Local students are musical ambassadors
There's an old saying: "What happens at band camp, stays at band camp." However, in an interview during band camp at Woodford County High School, three seniors-to-be seemed happy to talk about what happened during their two-and-a-half week trip to Europe. Trumpeters Bailey Bird, Keegan Elvidge and Lindsey Barnes were among more than 300 students, most from Kentucky, who took part in the Ambassadors of Music trip to Europe June 30 to July 16. The program is sponsored by Voyageurs, International, and has sent American students overseas - mostly at their own families' expense - since 1970. Their tour included stops in London, Paris, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Venice, Italy. Before leaving, they honed their chops for several long days and were formed into two bands under the direction of Dr. Frederick Speck at the University of Louisville. Then they were off to Cincinnati for a flight that took them northwest, to Detroit, then east, to London. Bird said the sights and sounds and people and food in Europe made for a huge, though pleasant, culture shock. "The driving there, especially in France, is crazy. It's like they have no traffic laws. They just kind of drive around," Bird said. During the trip, the Woodford trio not only met people from other lands, but made new friends among their fellow Americans. "I think being able to be with people that love music as much as I do . and like to perform, and it was just great to be able to tour Europe with those people and get to know some pretty awesome friends. And just to see the natives," Elvidge said. "We went pretty much everywhere together. We met people, we liked them, we went everywhere, we did things together, we made memories with them, and it just brought us all together, which is really surprising, because I feel really close to them, but I've only known them for three weeks," Barnes said. They spent far less time with the people of the countries they visited, but said they were pleasantly surprised by the reception of audience members and others. One Austrian told them he'd always wanted to go to America because it was beautiful - an encounter they say was typical of the reception they received across Europe. "It was really cool to see their perspective of our country, so that was really neat. And talking with the natives was really cool," Elvidge said. Barnes said their audiences were far more enthusiastic then most back home. "They get into everything you're doing, because when we would perform, we had people come up and dance out front of the stage, and then we'd have people clap along ." Barnes said. They said the biggest crowd pleaser was Strauss's "Radetzky March." "From the first note, they're like, 'Yes!' It was five measures in and we had this slight pause, and I remember in London, this guy goes, 'Hey!'" Barnes said. "I was not expecting it, and I had to stop playing because I started laughing, and I was so surprised and happy because nobody (in America) gets that into music." Meanwhile, the Americans were tempted to clap at the sights. "I've never seen mountains so tall in my entire life when we went to Switzerland. You wake up every morning with the huge Alps just out your window. It's crazy - it looks like you're looking at a scenery off the back of a hot chocolate box," Barnes said. "A lot of times, I was like, 'Am I really here? Are we experiencing this?'" Elvidge said. All of them noted the differences between their relatively young homeland and Europe. "Even when you're walking in the cities, it's like you're transported back to, like, medieval times, because you have castles on a street corner, and on the other side, you might have a hotdog stand," Barnes said with a laugh. The Woodford trumpeters said they returned not only knowing more about the people of Europe, but also feeling as if they had, in some fashion, helped those people know more about Americans. Barnes said after attempting a few words in Italian, a native speaker offered her a short lesson. "And I apologized to him because I felt really bad because I wasn't speaking it right, and he said, 'No, no - it's okay - I just want to help you.' And I thought it was really cool, because they're understanding that, 'Hey, you're trying to fit in, and we're going to help you, and we don't care if you mess up - we're just going to teach you some things, and it was really awesome'" she said. The musicians were chaperoned by parents, among them Kevin and Mary Beth Elvidge and Tammy Barnes. Elvidge and Barnes said having parents there didn't cramp their style. "No. Not for me, at least. They gave me my space," Elvidge said with a laugh. "My mom wanted to do things with me, which I was totally fine with. We hiked down the Matterhorn together, which was a lot of fun and like a little mom-daughter bonding time," Barnes said. Asked for particular memories, the trio thought for a moment before responding, agreeing that the totality of the experience, at least now, outweighed individual anecdotes. Bird recalled the difficulties of trying to watch the conductor while she was behind a 6'7" student with a large Afro. Elvidge remembered a nighttime stroll in London to Trafalgar Square and a dinner at the Sherlock Holmes pub, laughing and joking with his fellow musicians. Barnes said she won't forget a fondue party in Switzerland. On the Voyageurs website, this statement is among the list of reasons young musicians should participate: "At this journey's end you will be a far richer person by having traveled to faraway places, meeting and mingling with many different people and their different ideas." All three said they'd achieved that mission - and perhaps more. "I felt like going over there and showing them, 'This is our culture, we are polite people,' because you know, they all have these stereotypes of Americans, that we're kind of like rude and loud and just not great people. But then you go over there and you're polite and they're polite back, and you feel like you can be friends with anybody, anywhere," Bird said.