Midwest Young Artists To Host Youth Orchestra From France

Bonjour tout le monde!  James Rein here, the chamber coordinator from last year, and I’ll be your guest blogger today.  I hope you are doing well back in the States!  I am currently an English-teaching assistant in a couple public schools in Lyon, France.  My purpose is to bring authentic English to the classroom.  Life is good!

Did you know that MYA is going to host a French youth orchestra soon?  One of the things I’ve been working on for the past several months is organizing the April 2012 Chicago tour for the l’Orchestre du Collège Jean-Philippe Rameau de Versailles.  To simplify things, let’s just call them the Versailles Youth Orchestra.  They’ll be coming to Chicago from April 15th to April 23rd to give concerts, take a look around town, and get a feel for American life.  Ça va être intéressant! 

Organizing a tour for even just a week is quite a lot of work.  I’ve spent countless hours on googlemaps finding restaurants, checking precisely where el stops are, and trying to calcuting walking times for them given that:
  • the average French student hasn’t been to America or seen any cities with buildings taller than 20 stories, so for every one minute spent walking, the next minute will be spent craning their necks trying to see the tops of all the skyscrapers.  I will refer them to my old naprapath;
  • the average French student is used to walking everywhere for everything so they can walk miles a day if need be;
  • they will not find baguettes here so I fear they will get hungry easily and thus fatigued;
  • they will, however, not be able to drink wine legally here so they won’t affected by that particular brand of French torpor, heavy legs.
As you can see, there are a lot of details to consider when planning each and every movement of the Versailles Youth Orchestra corps

All kidding aside, I’ve been greeted by the French in only the warmest way possible.  For instance, this past Thanksgiving I took off from my classes Wed-Fri (gotta bring a little of my country’s culture over here don’t I??) to visit the orchestra director Christophe Junivart and his family right outside of Paris.  Christophe, like Dr. D, is a go-getter, can do it all, and can do it well.  The 70 students in his youth orchestra are between ages 15-22, some who even continue to play with him though they’re at conservatory in Paris.  This includes their principal hornist who will be playing Mozart’s Concerto No. 4 for one of their concerts in Chicago.  Very cool!

The Junivarts were wonderful hosts for my 5-day sojourn in Paris.  Christophe and his wife are both music teachers, and all three of his kids were really nice and they all like to cook!  The family managed to keep me well fed the entire time, which all the MYA staffers know is a big challenge.  Christophe took me to a Baroque concert in the Chapel at the Palace of Versailles (awesome!), his older son trounced me in Call of Duty, and I helped his daughter prepare for an English test.  Only a 25-minute train ride from the Notre Dame, I could sleep in half the day and still have a long, fulfilling day exploring Paris.  Unbeknown to him, Christophe also treated me to Thanksgiving dinner in his favorite bar in Versailles.   Salmon, tomato and cheese sandwich?  With a light beer?  Not bad, but I think I prefer American Thanksgiving.

The tour plans are almost done for the French.  I’ve just to figure out a couple more restaurants and such so I can maximize their American intake, both caloric and cultural.  They’ll be staying downtown for their first 4 nights, and then we’ll be looking for host families for about 35 of them for the next 4 nights (Thursday April 19th – Sunday April 22nd).   MYAers, take it from me if you don’t have any personal experience, international exchanges are the * best *. 

If you’re in Symphony, please consider hosting a French student for those 4 days in April.  It will be awesome, I assure you.  Even if you can’t speak a lick of French except voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?  which maybe you could try on one of them while they’re here, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to meet someone from another culture and continent.  And I don’t mean just meet them and chit-chat for an hour, I mean actually get to know them and start to understand them by spending a couple days with them.  How are they different?  How are they the same?  What funny American-isms do they know?  Then, who knows, if you go on the tour that MYA is thinking about for next summer 2013, you could be the guest in your guest’s home!  Or maybe you study abroad during college or end up over here like me at some point, and then you can meet up with and have a jolly good time in France with your old exchange student.  That’s how it works!

You will also notice in this post a picture of me with my new haircut, product of Itlay.  Now, Dr. D can finally stop thinking to himself, gosh James needs a haircut, which I assure you he thought out loud to me every day of my last 3 months of work there.  My hand is striking the traditional Italian hand-language perfetto pose, with my Italian-sized coffee in the other hand.  I spent the Christmas break at my new Italian friend’s house, gorging on pastas, gaining an inch around, and tying my scarf like an Italian.  Behold the beauty of international exchanges!  And Italian haircuts!

All right, I hope you have a wonderful and warm enough winter.  MYA families, if you come to France/Western Europe anytime in the next 6 months, please let me know I would love to try to meet up with you and share a bottle of wine!  Or maybe a rond du fromage, my treat!  Seriously, that would be awesome.

OK, see you soon!  Au revoir!

~James ('95 Alum, Horn)

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