“These visits may only be short, but leave a lasting impact for years to come!”
It’s easy to talk about the effects of tours on communities in broad strokes: The concerts are inspiring, the community is touched by the visit, everyone feels warm and fuzzy.
But what does impact actually look like?
Sometimes it looks like money raised for a local organization. In the past year across Europe, our groups raised over $10,000 which benefited things like an unemployment center in Berlin, music education in Ireland, and mothers and children in need in Germany. ACFEA groups also helped contribute to an Alzheimer’s society, a school in Burkina Faso via an Austrian association, a children’s hospice in Northern Ireland, and good quality of urban life in Prague.
Occasionally, the fundraising doesn’t come until after the tour. In 2016, the West Village Chorale, from New York, NY, ended their tour of Greece singing a concert with Ta Paidia tis Horodias, a local youth choir on the island of Tinos. After they returned home, the Americans were inspired to pool donations, and soon had $1,500 to send back to Greece. Of the gift, Georgia Bakogianni, the director, said, “It is like a gift coming from heaven. This is proof that music can bring people together and make us better!”
The impact doesn’t have to be monetary, however, or even tangible. In Bucharest, Romania, the Bellevue First Congregational Church Chancel Choir sang a concert to raise awareness of local LGBT organization ACCEPT. Simply the presence of such a strong group in their corner strengthened the spirit of the local activists.
In Australia, we’ve arranged for many groups to perform in the Starlight Rooms in children’s hospitals. “Starlight Rooms are equipped with closed circuit radio and television transmission which reaches every child’s bed throughout the hospital,” explained Robert Latimer, ACFEA Manager for Australia and New Zealand. “Those kids who are bedridden and unable to enjoy performances in person can do so by means of the transmission. The impact on both the patients and the performers is truly an amazing and, in many instances, an emotional experience. It is such an honor to be welcomed into the Starlight Family.”
Another way to connect with the local community is by performing with a group, which is fairly common on our tours to many places around the globe. We often talk about how it’s an educational experience for traveling musicians, to sing or play alongside their peers from another part of the world. But it’s a great experience for the host group, too.
When in Colombia, the Colgate University Choir, from Hamilton, NY, performed with the Coro de la Escuela in Villa de Leyva.
“The town is trying to motivate young musicians and provide culture to its community, which his heavily affected by mass tourism,” explained Sylvia Garcia Marin, ACFEA’s Latin America Manager. “After the concert, the teacher and kids had lots of questions about Colgate’s repertoire. The teachers wanted scores and exchanged emails with the director in order to keep the dialogue open.”
Lycoming College Choir, from Williamsport, PA, had a similar experience, a hemisphere away.
“This was truly a learning opportunity,” said the Fudan High School conductor, Shengziong Yuan, after singing with Lycoming on their tour to China. “Not only is this exchange a good display of different cultural backgrounds, but a good opportunity to enlarge our vision musically and understand western choral music from various perspectives.”
Meeting locals is also a highlight in our African destinations. The Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra spent a full day with the Soweto Theater Youth Orchestra, and also performed a joint concert with the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. And in South Africa’s Garden Route, we’ve arranged many visits to the Life Community Center. Visitors might do a project like painting the jungle gym, or they might play with the kids in the daycare center.
“It is always a privilege for us at Life Community Services to have guests from all over the world to come and visit,” said David May, a center representative. “These visits are a great opportunity for the kids and staff to learn about different cultures. These visits may only be short, but leave a lasting impact for years to come!”
Whether it is you give through your tour – funds for a program, a hand with a project, solidarity on an issue, or simply an hour’s worth of beautiful music – the effects extend far, wide, and long after you go home.