Italian Liberation MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   Mydedication to the violin takes me places; this year I will go to Austria andGermany. My recent trip to Italy with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City, however,was the most life-changing and amazing excursion so far.

The ten days Itoured Italy were full of more information and fun than the entire school year. Ilearned Italian boys are not the only interesting things in the streets of Italy,and discovered no one knows music better than Italians. I walked streets far fromhome, but this experience also made me keep my head high with pride for my owncountry.

The streets of Italy looked exactly like paintings I had seen.The churches and waterways were so unbelievably beautiful I could barely listento the tour guide as she explained the story of St. Catherine and her missinghead. I thought looking at ancient artifacts in a museum added to myunderstanding of history, but being surrounded by millions of dollars worth of"stuff" cannot compare to walking on streets where saints and kingsonce strolled, not to mention tasting water from a spa where Mussolini oncedrank.

The avenues and little shops full of olive oil, wine and cigarslooked newer but felt older than I expected. I felt as if the statues glared atme, and I could only glance back. If I had taken two minutes to look at everybeautiful piece of art that interested me, it would have taken me at least acentury to see it all. The churches beamed with beauty and grace, but only thestained glass windows and painted ceiling could explain the stories of the saintsof Italy.

When we played our instruments in the church at Lucca, the roomfroze and the audience disappeared, seeming to be replaced by ghosts. We playedovertures from Italian operas and American romances. I have never felt so closeto history.

Italians know more about music than people in any othercountry I have visited. Our conductor would announce, "Next, we will play'La Forza del Destino' by Verdi," and the audience members would nod andclap, knowing the piece and composer. When we played American jazz, they tappedtheir feet and applauded after improvisation solos. Some cried when we performed"Sophisticated Lady." They were so in touch with our music, and I feltconnected to my audience knowing they listened and appreciated everything we hadpracticed.

At one outdoor concert, I noticed an older man sitting in thefront row and drawing pictures. He listened intently and watched our every move,sketching us. At the end of the performance some of the musicians and chaperonestalked to him with the help of our tour guide who translated. He lived in a cityfour hours away, and we wondered why he had traveled so far to see a youthsymphony from the United States play a short concert.

"Well,"he said, tears coming to his eyes, "during the war my family was persecutedby the Nazis. I thought we were going to die in a work camp, but the Americansliberated us. When I heard you were playing, I had to come and thank you. I wasonly a teenager then, but I remember what it was like in that camp and what itwas like to be freed by you." We stared at him, our hearts filled withpride.

"Thank you for coming to watch us," said my best friend,Jackie, smiling.

"Thank you for saving my family," he replied,and walked away.

Italy gave me the pride to be a better person. I envy thefeelings and love Italians have for music. I enjoyed the attention they gave atconcerts, and it brought tears to my eyes to hear an old man speak about ourcountry and our symphony as if we were all heroes.

The beauty, music andpride are only small parts of Italy. As I look through my pictures, listen to themusic and talk with friends about the trip, I taste true comfort in a place whereI am beautiful, loved and respected.

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