Wonderful Worldly Students
During spring break, Packer’s chorus and strings orchestra ventured east to the emerald isle of Ireland. The trip had an emphasis on Irish music and culture. Students performed at all sorts of venues, ranging from medieval gothic cathedrals to a senior center, to an elementary school. While there, students stayed in three different Irish cities: Dublin, Kilkenny, and Limerick. “I thought we sounded the best at our last concert, which was at a Cathedral in Limerick,” said Alex Smith (‘21), a member of strings orchestra. “The acoustics were great and we were all dressed up in our concert attire. We also got to see the book of Kells, which was in Trinity College Library, in Dublin, and that was really cool.” One of the trip’s main coordinators, Dr. Esther Harris, head of the Packer choir, also made it clear that she expected her students to step outside of their comfort zones and talk to students that they didn’t know. Abbey Flamm (‘19), a proud member of the Packer choir, remarked that “Before going on the trip, Dr. Harris made it really clear to the chorus kids that when we were there [we should] to try to extend ourselves and sit with other people.” Both Alex and Abbey agreed that the students on the trip became a lot closer. Alex said that “[The bonding] can also be attributed to the bus rides…and great bus driver.”
Packer’s jazz band traveled to the land of music and beignets, New Orleans, on a quest to better their musical talents and perform. They stopped at multiple locations on the way. “First we went to Salem, Virginia, then we went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, then to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On the way back we stopped at Chattanooga again, then Arrington, Virginia,” said Andres Antonio (‘19), a clarinetist and saxophone player in Jazz Band. While on the road, the jazz band performed for local communities. Kai Ceneño (‘19), a trombone player, explained that “there was one place where we went to in Alabama, which was a retirement home at the University of Alabama, and we played more traditional stuff there.” Andres continued by explaining that “it was a tour, so we played in different spots along the way. In New Orleans, the purpose was also to listen to some great jazz musicians, so we listened to a lot of fantastic musicians there.” Once they arrived in New Orleans, the band performed at several locations, including the historic Preservation Hall, and, most notably, the Wharf, which was their only outdoor performance. Because they had to perform so frequently, the group came prepared with a system to make things run smoothly. “In terms of logistics, everyone had a job. Andres and I were in charge of music, and we had people in charge of instruments,” said Kai. They also traveled with old instruments they had collected which they donated to a local high school. Going on a trip to a new city with your friends is almost always guaranteed to be a good time, and it was no different for Kai and Andres. “It was really cool being in a new city with our friends and viewing it through the lens of music. This was really cool because the city was really music-based and we could explore that with our friends,” Kai concluded.
The annual South Africa trip has always been a unique international experience for Packer students. The trip is largely about the relationships made between kids from Packer and those from South Africa. Nevertheless, the trip remains a wonderful opportunity. The program is run by Artworks for Youth and focuses on cultural awareness. Program participants work with kids their age or younger who live in the Joe Slovo township, which is thirty minutes away from Port Elizabeth. “A lot of the kids in the activities are younger than us, but then there are also kids in the program who are in high school, and there’s a separate part of the exchange which is a peer partner system. Each person who goes on the trip has a partner, and from the beginning, you’re sharing really personal things with each other,” said Satya Sheftel-Gomez (‘19). Joe Slovo is not a wealthy township, and Jack Howard (‘19) recalled the stark contrast between Joe Slovo and Port Elizabeth. “In the township, there’s one set of telephone wires and underneath there’s a patch of land that has piles of garbage on it.” In preparation for the trip, the group who went learned about the apartheid in South Africa, and when they were there, got to see some of its lasting effects. Satya remarked that “the racism was noticeable when we went out in groups. Black South Africans are treated very differently from white South Africans. It wasn’t until we opened our mouths and they realized that we were American that all social biases would be eradicated.” Overall, the trip was a fun and eye-opening experience for those who were fortunate enough to go.
The Cambodia trip was centered around film, dance, and cultural awareness. In preparation for the trip, students received pen pals. “We spent a lot of time in Siem Reap working with our pen pals on photography and film. We were essentially making a documentary with them, and simultaneously we were having a cultural experience,” said Delia Barnett (‘20). In Phnom Penh, students got to learn traditional Cambodian dance and music. “Film and dance definitely did play a really significant role in our experience there,” said Delia. Students also learned about the Cambodian genocide and the Khmer Rouge. Trip members went to the killing fields and the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. “We also watched some documentaries about the arts in Cambodia before and after the Khmer Rouge,” said Delia. Despite being in Cambodia for less than two weeks, Delia said, “It definitely became more evident, everything that had happened. 70% of the population is under the age of 25, and after that was pointed out to us some of the impacts of the genocide became pretty clear. Even though the Kemir Rough isn’t in Cambodia anymore, the effects of the Genocide are still pretty present.”