First WIU Cultural & Educational Exchange in Brazil Conducted in March 2010

ALittleLessonWestern Illinois University’s College of Fine Arts & Communications (WIU COFAC) conducted its first Cultural & Educational Exchange in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro in March of 2010 when WIU brought its 55-member Wind Ensemble to Brazil. This first Cultural & Educational Exchange, planned and implemented by WIU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications (COFAC) with support from Doug Adair, a 1976 WIU COFAC Graduate, & ORS Multimídia Interativa Ltda. of Salvador, Bahia, was a life-changing experience for the students and professors who participated in the trip. WIU worked with local contacts to incorporate Philharmonics from Bahia as well as Brazilian percussionists into the WIU Wind Ensemble’s performances. Several concerts and special events were arranged in unusual venues including: the Danneman Center in São Felix; CESA elementary school in Simões Filho which is operated by Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce (OSID) Foundation; Teatro SESI in Rio Vermelho; Teatro SESC in Salvador’s Pelourinho; the Samba School of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro; and the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro.

After learning about the lack of music education and the lack of musical instruments in many parts of Bahia, WIU COFAC conducted a used musical instrument donation drive in conjunction with Kidder Music in Peoria, Illinois. They were successful in securing 60 instruments which were donated to the Federal University of Bahia’s School of Music and subsequently used to establish a new Philharmonic in Salvador.

The WIU Wind Ensemble’s 2010 trip provided an opportunity to use an “interactive” approach to tourism development for the very lucrative market segment of university bands and orchestras from the US and other countries. In reality, there is a long and troublesome history of university bands and orchestras from the US and other countries being invited to make tours in Europe or other regions of the world where, unfortunately, they often end up performing in empty churches. In contrast to this, the members of WIU Wind Ensemble were thrilled by the level of interaction and the moving experiences they had with Brazilian audiences of all socio-economic levels who, in turn, were thrilled by the WIU Wind Ensemble’s performances and workshops. There is a significant interest among Brazilian tourism development organizations, government agencies and culturally-minded corporations in developing, supporting and repeating programs of this nature in the future.

WIU’s Public Television Station produced some excellent documentary footage of the WIU Wind Ensemble’s trip to Brazil. Below are YouTube Links for 4 videos which show some highlights of the WIU Wind Ensemble’s visit to Bahia in March 2010. Part 4 is especially relevant because it details the WIU Wind Ensemble’s visit to CESA elementary school in Simões Filho where many of the students had never experienced a live performance of a wind ensemble / orchestra. As witnessed by the videos, the trip was indeed a transformational experience for the students, faculty and staff from WIU and for the Brazilians they met and performed with and for during their trip.