Cultural Exchange Program Unites Two Countries Through Music

Jeremiah Rittel & Dr. Crabb

Jeremiah Rittel & Dr. Crabb


The Orchestra from the Conservatorio with Jeremiah Rittel and Dr. Crabb

Susan Worstell

Earlier this summer, Dr. Paul Crabb, Director of Choral Activities for the MU School of Music, traveled to the Conservatorio di Musica Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino, Italy for a unique and special project.  In 2012, the two schools developed an exchange program for student and faculty to travel and collaborate at each institution.  They brought several students to Missouri last year and over the years our violin faculty, Dr. Crabb, and our Wind Ensemble and University Singers Choral Ensemble has traveled to the Conservatorio. 

Roberto Maggio, who runs the international program in Italy, suggested Dr. Crabb come conduct the string orchestra this year. Dr. Crabb agreed and wanted to feature MU alumni Jeremiah Rittel (’16-MM-Clarinet Performance and Jazz Performance and Pedagogy) as the clarinetist. They chose Five Bagatelles by Gerald Finzi (arr. Ashmore) and Jeremiah was very honored to be featured.  Jeremiah is currently attending the institution on a two year program and this opportunity afforded him a very valuable education experience.  He stated, “Dr. Crabb’s visit had a significant impact for me both musically and culturally.  The strength and clarity of his musical intentions had an energizing effect with the orchestra and allowed me, as a soloist, the freedom to express myself.  Culturally, I had become accustomed to the southern Italian approach to rehearsal technique and- in general- usage of time; and from his time and work here, the differences- compared to the American approach I have lived with for my whole life, were so evident that I learned an extraordinary lesson that has enriched my life deeply.  I couldn’t be more grateful for his visit and the paramount role he played in orchestrating the relationship between The University of Missouri-Columbia and Avellino Conservatory.” 

The ensemble and Jeremiah rehearsed the piece prior to Crabb’s arrival and then spent 5 days working with him to perfect the performance.  This being his fourth time working with the ensemble, Dr. Crabb is very pleased with the results of the collaboration and was thrilled to feature an MU alumn in this performance.  Says Crabb, “I truly believe in the importance of exposing students to as much of the world as possible.  Traveling to different countries to work with excellent musicians and to study your art in a different culture is invaluable.  I get tremendous pleasure seeing Jeremiah immersed in the culture and connecting with his colleagues in Italy.  He’s able to not only take classes and lessons but travel with various ensembles to other parts of Italy to perform, all the while getting to know other students, visit with them, make music with them, and gain a better understanding of music and culture.  He seems to take every opportunity he can to learn and to make the most of this opportunity.”

Roberto Maggio too was very satisfied with the collaboration.  Says Maggio, “I am responsible for the international relations of the Avellino Music Conservatory. My friend, Paul [Crabb], and I have worked together artistically for years…We each have our own musical concepts but we are open to new influences - with different languages but with a common idea of making music... In Avellino our agreement is now considered a strength of our institute that makes our conservatory more attractive because of the possibility that it could open our students to a culturally deeper, interesting experience… My personal desire is to be able to bring our string orchestra to America to play together with American students, and I hope that it can happen in the near future… Today more than ever young people need to touch the outside world with their hands, otherwise everything remains virtual and does not become real.”

Students at the Conservatorio were also delighted with the experience.  They reiterated the excitement of joining cultures as mentioned earlier.  Augusta Mistico, who plays viola with the orchestra commented, “Personally, it has been a great experience! I have immediately had a good feeling with Dr. Crabb. The most important thing is that even if we don't speak the same language we understood each other and Dr. Crabb's gesture . He made us know that music is the same for everyone, everywhere. Dr. Crabb is very capable and he is able to give people serenity, joy playing his music and conducting our orchestra.” Luisa Paradiso, violin, adds, “Where I live it doesn’t happen very often to have the opportunity to get in touch with foreign professionals of music context. I believe a lot in comparison and exchange as principal source of cultural enrichment, especially during the course of studies. Dr. Crabb’s visit has been surely a very positive experience. What touched me more playing with him has been his humility, simplicity and his kindness to us students. It has been an example of how to get respectability through a great personal sensibility. His smile has managed to get the best out of us!” Luisa Paradiso - violin

Bringing the perspective of another language and another culture are invaluable teaching tools.  The past five years have proven to be an incredible experience for faculty and for students. Both institutions are pleased with the collaboration and look forward to many more years of making music together.