I had every good intention of writing a blog post or two but got so caught up in our tour that I became a bit selfish with my time.
It is difficult to know where to begin so I will start by describing the most wonderful aspect of the tour.
The students of SB were nothing short of amazing. The performance schedule was gruelling but they somehow managed to be perform each and every time with energy, beauty and joy. A concert didn't go by where I didn't have a tear to wipe away! Their manners, stage decorum and passion for their music making was unbelievable to watch. These young people were the best ambassadors for Canada that anyone could imagine! I would personally like to congratulate each and every one of them for bringing their teachers, families and country so much pride!
It was also a lot of fun to watch them interact in the down time and sightseeing. They frolicked and teased and sang and rolled down hills ( literally)! On the bus ride back to Ottawa they were all singing the Icelandic national anthem. The girls shopped for fun fashions and the boys just kept eating. If some parents did get a token souvenir or gift I am partly responsible for insisting that the boys buy some little thing for their mom's! Jae-Won bought chocolates for his mother and kept asking me on the plane ride home if he could eat some of them!
Rosemarie, Kit and Judy were their usual dedicated, hard working and supportive team. They were constantly there for all the students for any encouragement, suggestions or advice that was needed. A tour of this magnitude demands very long hours and dealing with a lot of detail. They went way and beyond their expected roles to be sure that the concerts were always organized and wonderful. Your children were in the best hands possible.
It was great fun for Ed and I to get to know the students better and meet the parents and volunteers. Maria worked so tirelessly for many months and her hard work paved the way for a memorable experience for all. So many others did so much to help and contribute.
This tour was the first time that we added master classes to the curriculum and I am happy to report that it was an excellent idea. All the SB participants had the opportunity to work with a distinguished Icelandic faculty and get another perspective on how to play the violin well . They worked on their technique and musical interpretation and are all better musicians now as a result. They sat for very long periods of time to hear and support their colleagues and were so attentive. I had a lot of fun teaching the Icelandic students and heard some wonderful and talented kids. As you all know, I am passionate about teaching and loved every minute of this part of the programme. We must continue these master classes for future tours.
Iceland is a magical country and quite unlike any other place in the world. The air is so clean and the drinking water the best that I have ever tasted. We loved our trip to the Blue Lagoon and bathing in the warm geothermal seawater. I'm not sure that Ed and I look younger as a result but we sure feel better! We rented a car and travelled to many of the signature sights. The landscapes were breathtaking and in some ways haunting. The volcanic rocks that scatter the landscape make you feel like you are not on planet earth. I especially loved the views of the sea which, understandably, surrounded us.
It is no secret that I love to shop and that I did! The fashion is fabulous and very European. I found clothing and food much more expensive than what we pay in Canada but yes, I was able to add a couple of new frocks to my wardrobe. Iceland is the home of soup and bread and it is probably because of the cool and often damp climate. This was my favourite part of the cuisine and we ate many a memorable bowl with fantastic rustic bread.
Having constant daylight was another fascinating experience and the first few nights I just sat at my window looking outside when my watch read 3:00 am. People were walking, riding their bicycles or just hanging out. Very weird!! I never felt that fatigue that consumes us in Canada when it gets dark in the late afternoon.
Before I sign off I should also mention that the audiences for our concerts were wonderful. The students got standing ovations and lots of bravos. This kind of response thrilled the kids and certainly motivated them to continue to do their very best and work even harder.
I am still in a bit of a daze and hanging on to so many special moments from the trip. I don't want the memories to fade too quickly!
What a positive adventure the trip to Iceland has been for everyone, children, parents, Icelanders, and tourists in Iceland. Our students were exemplary in both playing and behaviour. Truly any teachers would love to have such a wonderful young respectful group of students enjoying themselves and not only looking out after each other, but celebrating and cheering each other on. Hopefully this deep appreciatation and support for each other will provide a model for what life can be like, as opposed to the typical image of “lack” or “limited resources” that is so pervasive in society today. These students formed a “team”of the best calibre, and even if they are children, I think it would be valuable for experts in human capital and organizational structure to examine what these youth are able to do, as they achieve what is so challenging for adults to accomplish. Childrens' capacities are often underestimated, and they themselves are usually perceived incomplete adults. Why not see students as whole and complete beings as they are, with the gifts of insight and understanding that they possess…that are so often able to pierce the veils and images of adulthood.
Our family members also on the trip were greatly supportive, helping out where they could. In fact, we were more of just one family, with parents and children interminigling in different groupings pending the day or hour. Everyone was welcome. It was lovely to witness the development of friendships, laughter and fun.
Icelanders really enjoyed our musical work…in fact it was heart-felt. You could feel their intention to hear more, as if there was no choice but to play more…it was an interesting experience with a subtle and unique quality of its own. Perhaps this is somewhat like the power of their volcanoes and geysirs, always present and then expressed as needed. Icelanders' love of the arts is well known, and it really showed up at our last concert, as we had many attendees despite it being a beautifullly warm evening. To give you context, there are no “snow” days for Icelandic children, just “sun” days when it gets nice and warm, and students are let out of school to enjoy these are events. So, to have any audiance on such a phenomenal sunny and warm evening was a real testament to the Icelandic appreciation of the arts. It is so rare to be received by an audiance like this, and a real blessing to have experienced. Although different, it reminded me in a way of our reception by the Spanish-speaking retirees who formed the core of a concert last year in New York.
A big thank you to everyone involved, particularly MB, who made it all happen. To all the students, have a wonderful summer break.