Italy and All That Jazz
Jazz Ensemble in Italy
Bradley’s Jazz Ensemble plays its way through Italy this summer on a 10-day tour. The faculty and student musicians will perform six concerts at jazz festivals for European audiences in cities like Rome, Siena and Perugia. Tune in to their travels here. http://blogs.bradley.edu/journalsfromtheroad/trips/2012/jazz-ensemble-in-italy-2012/
A wrap-up blog by Dr. Todd Kelly, director of Jazz Ensembles, brings the successful tour of Italy by the Bradley University Jazz Ensemble to a conclusion with a standing ovation!
Now that we are safely back in the United States I would like to offer some
reflections on our trip to Italy with the Bradley Jazz Ensemble.
First, I would like to thank our wonderful students. They performed at a
consistently professional level and represented Bradley University and the
United States with class and professionalism. I just couldn¹t be more proud
of them. They are:
Saxophones: Downtown Sarah Brown, Amanee Avery, Andrew Durham, Britney
Whiting, Tim Karth
Trumpets: Cheryl Rodey, Kyle Mills, Ben Clark, Emily Wolffe
Trombones: Michael Archer, Carl Anderson, Jason Shea, Dan Dietrich
Rhythm Section: Jacob Berendzen, Steve Sefton, Andrew Greiner, Mike Milius
Vocalist: Cheryl Rodey
My special thanks to the adults that accompanied us on the trip Carl
Anderson, Jason Shea, Dan Dietrich, and Tim Karth. I was also thrilled to
have my son and parents along with us. It was their first trip to Europe,
and they had the time of their lives.
The trip wasn't without its challenges, from a hotel without air
conditioning to a gig with no music stands (we "improvised" by setting up
our music on chairs!). We opened up the bari sax case at our first
performance to discover that it had been damaged by the airline to the point
of unplayability. We quickly discovered that we had to adjust to "Italian
time," meaning that everything starts late. Despite these challenges, I was
proud of everyone on the trip for their flexibility and willingness to "go
with the flow."
Ultimately, all of the little inconveniences will be forgotten. What we will
remember is the beautiful Italian landscape, great food, the warm reception
that we received, and the way that we all came together to share our great
American music with each other and with enthusiastic Italian audiences.
By Emily Wolffe ’12
It’s hard to believe but our trip to Italy is winding down. Following our stay in Lucca on Sunday night, the band drove up to the surrounding hills to visit a local winery. After a few rounds of applause for the bus driver making it through some extremely narrow passageways, we were greeted with the breathtaking views of some classic Tuscan panoramas. The band was able to taste some delicious wines as well as olive oil that is made on site before hopping back on the bus for the ride to Viterbo.
Our final performance took place on Monday night. The band played on a small stage in Viterbo, with locals sitting at small pizzerias and chairs in the center of the piazza. It was a blast; the band played extremely well and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. It was a great way for five of the band members, Sarah Brown, Cheryl Rodey, Mike Milius, Ben Clark and myself, to finish our Bradley Jazz careers.
Tuesday morning it was another early wake up call to head to Rome! As soon as we arrived at the hotel many members of the group walked to the Vatican. The museum was rich with history. From sculptures to tapestries and diamond encrusted crosses, it was well worth the hassle of the crowds and the heat of the un-air-conditioned buildings on a 95-degree summer day. The highlight of the tour was undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel. Pictures or words cannot describe the feeling of walking into that room; it is something everyone should experience in his/her lifetime.
The group reconvened in the evening for a “Heart of Rome” walking tour. We first went to the Spanish Steps, where some of the group walked up the famous staircase and took pictures. Dr. Todd Kelly struck the famous “Rocky” pose—arms stretched overhead triumphantly—as he reached the top. Then, the group moved on to the Trevi Fountain, the fountain of love. I was able to toss a penny over my back into the fountain, a tradition that is said to bring a person good fortune in love. The Pantheon was the next stop, followed by Piazza Navona. From there the group split up for dinner and whatever other sightseeing they wanted to do. I finished my evening with lasagna made the way only Italians can.
Wednesday was another free day to sightsee in Rome. Most of the group took the subway to the Colosseum and the Roman ruins that surround the area. It was pretty incredible to be able to walk through history as I looked down on the arena where gladiators once fought. Following lunch we went to some shops, including the Italian classic, Gucci. The handcrafted Italian bags were enough to make any girl excited…the boys chose to wait outside.
The group wrapped up our Italian tour with a wonderful group dinner, one last chance to fill up on the delicious Italian food before the flight home Thursday morning. This trip has been an amazing experience for all of us, many memories have been made in the last ten days. Personally I cannot think of a better way I could have wrapped up my career at Bradley University before heading out into the real world later this month, it truly has been unforgettable. Ciao Italia!
By Tim Karth ’03, director of bands at Streator High School
It is 10:16 p.m. in Lucca, Italy. I am sitting out on the terrace of the Hotel Rex, eating a gelato from the gellateria next door, and surrounded by nothing but happiness. I am cherishing this experience that Bradley University has afforded me. I am writing as a very proud alumnus, adjunct professor and individual who has visited Europe three times with Bradley musical groups.
I’ll pick up the tale at our third performance, in a little village called Serre di Rapolano. We set up next to an old staircase made of stone and had our sound check. Dr. Kelly told us on the way over that the line-up would be a little different than our first two performances. I have known “Doc” for over 10 years now and when he says something like this, I know it’s going to be a relaxed and fun show. At the concert the band was swinging and the crowd—which had fed us a dinner of bruschetta, pasta and pizza—was very appreciative. The pressure was over and we were enjoying ourselves and having fun.
We spent the next day exploring the streets of Siena. There was shopping galore, but the best part was experiencing the culture and beauty of the idyllic city. When you open the window of your hotel room you see the entire city laid out like a three-dimensional map. We wandered the streets and took it all in, but mostly for me it was about the shopping. My girlfriend got a very nice gift (which I won’t talk about here in case she reads this), I found my first ice-cold drink of the trip (something I have been sorely missing) and I had gelato. I had amazing dinner of grilled octopus and turned in early because we were traveling to Cinque Terre the next day.
Cinque Terre literally means “five lands.” It consists of five towns along the Mediterranean Sea that are separated by 9 kilometers (roughly 5.5 miles) of trails that connect them. I’ll refer to the towns by their numbers. 1: Riomaggiore 2: Manarola 3: Corniglia 4: Vernazza 5: Monterosso al Mare. The path from city 1 to 2 is great. It is right along the sea and flat; a very pleasant walk. I headed for village 3 with three friends and thought the path would be as pleasant as number 1, but I could not have been more wrong. We discovered the sign that read “1h30m” actually means that it is going to take you an hour and a half to cross this path. The trail goes straight up many steep steps. On one side you have a mountain; the other you have a couple hundred-foot drop.
We finally saw number 4, and my oasis was at hand. My shirt was several shades darker from the sweat and I drank two liters of water in almost one gulp. I felt great because my colleagues who were also surprised by the demanding hike indicated that we would ride the train to town 5. Thinking I was at the end of my suffering, I enjoyed 4 a great deal, including a jaunt down to the beach to touch the Mediterranean Sea. But, for reasons that I still can’t fathom, we decided to hike to village 5 instead. So up we went and while it was more difficult than running a 5k when it’s 98 degrees with 90 percent humidity, it was an experience that I won’t soon forget, mainly because my legs are still killing me.
After a very indulgent dinner and gelato by the sea, we hopped the train back to La Spezia and our hotel. The next morning, we were off to the little town of Lucca, where the main agenda of the day was to get out of Lucca and head to Florence. After exploring many of the sites of that great city, we took the train back to Lucca, a quiet little town surrounded by a wall. Lucca is very relaxed and parts of it remind me of Bradley’s campus outside of Olin Hall on a spring day.
On a final note, I had the privilege of being on Bradley’s first Europe jazz trip to France and Switzerland. The Bradley community should be very proud of their students. These young men and women have been nothing but professional, courteous and appreciative of everyone and everything we have experienced. It makes me proud to fill in one of the seats and get to know these extraordinary students. They are simply wonderful and the work they and Dr. Todd Kelly are doing is nothing short of amazing. Congratulations to the Bradley Music Department and Go Braves!
By Ben Clark ’12
Our next destination was Perugia where we participated in the Umbria Jazz Festival. Perugia is a Medieval town and for the festival, there are stages set up throughout the city. It is one of the premiere jazz festivals in the world, so we were very excited to take the stage.
When we arrived, we went to the Piazza Noviembre IV and did a sound check on the main stage. Even though it was just a sound check, a crowd began to form in the streets, with people cheering and singing along. Buzzing from the excitement, we could not wait to take the stage for the actual performance. Many people in the crowd asked us when the performance started so that they could come back and listen. Once the concert started, the band rose to another level.
The already excited crowd grew as we began playing our first song, “Well Git It.” The band locked onto their energy from the very first note. Barring a little excitement from a fire truck driving through, the piazza was packed from the first note to the last. With each song, the energy of the crowd increased, and once our vocal set started, the crowd went into a frenzy. As Cheryl Rodey sang “Mr Paganini,” the whooping and hollering commenced. It was one of our greatest performances ever, and one that I’ll never forget.
After the excitement of being on stage, it was our turn to be part of the crowd. At the Umbria Jazz Festival, there are live jazz performances every day until 3 am. As performers, we were granted access to all of these concerts. Members of the band went to hear Funk Off. They are hard to describe using words other that awesome, but they are like a marching and dancing funk band with endless energy. Jazz legends are also featured at the festival, and the next night we saw Al Jarreau put on a great show followed by Erykah Badu.
Next, we will perform in the village of Serre di Rapolono, then we are off to Siena for a day of sightseeing. Halfway through the trip, we are having an amazing experience, with so many memories already made and many more to come. Look forward to our next blog in a couple of days.
By Michael Archer ’14
Finally, after a long plane ride and months of preparation, we arrived in Italy with the Bradley Jazz Ensemble. Once we moved through customs, we hit the road on our bus for our first destination: Canepina.
Driving through Italy, I found myself trying to compare what I was seeing to places with which I was familiar. Many of the apartment buildings were very flat, reminding me of housing styles in Mexico. Driving though the vast hills brought back memories of my time in the rolling landscape of Haiti. The small streets and curving roads, often difficult to maneuver, reminded me very much of the residential areas of Hollywood. But still, I could not completely grasp the country I found myself viewing.
We withdrew our euros out of an ATM, and then checked into our hotel in Canepina. The hotel was a very beautiful place; we were able to enjoy the pool and catch up on some sleep before we headed into town for our performance at the Tuscia Jazz Festival, which was set up in an open backstreet area of town. Before our sound check we were able to grab some gelato, a type of Italian custard. I had a chocolate gelato with Nutella and it was absolutely wonderful! The people were very kind and patient with us as we attempted to put in our orders.
We were then served dinner that, among other things, included a piece of delectable aged parmesan and some incredible antipasto. The gig went well, it was surreal to play in such a timeless venue. The view was simply breathtaking. Arriving back at the hotel, I decided to move my bed out on the patio to rest that night. Looking up at the stars, I realized that Italy was not something that I could really compare to anything I had experienced before. It’s a unique country with a rich culture and history, both of which have had an immense influence on the rest of the world in which we live.
By Dr. Todd Kelly, director of Jazz Ensembles
This summer, the Bradley Jazz Ensemble has the unique opportunity to perform in Italy for 10 days. This year marks the fourth time the group has traveled to Europe, and the 2012 ensemble is one of the very strongest in my 14-year tenure at Bradley.
We will fly to Rome on Sunday and travel through the Tuscany region with performances in Canepina, Perugia, Siena, Viterbo, and Scarperia. The highlight of our trip will be a performance at the Umbria Jazz festival, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious jazz events.
I look forward to traveling with the students and showcasing their musical accomplishments to enthusiastic Italian audiences. For the students, this is a wonderful opportunity to raise their musical skills to the highest level while experiencing Italian culture. I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading our blog during the next 10 days.