One of the memorable aspects of Knox College Choir’s tour of the Midwest for sophomore Fay Swift was the chance to connect with choir alumni after concerts and during homestays.
“It was interesting to see how similar the choir experience still was even like 20 years down the line,” Swift said. “It’s cool talking to people that have done that experience because … they have an inside scoop, so they ask deeper questions.”
The choir tour was among various opportunities students had to spend their spring break traveling with other classmates. Junior Michael Moss was among 12 students who participated in a trip to Indianapolis focused on learning about the non-profit sector.
“We got a lot of different perspectives … because a lot of the people that were there didn’t intend to be there originally or it wasn’t their career path,” Moss said. “So to hear their stories was really interesting.”
Seniors Gus Martini and Lindsay Smith, members of the Cherry Street Jazz Combo, took part in a trip with stops to record an album in Nashville, participate in a jam session and perform a concert in St. Louis.
“It was different in the fact that the audience [in St. Louis] was mostly made up of Knox alumni, so they were all extremely interested in what we were doing,” Smith said.
Moss noted that many of the professionals he got to meet in Indianapolis were also Knox alumni, and hearing how they ended up working in nonprofits helped feed his interest in the field.
“It’s more for the good of the cause or the better well-being of the community, and so that kind of aspect really interests me,” Moss said. “As long as you work at it it can become something you’re passionate about.”
Moss said the trip provided exposure to a range of non-profit areas, including visits to a theatre and a behind-the-scenes tour of a museum. Most striking to him was a hospital for recovering drug and alcohol addicts.
“Especially ‘cause one of the guys who worked there was actually a graduate of the program, and so it was really cool to see him succeeding because of this experience,” Moss said.
Knox College Choir’s tour consisted of concerts in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. Members also got to spend excursion time in the Mall of America in Minnesota as well as visit Chicago during St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s just nice to take our art elsewhere and outside of ourselves and outside of our community more,” junior Maggie Decker said. “It’s just a really good experience I think for musicians to have, just to reach a wider audience.”
Junior Sarah Smith felt that the choir improved with each performance on the tour, and credited this in part to the sense of being bonded together more over the course of the trip.
“We spend a lot of time together but tour is like the one time we are forced to spend all this time together,” Sarah said. “There’s just something that happens when we all know each other and we feel more comfortable that the music gets better.”
For Martini and [Lindsay] Smith, the experience of recording an album in a professional studio is a grueling one, with a full day of performing music written by members of the Combo.
“You’re put under a microscope to a certain extent and you can hear yourself better than you can ever hear yourself in any other circumstance,” Martini said. “… you’re trying to focus as hard as possible for as long as possible.”
While Martini had a similar experience recording with his band in high school, it was an entirely new process for Smith.
“You can listen to live performances of yourself … but actually sitting there with the intent to actively critique minute aspects of your performance is so different,” Smith said. “… It was a very exhausting process but also one that energized me.”
As seniors, the Cherry Street Combo trip was also a parting experience for Martini and Smith, who have been involved with jazz at Knox for all four years and with the Combo for three years.
“To have something as like a capstone to our time here … I think it’ll be especially great in however many years to look back and be like ‘this is what I did my senior year of college,’” Lindsay said.
The Knox Choir’s tour was also described as an emotional experience, marking the approach of the end of the year and the graduation of the senior choir members. For Swift, it also meant parting with the music they had grown attached to through performance.
“It also makes the last concert really spectacular,” Swift said. “… That music in this moment is no longer just the music that you’re making, but it’s also the connections that you’ve formed with the other people.”