This year the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Dr. Douglass J. Nimmo, will be taking a local Midwest tour through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois the first week of Feb. These tours are very different from what some people experienced in a high school ensemble. There is a concert performed every day but one and the musicians stay in the homes of local community members. The day off is seen as an opportunity to visit an art museum or go see some kind of show—something that contributes to the cultural experience of the tour. Each tour is very carefully planed out so that every music cultural and relationship opportunity is maximized.
Musicians look forward to preforming multiple times in very different venues. Nimmo says these tours are a chance for the students to “grow as musicians.”
Senior Antonio Herbert has been on many tours in his career at Gustavus. “On each tour you watch the band grow, each section bonds tighter, the band bonds as a whole through long bus rides, stories of home stays, and seeing family and friends from your hometown. From our music that touches the hearts and positively affects our audience, to the quick loading of heavy equipment in and out the performance space, GWO then becomes a community of individuals who, indeed, work together to make a special life changing and life long experience,” Herbert said.
Homestays are a huge part of the ensembles tour. Many of the homestays are sponsored by local churches or high school band members. On any given tour, musicians stay and represent Gustavus in thirty different homes. “That’s where connections are made and lives are changed,” Nimmo said.
Musicians are always welcomed warmly into the homes of people who were merely strangers before the event. “The first greeting is not a ‘hello’ with words, but an overwhelming ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ and yet so much more, all said through music. When at the end of our concert and pack up, we meet our respective hosts, the first few phrases are something like, ‘that was incredible!’ followed by, ‘we are your hosts, come to our home… there’s apple pie waiting!’” Herbert said.
These visits allow contact through musicians and local community members.
“They have an impact on the people of the community and as a result, our lives are changed and impacted,” Nimmo said.
By playing great music really well—people everywhere, not just at Gustavus are able to build relationships through music. “Everything is about relationships,” Nimmo said.
These musicians also benefit in many other ways besides the homestays. Learning music at such a high level and performing it multiple times is an opportunity for musicians to grow profoundly. Every new venue provides for differences in the acoustics, lighting and temperature; all of which impact the musician and how they see and hear. Being able to adjust to such radical changes allows for great personal and musical growth. First-year Rebecca Ihnen says this tour will help her grow as a musician and become more flexible to changes in sound.
“It will also impact me to help me strengthen friendships and create new ones. I’m looking forward to meeting new people from different cities,” Ihnen said.
Indeed, many people—musicians included—will have a positive impact from these kinds of tours. The College also feels a positive impact.
“To the time the ensemble loads the bus to the time we leave GAC, we set out on a journey to represent the college in a way that really benefits the value of a liberal arts experience,” Herbert said. “Our audiences find that we are not only musicians, but aspiring doctors, philosophers, scientists, educators, etc. This in part captures the spirit of the liberal arts experience one receives while attending Gustavus Adolphus College.”