By Adam Gillespie
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I was a member of the West Virginia Youth Symphony for nearly five years. In that time, I had heard stories about amazing tours past groups had taken to foreign countries. Once this trip was announced, I immediately began pitching the idea to my parents as if I were some stereotypical used car salesman. I told them of the many cultural benefits, enriching musical experiences and life-long friendships I would gain.
I soon learned that I was gaining much more than I was selling.
My immediate impression of the European lifestyle was inspiring; the line commonly drawn by American society between the arts and scientific logic seemed to blur before my eyes. I noticed this concept most in the architecture of the magnificent European cathedrals. The buildings were constructed to last the test of time, but yet they are works of art that reflect the culture and mood of the era in which they were conceived. I often wondered in amazement about the many prayers, songs and sermons that echoed in their great centrums.
After countless hours of hard work not only personally, but from the entire ensemble, we were finally able to bask in the enjoyment of the music we had created together. A bond occurred between us from the first concert, when we familiarized ourselves with the European concert etiquette of clapping in unison, to the last, when we were introduced to traditional Viennese folk dance and music.
This bond is much deeper and more cherished than friendship alone. It is a bond through music, one of those most powerful forms of human expression. This even seemed to change our playing by allowing us to not just play the notes on the page but also experience and convey emotions not commonly found in our weekly rehearsals.
Not only did we bond with our fellow musicians, but many of us were lucky enough to build relationships with wonderful Slovakian students from the beautiful city of Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. My host family welcomed me with open arms and were extremely accommodating. They even attended our concert where we performed with several talented young Slovakian musicians.
Even though there is a language barrier, many of the connections we made are still intact now that we are back in the States, further enabling me to remember this life-altering experience for the rest of my life.
See more photos from the WVYS European tour at wvyouthsymphony.org/tour2012/index.html