Anyone who’s lived on campus knows that Iowa weather can be hard to bear, especially during the winter. But Central’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE) and Combos Jazz Band got a break from the snow and ice this January. For 13 days during winter break, they escaped to sunny Mexico. Forty-three students, and ensemble directors Gabriel Espinosa and Mitch Lutch, traveled to the Yucatan, which happens to be Espinosa’s native land. There they performed concerts in Cancun, Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Merida.
Espinosa’s connections and knowledge of the area contributed to the trip’s success. As the students discovered, there’s no better way to learn about a country and its culture than beside someone who grew up there.
Band members agreed that the best part of the trip was the response to their performances. They played for packed houses nearly everywhere they went, and the crowds flocked to hear them. “Being able to share our music with such appreciative audiences is further proof that emotionally charged music is indeed a universal language,” says Lutch. “Our lives have forever been broadened, enriched and changed.”
Although the group spent a lot of time performing, they also enjoyed free time to experience the culture and see the sights. They visited Chichen Itza and other Mayan ruins, took a ride on a zip line and snorkeled.
Despite the thrill of these excursions, the students recognized that the trip was about more than just having fun. It was a cross-cultural experience. For Katlyn Alves ’14, an elementary education major from Lamar, Mo., the best part of the trip was connecting with people through music.
Those connections were often strongest with the kids they played for. “It was such an honor for me to be a part of what SWE brought to the children — an experience of quality classical music, and perhaps even inspiration to pursue a lifelong love of music, despite the limited resources available to them,” says Kevin Templeton ’13, a music education major from Muscatine, Iowa. “One kid asked about his chances of going to Central and playing music!”