In the United States, at least in circles I communicate with, it is common to talk about purpose. Dreams. Are you living your life to the fullest extent, and working toward the pursuit of happiness? Today, it was clear that we were exactly where we were supposed to be, doing exactly what we feel meant to do.
Our day of cultural exchange began in an old colonial neighborhood of the state, called Olinda. It was colonized by the Portuguese in 1535, and retains its architecture and infrastructure. We walked through a market on cobble-stone streets, visited a church built in 1614 (Catedral Metropolitana São Salvador do Mundo), and had a panoramic view of Recife from the hillside.
Over lunch, we met with a man named, Bruno – the chairman of the Rotary Youth Exchange, in Recife. His life’s work is to improve the lives of students by exposing them to the world of possibilities that music opens. When he was a student, he said his life was forever changed by a study abroad experience he had in the United States. He attended a school with a strong, competitive marching band program, and he was never the same. We hit it off well.
He connected us to our afternoon event. We presented a concert and had a conversation with the remarkable students at Escola Rotary do Alto do Pascoal, a school with an exceptional music program, in the city. We all wore headsets, so that the band could hear translators describe their questions to us in English, and so that the translators could share our responses, in Portuguese, with them.
One of the highlights, was when their marching band asked to present some songs to us. They played raucous arrangements of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” We jammed with them on the latter. It was a blast.
When the concert was over, the students mobbed us to talk with us, get photos with us, to get our autographs, and to practice speaking English.
We were especially honored by an exchange we had with the marching band director. He explained through our translator that he was incredibly moved by our encounter, and felt so affected, that he gave us a gift we had a hard time accepting… a trophy that the band received for their national championship marching band competition… I tried to say it was too much, but he insisted that we had given his students and him even more of a treasure by sharing in our exchange program, today… It’s one of the most generous gifts I’ve ever received.