CYSO’s 2022 Tour is officially wrapped, but the memories (and a bit of the jetlag) remain. While 10 days may not sound like long, bassist Tom Gotsch reflected on the life lessons they’ll take away from the experience, including wise words from Maestro about seizing the moment and how the “wiggly air” of music can connect us across time and space.
After 10 days of travel in beautiful cities, making music together in amazing concert halls, and forming lifelong memories, Symphony Orchestra is finally back home! It’s been an incredible year of music— from Fall’s Tchaikovsky and Barber, to Gala’s Clyne and Márquez, to Spring’s Mahler, CYSO’s 75th Anniversary season has been filled with countless memorable moments. We’ve made it through more extended rehearsals than we can count, multiple 2+ hour concerts, weekly transit to and from the Fine Arts Building, and hundreds of hours of practice. And what better way to cap off the year than a tour to Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, and Vienna? Each city we visited had its own soul, its own culture, and its own lessons to teach us. As a way to reflect on Tour, these are a few of the lessons I’ve personally taken away from our time in Europe.
Berlin – Lesson #1: The most interesting and meaningful conversation you have may very well be with a person you’ve never met.
It goes without saying that in traveling hundreds of miles together as an orchestra, it was unavoidable that we’d become close (if not—I say this affectionately—fed up with one another). However, I never would have guessed how deep the relationships I made on tour would end up being. On long bus rides, waiting backstage before concerts, helping set up and break down the stage, walking around cities, and sitting down together at dinner, there were so many different opportunities to meet and talk with people I had never had the opportunity to get to know before.
When we landed in Berlin, it was intimidating to be surrounded by all new faces that I recognized from the orchestra but had never had a conversation with. Gradually, as we introduced ourselves and got more comfortable, our communities broadened significantly with all kinds of different people. I met violinist alums with passions for journalism and the environment, percussionists who cared deeply about the wellbeing of others, philosophy-loving violists, and trumpeters with a particular fondness (that I coincidentally share) for extremely low notes. We talked about everything: the horrors of high school, global politics, how cool our bus driver was and how much we’d miss him (shoutout to Giuseppe!), nihilism, books we were reading, and, of course, how tired we all were. Had we not taken the step to talk with people we’d never really met, I don’t think tour would have been as meaningful to any of us.
Leipzig – Lesson #2: As Maestro Tinkham said once in rehearsal, “There are only so many minutes in the day and you have to make the most of every single one of them.”
As with so many of Maestro’s iconic bits of rehearsal advice, I didn’t realize how accurate this was until we had just 14,400 minutes to live a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It doesn’t happen regularly that teenagers who love the wiggly air that is music enough to wiggle it together in an orchestra, are able to travel to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria, play in some of the most important music halls in the history of Western Classical music, and visit some of the most famous sites in European history.
Prague – Lesson #3: Another of Maestro’s quotes– “Let yourself feel everything, including the bad things.”
It was beyond incredible to see so many beautiful music halls and breathtaking architecture, but tour would not have been as impactful were it not for our visiting the Berlin Wall, or walking around the Terezin concentration camp and comprehending the evils humans are capable of. These were definitely some of the more somber moments on tour, but I also think they were some of the most important ones. Our visits to these places have stuck with me ever since, and I know they’ll continue to remain at the backs of our minds, pushing us to reflect on both the good and the bad parts of human history as we work toward a better future.
Vienna – Lesson #4: Realize how fleeting and temporary you are in relation to everything else.
By the time tour was nearing its end, and as we entered the city limits of Vienna, we had played in concert halls that once housed Mendelssohn and Dvořák, eaten in 500-year-old restaurants, and explored churches established since the 12th century. It was enough to make anyone feel small—especially a bunch of teenagers.
This lesson is perhaps one of the less enjoyable ones—every one of us, after all, will be essentially unnoticeable within the story of Earth—but I think there’s something strangely comforting about it. In the end, all that we have to live in is right now: the note we play in an orchestra, the tears and laughter we share with our friends, and the few moments we have on Earth. It’s for this reason that I’ll always cherish the moments during our performance of Barber’s Adagio For Strings at the Musikverein in Vienna, standing on the stage that so many amazing musicians have performed on and sharing music across the world.
On the last day of Tour, our guide Patrick gave us one final lesson—wherever you’ve been, “you leave a part of yourself before you go.” I know that we’ll all take the memories we’ve made in Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, and Vienna with us far into the future. We’ll carry the music we played and the experiences we had and incorporate them as parts of ourselves. But I also have a feeling that we left a part of ourselves there, too.
ABOUT TOM GOTSCH
Tom Gotsch was a bassist in the CYSO Jazz Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, as well as a student composer in CYSO’s composition seminar. He is a recent graduate of Jones College Prep high school in Chicago, and in his free time likes to read, drink tea, and go on walks looking for old trees.