Manistee residents take part in 2018 Blue Lake International band tour

MANISTEE — Many times one simple action can define the importance of an event better than anything else.

Besides making great music the Blue Lake International Band got the opportunity to see some beautiful country during their 2018 European Tour. Manistee residents Mike and Cindy Eagan served as co-directors and the band included local student Titus Lind.

Besides making great music the Blue Lake International Band got the opportunity to see some beautiful country during their 2018 European Tour. Manistee residents Mike and Cindy Eagan served as co-directors and the band included local student Titus Lind.

This year when Mike and Cindy Eagan served as co-directors of the 2018 Blue Lake International Music Academy’s 73-piece band that included Manistee High School sophomore Titus Lind, there was a simple action that took place in the Netherlands that summarized the importance of these trips.

“Our very first stop was sponsored by a community band and they played a concert and then we did before we played two pieces together,” said Mike. “It was people of all different ages playing in that group so it was a complete blend, young and old making music, which was neat to see.”

However, Cindy said she caught sight of something special in those two combined numbers that really showed how music can bring people together from all over the world.

“One of our kids, Kaylee, was standing next to a woman who could have been the age of her mother,” said Cindy. “They were playing together on a mallet instrument a challenging number. They did it perfectly and at the end they were so excited that they turned and high fived each other. To me that is the whole point of this program and sums it up in a nutshell about what music can do in bringing people together.”

Pic 2Both of the Eagans are retired band directors. Mike is the former band director at Benzie Central Schools and Cindy at the Manistee Area Public Schools. Although they no longer teach music in the school systems, their love of it is just as strong today as in the past.

This summer was the fourth time the Eagans have taken on the task of heading up the Blue Lake International Band tour to Europe and each one has shown them how music is the universal language around the world. Between the large crowds that came to watch their performances right on down to the concerts where they were joined by local musicians, the universal love of music was always present.

However, unlike previous years the Eagans made the trip, the 2018 tour was a little bit more of a commitment on on their part.

“This year was a little longer as it was four weeks overseas and one week in the United States so five weeks total,” said Cindy. “We started at Blue Lake on June 8 and we ended in Detroit on July 14. Besides the 73 kids there were the two of us and three counselors on the tour.”

Normally, Blue Lake sends two smaller bands, but this year they combined into one larger band and did some different things on the tour. Next year they plan to go back to the two-band set-up.

The tour began with performances in the Netherlands and then moved on to Germany.

“Then we spent a week and half in France at two different locations,” said Mike. “Then it was back to Germany for three days and then to another location in the

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Netherlands.”

Mike said the biggest positive aspect about these trips about these trips is the fellowship they spread.

“Something cool that happened — and this program is the only place I can imagine this taking place — was when we came back to the Netherlands four weeks after that very first concert,” said Mike.  “There were four or five cars full of people who drove to that other location from the first town to see our last concert.”

Eagan said the message of the relationships that had developed during that first trip was loud and clear.

“That is the kind of friendship that comes from these trips,” said Mike “When you take into consideration that we had met these people for only the first time in our lives at that earlier concert and for them to drive that distance to say goodbye was pretty special. It wasn’t so much the music and concert, as it was they wanted to see us.”

Cindy said part of that comes from the fact that the band members stay with families during the trip.

It allows the development of strong bonds between the families and their guests.

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“It’s all a part of their culture, you live with them and become part of the family,” said Cindy.

The Eagans said despite being on this trip three other times they still enjoy it very much.

“It is more fun every time we go as we keep making friendships on these trips,” said Cindy. “One of the communities we went to this year was where Mike and I had been before. When you pull in with the bus it is such a good feeling to see all these faces of people you know. What is even better is they greet you like a long lost friend.”

For Lind, who plays  percussion in the band, it was an opportunity to continue a family tradition. Both of his older brothers have made this trip with Blue Lake International in the past.

“I thought it was everything they had told me and more,” said Lind. “I liked meeting the people, and the parties after the concerts with the community were great. All the kids would all get in a circle and start dancing to music and they even held some barbecues.”

What was unique for Lind this year was he was the only student from Manistee. In the past there usually is several local musicians who make the trip.

“I knew two people in the band from previous years at Blue Lake coming in,” he said. “But I made a lot of new fiends and hope to keep in touch with them.”

During the trip he stayed with families in their homes, and it was a great cultural experience.

“Two of them had kids my age,” said Lind. “Three other ones had younger children, but they all spoke English.”

Lind said that staying with the families in their homes gave him the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine, and he enjoyed it very much.

“In France and Netherlands they made their pizza different with cream sauce instead of tomato sauce with bacon and onions, but it was really good,” he said. “In Germany the schnitzel was really good as well.”

The week long stop in France included a joint performance with 33 French students and their conductor.

“It was similar to a Blue Lake experience right down to that they all wore Blue Lake uniforms,” said  Cindy. “At the end of that week experience we gave a concert for the community. That is actually sponsored by the Lions Club of that town who worked together with Blue Lake to sponsor that performance. They call it ‘Blue Lake in France’ and it has been going on for 18 years.”

Cindy said what is unique about that experience is the French kids and the American ones are mixed up together in how they sit as they perform. It is designed to get them to intermingle.

“We make sure they are sitting French, American, French and so on,” said Cindy.

Lind said by being in percussion everyone moved around a lot during the performance so it wasn’t always broken up the same as some of the other instruments. However, during the week the percussion students still bonded.

“I still got to know four or five French kids and it was fun,” said Lind.

The percussion group also shared a French counselor who was very spirited. Lind added with a laugh that she was kind of a character.

“She was really enthusiastic when we practiced and quite loud,” he laughed.  “When we left that stop all the French kids started running after the bus and waving, but she zoomed right past them and went on for two more blocks after the kids. But she was really nice.”

The Eagans said in 2019 they plan to work their regular session at Blue Lake and then maybe go back on the international tour some time in the future. Lind said he hopes to eventually go back again some day and the Eagans hope he will join them in the future as a counselor.

“Blue Lake International celebrates its 50th anniversary next summer, and they continue to celebrate that legacy,” said Cindy. “It is a great program that mixes that human interaction  between people from different countries with the music and the arts.”

It is the opportunity for the Blue Lake instructors, counselors and students to be ambassadors with their musical instruments. But more importantly it gives them the chance to share with the world the universal language of music, and that is what the program is all about.

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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