Every fall, Furman music students travel with faculty to the beautiful hills of Arezzo, a small town in eastern Tuscany.
They spend their semester under the tutelage of Furman professors and locally based faculty. Each one of them will tell you that in addition to the beautiful Italian countryside, museums, churches, and of course, gelato, they discover music in a whole new way.
Cherise Quamme ’12 from Peachtree City, Georgia, penned her thoughts in an online blog. Here’s just a sampling of her experience:
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Last December, I received an email informing me that I had been accepted to a study abroad program in Arezzo, Italy.
I have had my eye on this program before I applied to Furman, and it was a big factor in my decision to attend. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I will travel with thirteen fellow students and two Furman professors (one for each half of the semester). We will be taking Basic Conducting, Music History II, Italian, a class on the Italian Madrigal, and private lessons. We will be staying in the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo. I could keep on going on with information but the real interesting info will come when I finally get to Italy. Four days!!!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Home Sweet Home
When we arrived at the Florence airport, we stepped off the plane into the amazing landscape of Tuscany. There were mountains and wildflowers everywhere. We had about an hour bus ride into Arezzo and to the villa that would become our new home.
After lunch, we took our first trip into the city of Arezzo, a city that makes you feel like you have been placed on the set of a medieval movie. We began to hear drums and trumpets in the distance and couldn’t resist following the sounds. We ended up in the Piazza Grande, the center of the city, where they were practicing for the next day’s joust festival.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Prima Settimana e Firenze (First week and Florence)
My first full week in Italy was filled with many adventures and much excitement—classes in Italian and Music History and my first private lesson. We also had our Italian Madrigal class and started Basic Conducting. The Italian Madrigal class is taught by a professor from the Conservatorio Statale in Florence. We have a lot of Basic Conducting in a short time in order to prepare for observing the Polifonico choir competition we will be attending next weekend.
On Saturday, we ventured to Florence by train. I saw my first European cathedral and the detail in the architecture was mind boggling. In our music history class we talked about the history of the cathedral's music and listened to chants that were composed for the duomo so we had an idea of how the acoustics would have affected the music. We then headed to the Accademia Gallery, where we saw Michelangelo’s David
sculpture, an exhibit of early instruments, and lots of Renaissance paintings. Overall, a great first week!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
“A day without vino is ... well, a day without vino”
The highlights of this week were wine tasting and the Polifonico choir competition. On Wednesday after classes, our professors had arranged a wine tasting with a friend at a family-owned shop that has received reviews from multiple wine magazines crowning it the best wine shop in Tuscany. The shop owner told us the story of his family and how he came to own the wine shop and showed us the oldest bottle of wine he had (from the late 1800s!).
The Polifonico choir competition is an international choir competition that takes place in Arezzo each year. We attended seven concerts and saw over twenty different choirs, including Grex Vocalis (from Norway) and the Philippine Madrigal Singers. These two choirs are known to be some of the best in the world, and they definitely proved it.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It seems like every time I turn around, there is some great new adventure and I am discovering something new and amazing.
On Wednesday we started a series of workshops on the Alexander Technique. It teaches you how to reduce tension and be aware of how you use your body when performing. I think the most important concept I took away from the classes, however, was the concept to stop and think before letting my habits set in. This is a lesson that Italy in general has been teaching me.
The atmosphere is very laid back and allows you to enjoy life, rather than constantly rushing on to the next assignment or activity.
Coming up next week: Roma!
Monday, October 11, 2010
When in Rome ...
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, our group explored the great city of Rome! We had each been assigned to research one of the sites we were seeing so we could share with the group. Our first stop was Torre Argentina—the site of four ancient Roman temples and the largest no-kill cat shelter in Rome. There were cats everywhere! Also in this square was an opera house where The Barber of Seville
Next stop, gelato! No tour of any city in Italy would be complete without gelato. We then walked through Piazza Navona, watched a street string ensemble, and then to the Colosseum, definitely one of my favorite sites in Rome. We then headed over to the Palatino and Forum—ruins galore! After dinner, we walked to the Ponte Sant’Angelo (Bridge of Angels). It was one of my favorite places in Rome, mainly because of the angel statues lining the bridge. It was especially beautiful with lights illuminating the statues—a great way to finish the first day in Rome.
Coming soon: Fall Break in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
The City of Lights (Fall Break Part 1)
One of the great things about our schedule is that we get a one-week break at the halfway point of our semester. I went with three other friends and my boyfriend, Andrew, to Paris, Berlin,
We flew into Paris, then spent the rest of the afternoon walking down the Seine River and getting acquainted with the city. We walked to the Montparnasse tower and watched the sun set around the Eiffel tower, then hurried over to the Madeline Church to watch a concert of Mozart’s "Requiem." Overall, a great first day in Paris.
We made the food discovery of the trip the third morning—a small, local bakery. We enjoyed breakfast complete with coffee, pastries, and baguettes, then had to reschedule our flight to Berlin that was cancelled due to major strikes in Paris. It took us a little bit to figure everything out, but we gained an extra day in Paris so there was not much to complain about. Then off to Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Tuilerie Gardens.
Next stop: Berlin!
Monday, November 29, 2010
Berlin ( Fall Break Part 2)
An early flight from Paris got us into Berlin mid-morning. After checking into our hostel, Andrew and I split from the group to go to Wittenberg or Lutherstadt. We found City Church, where Martin Luther attended and preached, and the door on which his 95 theses were posted. We attended an English devotional service in the chapel of City Church and sang “A Mighty Fortress.” It was touching to feel so rooted to the Lutheran traditions and to be where it all began.
We went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, considered by the Nazis to be the “model camp.” It was an experience that left me emotionally drained, but it’s one I will never forget. We ended our stay by attending the Berlin Philharmonic concert, featuring a Prokofiev piano concerto and Berlioz’s "Symphonie Fantastique"—a wonderful way to end our time in Berlin.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Vienna (Fall Break Part 3)
Our final stop during fall break trip was Vienna. We went to the Zentralfriedhof Cemetery, famous for the composers who are buried there, including Beethoven, Strauss, Gluck, Brahms, Schubert, and Schoenberg. There is also a statue honoring Mozart since the location of his grave is unknown.
Our second day in Vienna was filled with many more musical adventures —a tour of Schoenburg Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s house, and Strauss’s House.
On the final day we went to Haydn’s house in the morning (and yes, we did hide in Haydn’s house). I felt like the more I saw, the more I realized how little I know or have seen.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
After fall break, our group enjoyed one more trip to Venice.
This city was gorgeous! We took a tour of the main sites of the city, including my favorite cathedral of all our travels, St. Mark’s. The last few weeks were spent focusing on our final studies and enjoying Arezzo. During our final week, we had the opportunity to perform in a neighboring village. It was so much fun to be a visiting performer in another country.
Instead of trying to plan day trips to other Tuscany towns, I decided to explore Arezzo as much as I could. I went on walks to the wine factory that was about ten minutes from the Accademia (and bought some delicious olive oil to take home), enjoyed the scenery by going for some extra runs, and went into town multiple times. Each time, I discovered something new (like a street lined with chocolate shops ).
The final days in Italy revolved around exams, packing, and doing my best to come to terms with the fact that I would be saying goodbye in a few days. I realized that I had learned and grown both personally, culturally, and academically. The laid-back lifestyle, freedom of our schedule, beautiful scenery and constant adventures made for an experience that has changed me for the better. Life in Arezzo is something I will truly miss, and I will cherish the memories I made from this program for the rest of my life.