Holly Wissler, Biography:

Holly Wissler, originally from Iowa, is an applied ethnomusicologist and adventure travel guide residing in Cusco, Peru. She dedicates herself to collaborative projects with the Quechua Q’eros of highland Peru, and the near-extinct Wachiperi people of the Harakbut linguistic family in the Amazon rainforest foothills of the Madre de Dios river basin. Holly is regular guest lecturer for National Geographic, Coltur Peruana de Turismo Tour Agency, and various U.S. academic study abroad programs. She often facilitates rich cultural exchanges between U.S. visitors and Q’eros guests in her lectures. Holly has worked as an adventure travel guide in the Andes of Peru since 1982 and the Himalayas of Nepal since 1987, principally for Wilderness Travel (www.wildernesstravel.com).

In 2010, Holly digitized and returned fifty years of audio-visual archives to both the Andean Q’eros, and the Amazonian Wachiperi (see http://youtu.be/XGQLo87NYhk, and http://youtu.be/Yc3izJLMEHk, Q’eros and Wachiperi archive return, respectively). Both groups were able to see and/or hear past documentation about their culture never before seen or returned to them. She spearheaded a 2-year project with the Queros-Wachiperi community for the rescue and documentation of Wachiperi songs and immaterial culture (2010-2012), partially funded by Amazon Conservation Association, Washington, D.C. This project led to an invitation to work as coordinator and presenter for five Wachiperi representatives in the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured Peru.

Holly is also a classical flutist, and holds two master’s degrees from the University of Idaho: MM in flute performance and MA in music history, as well as a PhD in ethnomusicology from Florida State University (2009), funded by a Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation research abroad grant. She has published numerous articles about her work in Peruvian, U.S. and European journals. Holly is the producer of 2 video documentaries: Qoyllur Rit’i: A Woman’s Journey (1998), about Qoyllur Rit’i, the largest pilgrimage festival in the Peruvian Andes and her inside role as mayordoma (sponsor) of a dance group (available for purchase here), and Kusisqa Waqashayku (“From Grief and Joy We Sing,” 2007) about Q’eros’ musical rituals.

Holly has adopted her deaf godson from Q’eros, Dante, and as a result works as advocate for Deaf Education in Peru. Dante is the son of Victor Flores Salas, featured in the documentary, who grieves about the death of his wife, Dante’s mother. In 2016 she will split her time between Cusco and Austin, Texas, where Dante will begin his education at the Texas School for the Deaf.