Passport Approved: My Summer Travel and Music Plans

Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.
Kurt Vonnegut

I am currently listening to the latest from Passport Approved, which credits itself as “an internationally syndicated tastemaker import radio show.”  That can only mean one thing: there is travel on my horizon.

I have noticed particular peculiar propensities that power up inside me when the travel bug bites.  The first is, as you might expect, an adjustment in the music that I listen to.  Normally, I sail down the street each day listening to my local Minneapolis radio station The Current (which I highly recommend), but there are some international feels that it does not satisfy.

My plan is to go to Austria in July and participate in Mid-Europe, an international wind band festival in Schladming, Austria.  After reading about this small town, I learned that it has hosted the World Championship for the International Ski Federation twice, which means pretty mountains live there.

I am going to teach my saxophone how to yodel.

I am going to teach my saxophone how to yodel.

Mid-Europe has an honor band call the World Youth Wind Orchestra Project that I have submitted an audition recording for, and now I simply lay in wait for the result.  I am not getting my hopes up; in fact, I am quite prepared for a rejection.

I wanted the most well-qualified recording that I could come up with, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a piano accompaniment.  Unfortunately, the microphone was a bit too close to the piano, and our recording process was very rushed so I did not have the wherewithal to do a sound check. (We were pressed in between the end of the school day when I finished teaching and when the pianist had to go pick up her daughter from school.  Safety Warning: No tempos were injured in the recording of our music.) Additionally, I have learned that because I play the saxophone, I must always be prepared for rejection.

Accepting that rejection is all right was actually an easy conversation to have with myself.  If I do not pass the audition, I will simply attend the conducting masterclasses as a passive participant and bask in the beautiful light of wind band knowledge.  Then again, nothing is stopping me from at least applying as an active participant and actually conducting (SCARY).

I will come clean, though.  This week-long conference is going to be couched in about a month or more of personal travel that, for all intents and purposes, will be #@$%ing amazing.  So whether or not I perform at Mid-Europe, I will still learn a great deal about wind bands, meet important figures in our shared field, and take time to explore new parts of the world.  Now would be a good time for you to set up a date for coffee with me in Prague.

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Song of travel

From this valley they say you are going,
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile.
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways awhile

Come and sit by my side, if you love me.
Do not hasten to bid me adieu.
Just remember that Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true. 

“We are approximately 110 miles away from Minneapolis, and we should touch down at a quarter after the hour. The weather today is…”

We were about to fly 110 miles in 15 minutes. I stopped focusing on my Sudoku while I tried to figure that out. It is roughly 440 miles an hour, or 7 miles a minute. Technology is amazing.

My main mode of transportation is my bicycle, and when I clock my travel time, I round off to tens and fifteens. A normal bike ride is 10 minutes. What I consider a “commute” is 45 minutes. Anything beyond that is categorized as frustrating. If I’ve done my math correctly, my average pace is about 8 miles per hour; 12 if I’m late.

I find that I imagine what life was like for humans without such high-speed travel. My questions were partially answered over my weekend in Pennsylvania where I got significant doses of history. I saw large Amish communities (represented nobly by enormous gift shops), visited Gettysburg, and went on a tour of the Army War College in Carlisle. Civil War soldiers, obviously, were not flown into the action and dropped into the dirt like they are today on Go Army commercials. They walked, from all over the country, eastward. It is no wonder that the majority of these soldiers did not perish from battling each other, but from disease.

As our technology of travel developed, it carried ideas and spread skin colors. It dropped off languages and picked up religions. The dauntless ocean liners, the great railroads, the jittery automobiles, the miraculous airplanes. America became a melting pot; engines were the ladle that served the stew called the American Dream. Today, the amount of interchange is exponential, but something seems to be different. Ingredients are not mixing. Engines that once stirred a stew now stir a tossed salad.

Is it bad? Is it even real?

Based on what I learned as a child, I do not see a difference between melting and tossing. What it shows is that America is opening its eyes to itself in the way that a tree moves into autumn: there are many shades of color that might try to be concealed, but cannot stay that way. Communities have every right to maintain their own traditions. Individuals have every opportunity to step onto the hillside and look out over the trees. Funny how so many different colors appear to melt together down there.