WHS Bands 2018 Italy Tour
By Nadia Matin, class of 2018
An American in Europe sees and smells, tastes and touches, but rarely understands a language other than their own. So when we, one hundred Westfield High School band students, traveled to Italy, we were surprised to find that we could communicate. Even without Italian, we had music.
Many of us had never travelled to Europe before and had prepared to recognize nothing, ready for foreign to be absolute. So, in every similarity, lines of the airport sharp and American, greying men leaning against corners with the same posture as a New Yorker, drivers rushing without patience for pedestrians, foreign and native alike, we were surprised to see people as people, even without the same language, even with only music.
The band travelled first to Florence, walking through smaller streets filled with more centuries, a city birthed twice fit within the same sized boundaries. From the beginning, we saw Italy as alive, with its shopkeepers and tour guides and artists, living through the creations of Michelangelo, through his vision, through those who made his vision. In Venice, in Rome, we saw the sights behind pictures we knew, of gondolas, of the Colosseum, and in Assisi, in Orvieto, we visited churches. We did not need to share their religion to appreciate it, to look up at the ceiling and see frescos and statutes and answers—they may not be our own, but they were someone’s. Someone made this, someone looked up and felt saved, and we were witness to their salvation. We went from city to countryside and all throughout felt American, valuing our own culture while experiencing theirs, remembering Liberty’s torch and seeing David’s sling.
Our first concert was in Lucca—a hilly Italian town where we were to perform alongside their community band. Westfield students came prepared with a gift for their program, a euphonium, after organizing and performing in a small fundraising concert, playing music to help more people play music. Before the concert, we watched them rehearse: their flutes swayed, their clarinets squeaked, and their trumpets spoke, until their director shushed. On stage together, we would be comfortable. Both bands already knew each other, in our music, in our rehearsal, in our people. Rehearsing for the second concert, we opened the doors of the Orvieto church and people walked in, searching for the music they had noticed down the street to hear it better. We came to Italy to play and people came to us to listen. They didn’t have to speak English, they didn’t need to come from Westfield or New Jersey or America to hear our music and respond. And feel. The final performance was with the Italian army band. In a joint rehearsal, their conductor led us using hand signals and broken English. More. Grow. Soft. Balance. Feel. She didn’t say much but she didn’t need to say much. We understood.
The band came, the band saw, and the band played. From city to town, from rehearsal to concert, we performed with new musicians reading crescendos in their native language and old musicians we wouldn’t have really known sitting feet away in band class. The music took us to Europe. The music introduced us to Florence and Lucca, to greener grass and older architecture. The music brought us away to bring us together. And now we have the music to remind us.