During the first week of February, I had the opportunity to travel to Argentina to be the "Profesor de Corno" at the 4th Annual Isla Verde Bronces. This international brass festival was created by Fernando Ciancio, Principal Trumpet at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
What an amazing experience!
This was actually the first time I ever had a reason to use a passport. The only other time I've been out of the country was on a cruise to Mexico. So, this was an epic adventure, full of many "firsts."
I flew into Buenos Aires, where I was greeted by Fernando, Alex Rodriguez (from Venezuela), and Brandon Craswell (from UGA) - all 3 trumpet players, but very nice guys nonetheless! After a brief respite at Fernando's house, we crammed into a van and rode 5 hours toward the middle of the country, to a small town called Isla Verde.
It was the middle of summertime in the southern hemisphere, and very few of the places in town had air conditioning. We sweated. While I was sweating, my wife, son, and mom were snowed in without power for almost 3 days!
Isla Verde is a VERY friendly little town, and the support for the festival is really amazing. Everyone involved with the festival (more than 50 participants, plus faculty) stays free of charge in a host home, and all the food and drinks for the communal meals are donated from the townspeople!
Speaking of food, you may have heard something about Argentinian beef. Well, they know meat. We ate more meat that week than I think I usually do in a month - but it was all delicious! It was not uncommon for 1 meal to include chorizo, pork chops, steak, lamb ribs, and more! Occasionally we had a little salad or pasta with our meat. Here's what my plate looked like one night AFTER I had finished eating all the meat...
The grill where all the magic happened...
There were many remarkable things about the meals. Breakfast was very small, usually just a type of square biscuit, and some coffee. Most days I supplemented this with a granola bar I brought from home or a banana, because we didn't have lunch until 2pm! After lunch it was time for a siesta, which we needed, because we didn't sleep very long at night. Concerts didn't start until 9:30pm, then we ate dinner AFTER that, usually at 11, but sometimes as late as 12:30am!!
Each morning was full of teaching in a group setting. We usually did a group warm-up and technical exercises, then had individuals play in a masterclass setting. After a break, we'd read horn ensemble pieces, or play orchestral excerpts. One of the best things about this week was the quality of the "students," who were mostly already playing professionally in Argentina and the surrounding countries. They were phenomenal, and had chops of steel (labios de acero)! Whenever we took our "breaks," they kept right on playing! When it got too stuffy in the classroom, we moved out to the breezeway...
Second from the left in the above photo is Edward Brown, an American who has been playing professionally in Santiago, Chile for nearly 40 years! He was in charge of the chamber music groups for the festival participants. It was really a pleasure to get to know him and make music with him. He has all kinds of great stories about many great horn players of old!
I had 4 years of Spanish in high school, but had forgotten most of it. In the weeks leading up to the festival, I refreshed my memory using LiveMocha.com, a very useful website. I also had a few email exchanges in Spanish with some of the folks associated with the festival. So, it was a real treat to be able to use some Spanish while I was down there, although I was extremely grateful for the translators they provided for the American teachers! I knew just enough Spanish to get some help from some locals when I walked about a half-mile in the wrong direction on my way to one of the concerts!
Each of the professors played some solo works with piano on one of the concerts. I played a few short selections: Adagio and Presto by Carlo Tessarini, Gliere's Intermezzo, and Alla Caccia by Alan Abbott.
We also had an ensemble of the professors, which was a lot of fun! I got to stand in front and play solo on Stardust!
Besides being the farthest I've ever been away from home, this was also the longest I've been apart from my bride since we were in high school! I missed home terribly, and used some high tech stuff to keep in touch. The first few days were the toughest, when they were without power and internet at home! This was my command center that I'd set up in the corner of the dining hall.
I'm fairly tech-savvy, but there were some tough obstacles to overcome. The best solution we ended up with was using Skype on my ipod touch for the audio, and LogitechVid on the laptop for the video. If you look carefully at the above photo, you can see Julie and Tyler on the screen!
The final day, we were able to spend the afternoon walking around Buenos Aires, which was another highlight of the trip! It was also a bit of a shock to be in such a metropolitan place after spending a week in such a small town. Special thanks is due to our translator Ximena, who lives in Bs As and guided our tour. She was a tremendous help the entire week!
I made many new friends, and had so many amazing experiences on this trip. I was really enamored with the spirit of the Argentinian people, and their boundless zest for life! For more pics, see my Facebook profile.