By Joshua Weinberg ’15
Sad as I am to leave behind these beautiful mountains, oceans, and cities that are so rich in culture and history, as I reflect on our experience I am filled with overwhelming joy. I am humbled and awed by our experiences traveling through Spain, France, and Italy as we shared our “exploding passion” for music along the way.
If I could describe this tour in one word, it would be transformative. This word holds a deep meaning for a lot of the members of the St. Olaf Band.
I first felt a transformation in myself during our encore of Amazing Grace in the Darius Milhaud Conservatoire. For the first time, instead of just hearing the sounds of the band, I listened and absorbed the meaning of the words we sang:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see.
The words echoed in my soul as the syllables vibrated between the members of the band. I thought about of how awesome it was to be sharing in this glorious music. I then remembered my grandmother, who passed away in 2005. Amazing Grace was her favorite hymn. She was my last living grandparent, and she was incredibly special to me. I played the piece at her funeral, and remembered how powerful that simple tune was.
When we performed it in Aix-en-Provence, my grandmother came to mind immediately, as if I knew she was listening. I know many other Bandies shared a moment like this, remembering those loved ones that they had lost. But we have not really lost them. The band brought them back alive into our memories, and filled our hearts with the joy that we knew they would feel, had they been able to be there.
So we have eaten paella in Spain, bought too many baguettes in France, and tried some of the finest olive oil in Italy. We’ve gotten lost in Barcelona, and we’ve found souvenirs in Aix-en-Provence.
We were sometimes blind to the cultures that greeted us abroad. Now we see the beautiful changes that these cultures have brought out in us. We’ve made hundreds of friends, and opened our hearts to them. The thousand of miles that the St. Olaf Band has traveled cannot begin to measure the transformation of each member of this band.
We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of the French, Italian, and Spanish audiences trying to pronounce their respective languages. Even though language barriers were frustrating, some of us learned new foreign phrases and were able to communicate effectively what we wanted in a foreign country. But even when we couldn’t communicate well using words, we could always resort to our music.
We laughed, cried, hooted, and hollered with our Spanish, French, and Italian friends. We touched hearts and broke through boundaries to connect on the deepest level of being human. We learned that we can speak completely different languages, have completely different values and beliefs, look completely different, and yet can still share ourselves and our cultures through something that transcends any physical barrier, obstacle, or prejudice that we may hold.
Every audience member we played for, every local we attempted to communicate with, every note that reverberated through each concert hall will be imprinted forever in our European friends’ memories. The St. Olaf Band may be flying back to Northfield, and maybe some us will never return to Europe. However, a little piece of us gets to stay in the Mediterranean for much longer.
¡Adios, Europa — Grazzia and á bientôt!
Joshua is a music performance major from St. Peter, Minnesota. He plays flute in the St. Olaf Band.