For Davidson College Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble members, the annual tradition of a winter break tour is not only a highlight of their musical experience, but one of the most memorable times in their college career. Past tours have seen the musical groups travel by bus to cities such as Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and Orlando. The students give performances along the way and experience the hospitality of volunteer host families who provide overnight accommodations and meals. This year’s tour features the Davidson players taking their sound international for the first time. They’re trading in their tour bus for a cruise ship and headed for the Mexican Riviera. More than 60 students along with community and faculty members of the respective musical groups set sail from Tampa, Fla. on a Royal Caribbean ship bound for Belize City, Cozumel, and along the Mayan Coast of Mexico this month.“Touring with the Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble is such an incredible experience and an opportunity to really get to know your colleagues on an entirely different level,” says Amanda Preston, 25. Preston is director of musical production and promotion at Davidson and an alumna. She toured with the orchestra as a student and continues to play viola for them. “It’s simply a fabulous experience and one I can’t recommend more highly.”
One of a Kind OpportunityThe learning found in performing in new and unfamiliar venues, spending an entire week with their colleagues, and exploring shared experiences offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity that makes for lasting impressions, according to Tara Villa Keith, 36, associate professor and orchestral director. “The students get involved in the planning and help pick the destination for the upcoming year,” says Keith. “We joked a bit last year when I mentioned that a cruise would be an ideal choice, the students picked up on that and here we are. The participation rate is very close to 100 percent as the majority of our 55-member orchestra and the 18-member jazz ensemble are planning to go.”Bill Lawing, Estes Millner Professor of Music and director of the jazz ensemble, notes the music department has organized a road trip-style tour featuring the orchestra and jazz ensemble for more than 15 years. “The tradition actually goes back even further to the ‘50s when Davidson would have regional tours for student ensembles,” says Lawing, 63. “To give the same concert four or five times, which is what we do on the weeklong tour, is invaluable and allows for the students to play at a progressively higher level. Getting to know their fellow players and share an experience like this is also just a fantastic learning experience.”Working on the logistics is a labor of love for Lawing, who exchanged coordinating housing, concert venues, and bus transportation this year for ensuring tympanis, a grand piano, and other instruments will be available onboard the ship. “These tours help us build community,” says Lawing. “This year we are taking it to a whole new level.”
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