For Canyon Crest’s orchestra and choir, a trip to Italy caps an eventful year

It was an expedition that took 10 months of planning, with complicated logistics and an extensive itinerary, but in the end it was all worth it for the 70 students at Canyon Crest Academy’s Envision music classes who, in mid-April, experienced the sights and sounds of Italy. “Everyone did a fantastic job of representing our school and community in the best possible way,” said Amy Villanova, the coordinator of the school’s Instrumental Music Program who is no doubt still getting over jetlag. “We had a great experience, and I think the students really enjoyed exploring together.”

The trip, spearheaded by Villanova along with Envision Vocal Music Coordinator Anne Whattoff, was meant to show the students Italy’s rich musical heritage. The group gallivanted around the country and took in the likes of the Vatican, ancient Roman ruins, and museums galore. Of course the students performed as well, appearing at a show in Venice that served as a fundraiser for Amnesty International that Villanova notes “a few local dignitaries attended.” In addition, there were also programs in both Rome and Mirano. “They included both the choir and orchestra, along with a few vocal soloists. Our programs were mostly classical, with an emphasis on Italian composers, but we threw in a few more modern works as well. They were well received and we had great attendance.”

This trip was funded primarily through donations and corporate matching. Notes Villanova, “We performed several concert fundraisers, and we sold quite a bit of See’s Candies to cover our scholarship students’ costs.” The experience, however, was an invaluable one. “Italy is a very important place for the development of western classical music, and it was important for us to be able to show our students so much of our rich musical heritage.” Perhaps most importantly, however, “There was much gelato eating along the way!”

While the trip to Italy was arguably the crown jewel of CCA music department’s year, the trek was just one component of a busy schedule that’s lately been emphasizing international events and endeavours. “We are working in collaboration with a jazz/folklorico group from Cuba to present a full symphonic performance of traditional Cuban music,” notes Villanova of one such other highlight. Whattoff also recently traveled with a team of Canyon Crest students and teachers “to promote an exchange with our sister city of Panama City, Panama.” In addition, students at the school’s jazz ensemble are preparing for their final festival performance of the year at the upcoming Reno Jazz Festival in Nevada.

“We are very proud of the hard work our students do as part of the Envision Music program,” said Villanova. “We give the students a lot of opportunities to stretch themselves, offer ways for them to take leadership over their own musical development and paths, and ways for them to think critically and respond to the art they are creating.”

Adds Villanova: “Our success is directly linked to the students’ curiosity, work ethic and drive. No two days are ever the same, and they keep pushing and inspiring us as well.” With or without gelato, of course.