With a loving fingertip, Alberto Lysy strokes his 289-year-old Guarnerius violin as he caresses his dream of an academy that would save budding Latin American virtuosos from forced exile in Europe.

One of the best-known Latin American violinists and currently head of the Yehudi Menuhin Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland, Mr. Lysy hopes to attract funding from corporations to make this dream come true.

''My most beautiful project, the one I most dearly wish for, is an international study center here in Argentina for all young Latin American musicians,'' the former child prodigy said during one of his visits home.

He now uses his renown to fill concert halls and donates profits to tuition for new talent.

A violinist since the age of 5, Lysy played his first concert at 7 and speaks from experience when he laments a situation that forces young virtuosos to study in Europe. If their careers flourish, they rarely return.

The talent in the region is too good to be wasted, he says. ''I have Latin American students from all over the region -- from Chile, Colombia, Peru.''

Lysy runs his Argentine school by remote control, visiting three times a year and delegating authority to former students. His dream is for the center to become a hotbed of Latin musicians who would then teach in their countries.

But while he wants to prevent the better ones from leaving for good, Lysy insists some exposure to Europe, as the cradle of classical music, is imperative if they are to ally expression with technical brilliance.

Latin America has produced some outstanding musicians this century, including Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau and Argentine pianists Bruno Gelber and Marta Argerich and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who now leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chicago and other orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic or La Scala in Milan have also had Latin American concertinos -- first violins.

But Lysy thinks such successes are no match for the erosion of classical music in a region that gave the world salsa, samba, tango, and merengue.

''It's mainly a question not of music but of education. In Latin America, neither education nor culture are fashionable,'' he says. ''As long as there are so many social and economic problems, there will be less music because people think of much more earthly things.''

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