra about five years ago, bringing together music students and young professionals from not only San Miguel but also neighboring cities and states. The ensemble has grown to more than 50 players with Tim as guiding spirit and Director/Conductor. In the space of these few short years he inspired them to tackle full-scale works such as Mozart symphonies. Before the pandemic the orchestra gave regular concerts at the Bellas Artes which hundreds of people attended and were delighted with the outstanding quality of the playing.
Tim was totally dedicated to all his artistic and creative endeavors and to helping others bring out their latent musical and artistic abilities. He was always approachable and took endless trouble to ensure that those who came into contact with him in the arts fields were nurtured to the best of his ability. With Tim’s death San Miguel loses a unique individual whose passing will leave a huge hole in the cultural life of our city. Fortunately his tireless efforts to bring music to the wider community will live on in the institutions that he created.