Category Archives: Haiti/DR Blog 2017

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All Welcome in the Fam

On the last day of our trip, it’s hard to truly process everything that has happened. We had an amazing cultural and musical exchange with the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic – all of which were so eager to welcome us into their lives. However, as a freshman who has only just survived my first semester at Cornell, I learned about another group of incredibly warm and welcoming people: I discovered the true character of the CU Winds Family.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew the Wind Ensemble was amazing before this trip – everyone was super nice from day 1 and the flute section always eats dinner together after rehearsals – but it’s not quite the same as spending a weeklong adventure in a foreign country. Admittedly, I was more than a little nervous about this trip; between malaria, typhoid, and everything else Gannett warned us about, I’m just glad to be returning to the U.S. in one piece! Yet I realized that there was also an underlying fear about spending an extended period of time with a group I had only known for 3-4 months. Any upperclassmen who had been part of the CU Winds Fam for more than one semester would have a nice friend group already – but a freshman? It was a crazy trust exercise that terrified me.
But here we are, a week after arriving in Haiti and about to head home as a much closer-knit ensemble. Yesterday I heard someone ask, “Like, how much do we love eachother now?”
“A lot!” we all agreed.
And it’s true. After several 10-hour bus rides, too much idle time waiting for things to begin, and collective exhaustion from travelling, we had to look out for eachother. Standing in line for the one bathroom at a tiny gas station rest-stop, we bonded over our unfortunate stomach problems. People readily shared Advil, Dramamine, Pepto Bismol, toilet paper, and bug spray whenever there was a need. We were able to hold meaningful conversations with people from other sections without the normal pressure of looming homework and papers that is ever-present during semester. By the end of this tour, I recognized that everyone in the ensemble was concerned with the well-being of others, because this group is filled with such kind and caring people.
So, in addition to everything that has been mentioned in previous blog posts, there is one huge thing I will take away from this trip: that all are welcome in the CU Winds Fam. Cornellians, Haitians, and even freshmen.

–Emma Cijka, flute


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Culture Shock and Spanish Conquerors

To say the least, the change between Haiti and the Dominican Republic was a bit of a shock. After the second 10 hour bus ride of the trip, we arrived in Santo Domingo, tired and ready to do nothing but sleep and hope we recovered from varying levels of stomach ailments. However, when we left the bus, we wondered for a second if we had gotten lost and ended up in San Diego or Miami. Contrary to the capital city left in disrepair by national disasters and subsequent mismanagement, Santo Domingo, DR was a location comparable to any upper class city center in America. Being from Phoenix, AZ, I was immediately reminded of the wealthy suburb of Scottsdale, with the luxury malls, fancy high rise apartments (in which many of us spent the night with our host families), and the well-equipped and private Carol Morgan School where we have been playing for the last couple days. It is a city full of diplomats, government workers, and otherwise elite of Dominican society, and it can be seen everywhere.
However, much more than the new, wealthy buildings that seem to have appeared overnight, there is an outpouring of history that comes from Santo Domingo being the first area settled by a certain European that opened up the New World to trade of both goods and people, namely the infamous Christopher Columbus. As such, along the coast there is an array of centuries-old residences, churches, and government buildings from the 1500s and earlier, some of the first examples of European influence on the New World. Some pictures will be included below, but suffice to say the architecture is incredible, especially coming from a nation with a relatively short architectural tradition compared to Europe. I wish I could spend more than a couple hours exploring it, but that may be a plan for the next trip!

–Chris Westersund, trombone


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The (Almost) Last Hurrah

The bright stage lights, the familiar feeling of fifty-odd musicians silent in anticipation of a downbeat, the applause of an audience: this never gets old. The final formal concert of tour made concrete how much closer we’ve grown as a band, through the rewards and stresses of traveling, the discussions of our ideas and reflections on our experience, and simply the strength of spending 24 hours a day in each others’ company. Sitting down to play music together is natural. I am incredibly grateful for the company of my fellow band members, and the opportunity I have to perform in a group like this one. I hope that our day spent with the various musical ensembles of the Carol Morgan school- in small sectionals during the school day, as peers and mentors, and finally as fellow performers- we have inspired that same passion in the students we worked with, and renewed it in ourselves.

–Carina Gwennap, oboe


Our Mission

CU Winds unites student musicians in an ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of emerging and traditional wind repertoire. We explore music making as a vehicle for cross-cultural exchange and collaboration, and in doing so support Cornell's core values of public engagement and global awareness.