Nebraska - the Great Plains.
To a native Frenchman like Philippe Petit it's as exotic as the plains of Africa. Flat vistas and nothing but corn and cattle as far as the eye can see. Still, it's not the scenery that really sets it apart - but rather the people. These no-nonsense warm hearted midwesterners welcomed us from the get go to the point where in no time at all we felt like family.
ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE
A typical day starts at 7:15 am where we meet in the dining room of the Kensington - once a fancy downtown hotel and now a lovely residence for older adults. They've generously leant the school their guest rooms on our behalf, and here Philippe gets his first taste of a typical American breakfast served hot and to order.
We're picked up around 7:45 by one of two band directors - either our host Command Sergeant Major Rick Matticks, or his esteemed colleague Erin Beave - and taken to either the Middle or High School to get the day started.
From there on we're shuttled around from school to school, and group to group - sometimes working with young singers, or jazz bands and with an occasional Q&A with the French classes from grades 6-12.
Each day is packed with rehearsals and coaching sessions - including a trip to Hastings College to work with their jazz band - all in the interest of preparing everyone for a big bang-up U.S.O. style concert on Saturday night to celebrate Veteran's day and raise money for the Wounded Warrior project.
The kids are amazing! Well prepared, great singers and players - largely thanks to their wonderful teacher wo do such a good job with them year round. Props to the choral department's: Deb Dowling, Kylee Bruce and Kristen Janda at the Middle School, and Tim Canady (with the help of Douglas Singer) at the High School. I'm a sucker for quality kids singing out in harmony, and found myself in tears of nostalgic joy at least once a day ;-)
Mr. Matticks and Mr. Beave do a great job with the bands too of course, and Jeff, Philippe and I worked with them all - singers and players alike - mostly on how to get things really swinging by playing with accuracy and especially with a lot of feeling.