The EEE of GAAA

As promised, the follow-up to partially complete my first website article, in trying to explain the objective for creating such a site. Future articles will attempt to go into more detail on the how, when and where of maximizing student (and adults) education through their creative performances and research. If you did not get a chance to read the first one on (AAA), then go back to it first before reading any further on this one. It is not long, but will help you to understand what I am trying to write about here.

So, what does my “EEE” refer to … and maybe you will have your own version of this EEE, which could very well be a better version than mine. But, I am not just trying to get support for “creative travel”, but also for “creative excellence” in whatever the performers are sharing with the world. If the performance is not an example of thorough preparation, and not of a caliber that will influence the audience to react with the “WOW” factor, then it is possible to stunt the creative growth of the participants, and not achieve the objective of the experience intended. The WOW factor does not have to reflect a “professional” level, just go beyond the expectations of the audience. Some audiences have been more “spoiled” more than others … it depends on where in the world you are performing. There is a HUGE audience out there that do not have the quality venues and opportunities that we have here, and I believe that as we become more of a “world society”, we must take our talents and understandings to the less fortunate areas to help them. The pride our students will have from their performances will only be enhanced by seeing and feeling the positive reactions of an appreciative audience. Plus, in the process our students will witness what others don’t have, and then appreciate more what they do have back home when they return. Let me share with you a short story to verify this belief from my past …

Several years ago, I was fortunate to be able to take 62 High School students (plus 8 chaperones) to England during the summer months while school was out. We were there for a total of three weeks, which was a long enough time to really get to know the country and their way of living. We had prepared for this adventure for almost two years, with fund-raising activities, etc., and some of my students had never been out of their own city before, so traveling to another Country was very exciting to them all. Because of this building excitement, many parents would come to me and say to me, “please take them soon, because they are driving us crazy with their eagerness”. It was a lot of work in figuring out all the details, and of how to financially make it work.

In England, at that time, the students over there we going to school year-round. So, when we arrived, we would go to a pre-arranged school and make “student billeting assignments” with the families at that school. This saved us a lot of money, and in return for the families sharing their homes and meals with us, we would perform a concert for them, or be guests on their concert with them. But, most of the schools there did not have a Concert Band program like we have here in North America. So, we would stay with this school for two or three days, and when the English students came to their school classes in the morning, my students would then get on the “coaches” and do the tourist sight-seeing, and then return back to the school as they were finishing classes, and go back home again with the hosting families. Of course, we were very careful to screen and select families that we knew would be safe and reliable … and of course kept very careful records and communication with those families. We had also taken with us a Doctor and a Nurse as chaperones, so I feel we did everything possible to be well prepared.

As we moved from city to city (actually is was more of from town to town compared to where we were from), I witnessed the growth of the students maturity from their actions and from their communications with me. The first week was very exciting to my students … but then I started to see the excitement settle with most of them. They still poured their hearts out through their musical performances, but their eyes and actions started reflecting a more mature understanding of how fortunate they were back home to have the luxuries, freedoms, and the opportunities that their own schools and homes provided. They were witnessing many differences between them and the other students lives. They were not just experiencing tourist England, but “real” England. It became very obvious that none of the students there had a car in High School; none of them had a swimming pool out back; almost all of them shared a bedroom with their siblings; and they even found out that a “tongue sandwich” was a delicacy to most of the families there … because those families stretched themselves to be the best “hosts” possible by providing their concept of stylish eating. I was so proud of my students for stretching themselves to be the best “guests” possible, by actually eating those … ugg … “tongue sandwiches”.

Our last stop was in downtown London, where we stayed at the YMCA, which was a very dramatic change in our housing … but, again, a real education in itself. Our biggest performance was there, which was a great “finale” to our adventure. And, none of the students needed prodding to be ready for us to leave on time for the airport. When we arrived back home, the parents were all there, and the students were so eager to be back. I had many parents come to me a few days later, and say how much they appreciated what “I had done for their son/daughter” … about how much their home attitude had changed for the better … but, I quickly made sure that they knew it was not “me” that had changed them, it was the experience of being there, and of living the life of a student in another country that had changed them. This experience would not have been so dramatic in their lives if they had read about it in a book, or if they had only seen it in a movie or on TV, because reality would not have had time to sink in. So, since then, I have never underestimated the value of how much traveling with my students to perform is worth, and have made many more trips since. England was my first International trip, however, so I grew more from that travel experience than my students did! And, the best part for me was that my students also grew tremendously in their performance skills, because every performance improved, and every student put more heart into every performance.

So (getting back to our title), what is my interpretation of EEE? In my opinion it refers to “Experiencing Event Excellence” … and so the full of GAAAEEE is .. “Gratitude Attitude Attainment thru Experiencing Event Excellence” … by performing for as many audiences as possible away from their home support. I’m busy planning our next travel adventure already!

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12 Comments

  1. Beth Jones

    Hi Ray,

    I read and enjoyed your site’s blog posts on music performance and international travel. (I need to get going on creating my own site — thanks also for the nudge!)

    I think you’re absolutely right to address & encourage foreign travel and performing as incomparable growing experiences for young (actually, all) people. Your blog’s saga of your students’ emotional growth abroad closely compared with my own experiences on two different European choir tours (also now WAYYY back when!)

    At age 15, I had no idea that not even 10 years later I would be living & working as a professional singer in one of the cities I was visiting. But that city’s existence became a reality to me at that young age, *because* I had actually been there, exploring its streets and sights, bringing back fond memories of its people and culture.

    So kudos to you for all you’re doing for your students. Some dear friends of mine are the heads of various college music departments in FL & MN and others teach voice/piano at the college level in places like CA, MO & NV. Let me (us) know if you’d like one of your students to really “be heard”.

    Onward and Upward!
    bj
    Salzburg Landestheater
    Salzburg, Austria

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