Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What is different? What is the same?

"The more I thought about that question the more the question changed for me. I could write a long list of the differences between SF and Boston or the US and India, or India and Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and so on for any of the places I have visited on our large but increasingly smaller planet. What continually strikes me on this trip is not what is different but what is the same. No I don’t mean the fact that the brand name box stores are everywhere. That makes me sad BTW.

I mean the people. The smiles on the faces of people who don’t speak the same language when music ignites a circuit between them. The people and their willingness to help you when you greet them in broken Russian asking for directions. Their desire to share what is unique and quintessential about their culture or daily experience. Every human I have met on this trip, from our Foreign Service Officers, to our local staff to the military at the Metro, to the hotel staff, to the musicians in all our collaborations, has been open, smiling and wanting to make a personal connection with those around them.

Above all the audiences…In every city we have done at least one free and open to the public concert. Sometimes we get to work with students at music colleges or students of English at the American Center. From the first notes of every show, the electricity is palpable. In most cases the audiences have only needed permission to participate and then we are off and running. We are fueled by every face we look into. We are fueled as they raise their voices to sing along. Clapping along on songs we would never have expected and now will come to miss, if it doesn’t happen when we return home. The separation between stage and the people seems to have never existed at all. We haven’t needed to tear down or kick in the fourth wall. We need only to look across it and the energy comes streaming back. We are all high on this connection. We leave each show energized. We should be dragging and weary after all this travel, but instead we are excited for the next adventure. "
-Laura Cortese of Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards on their American Music Abroad tour to India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

I love this.  This is the connection that cultural diplomacy brings.  This is why we do what we do.

There was a band on the first day of the American Music Abroad audition.  I took them aside and said to them: "You are first.  There are many bands to follow you.  My advice is that you make yourself memorable."

And they did.

And they were selected to go out on an American Music Abroad tour.

And tour, they did.

Through the enigma that is India, Bengal and Absurdistan.

Congrats to Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards for a wonderful tour.  I know you made us all proud as music ambassadors.  I can only imagine the wonderful musical adventures you had.

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