Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sounds Like Home!

The community where I grew up was pretty diverse (though certainly no New York City!) and my favorite part about my school were Multicultural Days. A few times a year, everyone was invited to showcase something about their family's culture. Kids brought in tiramisu that their nonna made, others taught us how to count in Hebrew. I learned how to dance the Cumbia from a Colombian classmate, touched the hanbok my friend Jae-Yoon wore for traditional Korean celebrations and listened to a Nigerian pop song for the first time with my classmate Ifeanyi.

As for me? I always showed up empty-handed, challenged to identify something interesting about my personal cultural heritage. My mom told me that pretty much all my blood was English, but that was practically irrelevant since my family had lived on American soil for generations. The foods we ate didn't have delicious spices or exotic ingredients--just lots of mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I remember my teacher telling us we could maybe teach our classmates a word in a new language at Multicultural Day. I thought to myself, welp, they speak English in England...

But, I came to realize that my Long Island town encompassed its own rich culture. I grew up in the land of rocky beaches, lobster boils and the best malls in the country! The land of Billy Joel and Mariah Carey. I can point out both the mansion that inspired The Great Gatsby and the real-life Amityville Horror house. It was the place where I learned to make kugel with my best friend's mom in the Spring and where I went to local American Indian celebrations in the Fall.

Every place and person is a crossroads worth celebrating. It's certainly true here at the New Vic, where we welcome diverse artists from around the world all season long. It's also true for our latest show, Cambuyón. The show was inspired by the numerous languages and art forms that can be found in the trading ports of the Canary Islands--from Irish step dancing, to African drumming, to Spanish classical guitar. Cambuyón represents an exuberant meeting place of cultures that is entirely unique to these artists and their home.

So, what's a sound, a step, a rhythm that reminds YOU of home? I asked our staff members this question and received back a rich collection of responses that speak to the ties that our art has with the cultures we come from. Here are a few of those responses; plus, we want to hear yours--tweet us your own responses or leave them in the comments!

"I think of home when I hear 'Suavamente.' We did not listen to a lot of Spanish music except for that song, and every holiday my grandpa would always get us on our feet to dance. I also think of home when I think of 'The Twist.' My suburban neighborhood had father-daughter dances annually and that was my dad's personal favorite moment to show off!" - Janette Martinez, Education Assistant

"I grew up in Knowlton, NJ, a very small town in Warren County NJ. When I got my drivers license I would drive around the country roads blasting Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing,' dreaming of the day that I could move out of my town to a big city! Now whenever I hear the song I think about the wonderful times I had living in the country. Although I am thrilled to be living in NYC, I fondly remember my time as a small town girl." - Renata Melillo, Education Programs Manager

"My family is Italian-American, so anytime I hear Neapolitan music, I think of home!" - Christina Macchiarola, Marketing & Communications Manager

"At my Bar Mitzvah celebration, the band played, 'If You're Gonna Play in Texas.' And, right on cue, the (very not shy!) Dallas contingent of my family took control of the dance floor and paraded around, belting out the lyrics. So, years later, when I attended the Bar Mitzvah of my cousin in Dallas--and the DJ played 'New York, New York'--I grabbed the mic and returned the favor!" - Rick Brody, Human Resources Associate

"You know, at first I was thinking I didn't have much culture surrounding me growing up, then I realized that Southern California in Orange County was a total beach culture. My older brother was an avid surfer, my Dad had been a lifeguard, and the beach was where I spent most of my free time. I know whenever I hear the Beach Boys song 'Surfer Girl' it takes me right back to all those long days spent soaking up the sun, swimming in the waves, and hanging out at the bonfire parties at night!" - Rhesa Richards, Executive Assistant

"I grew up in Colorado Springs and we used to listen to John Denver songs all the time when I was kid, but I never really appreciated them until I moved away. My first winter break home during college, my mom picked me up at the Denver airport she had 'Rocky Mountain High' queued up and playing as we drove away from the airport, with a view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains out the car window. I started crying immediately. Twelve years later, we still play 'Rocky Mountain High' on the drive from the Denver airport, and I cry every time. Every once in a while, if New York City is getting me down (which doesn't happen too often) I'll turn on the song and pretend I'm camping in Woodland Park or sitting in a ski lodge in Steamboat Springs--it always manages to slow me down and remind me of home." - Erica Reinsch, Education Programs Manager

"Although my parents have been crazy musical theater nerds all my life, the sound that most reminds me of home is talk radio, specifically "All Things Considered" on NPR. My mom would listen to that pretty much exclusively whenever we were in the car, as I was growing up. In fact, my parents would always wake up to some NPR program on their clock radio (and I think still do). It's the soundtrack of my life. I've never been an NPR listener personally... but that's home." - Robert Cohn, Director of IT

"The Hey Marseilles song, 'To Travels and Trunks' throws one to my home town, Tallahassee. It makes me feel like I'm driving through the panhandle down to the beach in my parents' Honda again." - Laura Been, Associate Production Manager

"Country music! I love pop country specifically, it always reminds me of driving around the hills and back roads of Virginia with my friends in high school and college." - Erika Atkins, Education Department Coordinator

"'Ame Ame, Fure Fure' is a well-known Japanese children's song that my mom used to sing to me and my sister, and much later to our children. It's as popular as 'Rain, Rain, Go Away' is here. In the refrain is the sound of the rain, 'pichi, pichi, chappu, chappu.' I love how often onomatopoeia is used in Japanese, and while my knowledge of the language is very slight, many of these 'word sounds' have worked their way into my family's unique mix of cultures." - Lilaia Kairis, Director of Digital Services

"My family is from Ecuador and music and dance are not only for young people there. ​My favorite music is folk music of all kinds, and my interest ​began at family parties where folk music was sung to, cried to, and danced to by everyone. There ​is ​one dance where ​a man saunters​ around ​a woman and crouch​es​ down like a bull while the woman hold​s a handkerchief ​like ​a matador's cape​. The woman waves the handkerchief, opened fully,​ along her side as she dances and tease​s the man ​like a matador would​ tease a bull​.Then the man take​s​ the handkerchief​, wrap​s​ it around ​her hips and the couple dances​ with the handkerchief bonding them together. It's a lovely dance that is still done today. Very Ecuadorian." - Alice Arias, Controller