Two Cups of Coffee

Posted on January 30th, 2016 by

Blog by Joey Wiley ’16

Waking up at 5:30AM is definitely not ideal when home, but on tour, and specifically in Greece, the reward of this early wake up time is much greater than the cost of a couple cups of Greek coffee.

As we started our journey from Patras to Volos, I was eager to play with yet another musical audience comprised of young students. Upon arrival at the Volos school of music, the students and teachers clamored at the notion that our concert was just a few short hours away. The faculty and students at the school were incredibly accommodating and eager to share in music.

Once set up, we did our usual sound check and figured out how to squeeze our way through the sea of chairs while carrying our instruments. As always, it is always a new space, a new sound, and a new audience. We were all eager to share in music once again with the students of Greece.

Gustavus Symphony opens John Williams' STAR WARS at Volos School of Music (SRO audience didn't allow great photos)

Gustavus Symphony opens John Williams’ STAR WARS at Volos School of Music (SRO audience didn’t allow great photos)

The program went smoothly and were received in a wave of applause. I don’t point this out to sound egotistical, but to share in how special this experience was for both Gusties and Volos students. I distinctly recall leaving stage with my tuba and finding a spot next to the open window letting in a heavenly breeze next to one of the head staff members at the school. I was instantly drawn to her happiness and radiant smile. As the Jazz Lab Band set up and began playing, she danced with so much joy I felt drawn to join her! As the program continued, she continued to vocalize and show her pleasure through dancing, snapping, and clapping.

Once the Gustavus portion was finished, we were seated for the Volos performance. They sang/played two pieces that were comprised of two ensembles; a traditional instrument chamber ensemble who was accompanied by the school’s mixed choir. Just as we had heard in Patras, the Greek music was so rich and diverse in its sound and culture, I now felt how the teacher had felt during the jazz band. I was drawn to the eastern sounds coming from such foreign instruments to many of us.

Partway through the last piece, the woman who I stood next too was brought to tears. She could barely contain them and she had no shame in showing how happy she was.

After the concert finished and both groups began to mingle, I spoke with the woman who had shown such emotion and excitement throughout the entire performance. When I asked what had brought her to tears, she expressed how happy she was that, as Americans, we chose to perform at their school. She stated that it was a great and momentous moment for both the Gusties and the Volos students, having been the first time a shared concert of this sort had been performed at Volos, one of the oldest and most prestigious music schools in Greece. I remember her stating “we are so grateful you made your way all the way here just to touch our lives and share in music making. “ She went on to state the as Greeks, they couldn’t culturally or monetarily afford to come to the US to participate in music sharing such as this.

This was the moment that really made an impact. Gusties are so incredibly privileged to have the opportunity not only to travel to such a beautiful country as Greece, but more importantly to be able to play and share music with such eager, young musicians. Leaving Volos, I truly felt that we had made an impact. Even if that impact was only on one student, I am confident that all of the early morning wake up calls, long bus rides, and stress attributed to making a tour like this work was more than worth it. While we may not ever see each other again, the experience had was powerful enough to solidify, without a doubt in my mind, that we are doing good through music. We are making a difference, even if that difference is made one note at a time.


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