Posted by: Abby Rhodes | March 21, 2010

Brazil tour wraps, offering intangible souvenirs

WIU Wind Ensemble pose for their last group picture at Rio de Janeiro Jardim Botânico

Most of the time, Atlanta, Georgia, feels nice and warm to Illinoisans.  Around 7:30 this morning, though, Atlanta felt downright cold to members of the WIU Wind Ensemble returning stateside after a week-long tour in Brazil.  Just twelve hours earlier, the students and staff were donning swimsuits, shorts, and tank tops, soaking up the rays on Copacabana or Ipanema beaches or shopping for last-minute souvenirs.

Summer is fading into autumn in Rio de Janeiro, and back home in Macomb, winter is all too slowly staggering into spring.  The season of birth and renewal is near, however, and the band members are ushering it in with dramatic personal growth.  Their week-long  tour through Salvador and Rio has left indelible marks, whether they be musical, cultural, or interpersonal, on each and every member of the group.

Many returned to the U.S. wearing Brazilian t-shirts, pants, or bracelets, small reminders of Brazil compared to the memories these musicians will carry forever.  The tour has ended, but many of the lessons learned and connections established in Brazil are sure to last a lifetime.  They’re the best kind of souvenirs.

The video below highlights some trip reflections, and ends with an example of how most of us spent the last leg of a terrific journey.

Posted by: Steve Scherer | March 21, 2010

Geneseo B.P. – the Saturday story

This was the only day of the tour that we didn’t have a wake up call.  Everyone had the morning to do with what they wanted.  So after one last breakfast by the ocean, Allison and I took a walk around our neighborhood at Copacabana.  We wanted to find a few more souvenirs for ourselves and our family at home.  By 10:00 we were on the beach with many others from our group who wanted to savor the surf until the last possible minute.

The power of ocean waves is overwhelming.  There were many people on the beach that morning.  As I had told before, there had been a lot of rain in Rio before we arrived, this Saturday morning, some of the locals were catching up on some lost beach time.  There was an attitude of relaxation in this place.  Even though there are sure to be many tourists, most were Brazilians Read More…

Posted by: Steve Scherer | March 21, 2010

Geneseo B.P. – The Friday night story continued

When I left off I was telling about how the samba schools practice for Carnivale.  Each section of their parade entry practices together in the samba school.  The building is not big enough for all of them at the same time.  As you would expect, the performance is based on samba drumming, dancing, and elaborate costumes.  There is unbelievable neighborhood pride in the samba schools.  And people throughout Brazil all have their favorite samba school who they cheer for and support, like we do with our college and professional sports teams.

For the final few months prior to Carnivale, each samba school takes turns travelling to “the alley” to practice their presentation.  The Alley in Rio is where the judging takes place.  Try to picture a parade route that is about as wide as 4 or 5 lanes on a street.  On the sides of the route are stadium seats like you would see at a big college football stadium.  Concrete bleachers progress several Read More…

Posted by: Steve Scherer | March 20, 2010

Geneseo B.P. – Saturday, the final post before flying

We are in the airport in Rio.  I’ll make one more post before we fly.  Last night we played at the Samba School in the favela.  Actually, the building was on the very edge of the fevela.  We were first taken into an adjacent building that is an actual school that has music classes.  While there, we received a short demonstration performance by a group that was most like a jazz band.  Drums, piano, two trombones, two trumpets, two alto saxes, two clarinets and a flute.  Again, a wide age range from high school to mature adult.  Their music was jazz that was very much like what Read More…

Posted by: Abby Rhodes | March 19, 2010

Brazilian Wal-Mart

There are few comforts of an American Midwestern home one can’t find in Brazil. Despite the misconception that shopping opportunities in Latin America are limited to street markets and foreign brands, big box stores have been raking in profits here for years, and some are posing a threat to small mom ‘n pops. Corner stores and street markets remain vital, and therefore solvent, in developing countries, but things are likely to change with industrialization.

The “Wal-Mart of Brazil” is called Bompreco, and actually, it’s owned by the Arkansas-based corporation. Its name translates to a similar low-price guarantee.

We stopped by a Bompreco in Salvador on our way to the Monk’s Island cruise.

Posted by: Abby Rhodes | March 19, 2010

Friday morning in Copacabana

Windsor Miramar Palace Hotel, Rio (a.k.a. Our hotel!) Just across the street from Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach on a Friday morning

Perhaps he's purchasing an O Dia, the newspaper featuring an article today about the WIU Wind Ensemble

A favela near Copacabana Beach

The base of the stairs to a favela

Walking up to a favela

Walking into a favela
Posted by: Steve Scherer | March 19, 2010

Geneseo B.P. – Friday morning

While writing this, I am sitting at an outdoor cafe in front of a beachfront hotel on the beach at Copacabana.  It is morning, and the band has just left to visit a museum and do some other sight-seeing.  I have chosen to stay back at the hotel to do some work on my National Board Certification, which is due to be submitted next week.  So while writing, I am sipping on a fruity drink, watching the waves roll in from the ocean, and wtaching the local people go about their business on a Friday morning.  There have been people on the beach since sunrise.  Running, playing soccer, playing a game much like pickle-ball, walking, yoga, selling, etc.  Alberto tells us that everyone who lives here goes to the beach every day.  That is where Read More…

Posted by: darciefleming | March 18, 2010

Impact So Far


This trip has really changed my outlook on many things as a person thus far.  I have really learned that as an American I have life pretty easy.  Looking back on my life I have realized that I have gotten many things that kids here would never imagine they would have.  Even such things that we take for granted like clean water to drink whenever needed or even shoes on my feet.  Even in some cases a roof over my head.  Some children here are lucky if they have that.  Playing for the children of CESA yesterday really made me realize this.  The fact that we just came to play for them and we included them seemed to be one of the biggest moments of their lives.  They asked us for autographs and we took pictures with them.  I can truly say that I have never seen so many children with such big smiles on their faces.  I was in tears.  Just the way that it affected them because we cared enough to smile at them and talk to them seemed to really make them feel special.  Seeing people off on the streets also has made me feel this way.  Just noticing that people are so desperate that they will mime everything you do makes me really think about how wonderful my life is.  Another huge impact to me has been playing music with people that don’t even speak English.  The fact that it brings us together and that we can all bond through this is amazing.  In fact one of the flute performers that played with us at a gig added me on facebook.  We took pictures together and tried to talk to each other for a bit.  We understood each other to the extent of hello, how are you, and you play very well.  I am so happy that I was able to come on this trip.  Looking back I would not change it for the world!  I am so happy that by sharing my love for music that I can put a smile on someones face and make there day.  This is was life is all about.  This trip has really made me understand this more.I have also enjoyed growing with the band on this trip.  Even though I haven’t really been able to practice I have felt improvement in my playing each and every day.  I even learned to flutter tongue today!  Finally!  It was exciting too because I can say I learned it in Brazil!  I am happy with the bonds that I have made on this trip, the way that I have impacted others, and the way that I have been impacted as a person.  I would not change coming here for a million dollars.  It has been to much of a life altering experience!



Posted by: Abby Rhodes | March 18, 2010

In Brazil, everyone’s a musician

Music is ingrained in the Brazilian culture to a greater extent than in any other ethnicity around the world.  Ask a local what it means to be Brazilian and you’ll likely hear both music and soccer within the first two sentences.  It’s not just about appreciation — Brazilians seem to be hardwired to sway and drum and sing with impeccable natural musicianship.  And often instruments are fashioned out of the most unlikely materials.  We came across this gentleman during a walk through Salvador.

Posted by: Abby Rhodes | March 18, 2010

Scene change

View of Rio from Morro de Açúcar

The city of Rio de Janeiro has inspired writers, singers, and musicians all over the world.  Until you see it for your own eyes, it’s all fantasy and intrigue.  The WIU Wind Ensemble is finding that, so far, Rio isn’t too different from many major U.S. cities.

While Salvador, with its narrow alleys and quaint, brightly painted commercial districts, oozes with charm similar to European cities, Rio is more modern, but less attractive.  Once lined in palaces, the area facing Copacabana beach is now tightly packed with high rises of various shades of gray.  Look toward the beach, or into the distance at the  favelas peaking out over the city, and you’ll see why despite its bland aesthetics within, Rio is considered one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Sugarloaf Mtn. cable car

The band spent the first half of the day as tourists, riding cable cars to the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), which towers 1,300 feet above the harbor.  At the mid-way stop on Morro de Açúcar, visitors are  invited to stroll along a bamboo-lined “monkey trail.”  We we greeted by several of the pathway’s hungry namesakes, and even spotted one wearing a blue baseball cap and white tennis shoes (see video below).

Morro de Açúcar inhabitants

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