All City Orchestra Italy Tour 2015

by Don Liuzzi

June 29 – Flight Home from Rome
It is a very early start and the buses to the airport are QUIET….As we unload near the United departure area, I spring into leader action, to ready us for the line up /passport check/baggage check in… all goes fairly slowly yet smoothly until a bomb threat halts the process with another 40 of us yet to check in! We wait for the “threat” to pass… It’s a false alarm, and we are promised no one will miss the plane!

While waiting for the plane to board, we meet up with an alum of All City Orchestra! Lou Lanza, a retired Philadelphia Orchestra violinist, has been on a vacation to Sicily, and he is thrilled to hear of our All City tour!

Once on the plane… I relax. I am EXHAUSTED, but incredibly happy for the students, happy for the alumni who led by example so well, happy for the chaperones who worked their tails off to keep order and safety, happy for the partners and sponsors who gave their important contributions to the launch and success of the tour, so grateful to the Italian Consulate General in Philadelphia for supporting all our efforts, and happy and infinitely grateful to the dear donors who gave so much and so willingly to this great cause of expanding the vision for these students from Philadelphia… the town that became my home back in 1976 when I was becoming a senior in high school.

The musical tour of another country, an experience I never had as a high school student, was a joy to behold and partake in 38 years later. If every participant had at least one “aha” moment of wonder — musically, culturally, emotionally, spiritually… It was all so worth it.

We land on time, smoothly enough in Newark. Luggage is gathered, and we congregate outside of the customs exit area to look for our buses. We say goodbye to a few… chaperone Angela is off on a family journey for a time. Bassoonist Ed Maminski is picked up there in Newark by his family. Gabriella Ruiz’s mom drives the Enterprise van back to Philly with 8 students and alums in tow… Our buses glide down the New Jersey Turnpike, and our arrival is right on time with the tour book – 5:30PM at the Kimmel Center. We are met by lots of happy and relieved parents, and with balloons held by cheering school district flute and woodwind coach, Diane Clark. Thank you, Diane, that was special!

My dad and sister and my wife greet me (Gretchen had taken a flight that arrived in Philly a bit earlier). The Milan group would make it back on June 30th the next day, after some lost luggage… (Drats! That is the only true hitch on the trip… )

I say goodbye to Joe Conyers, who like me, took time off from the Philadelphia Orchestra to make this trip. Starting now, this All City Orchestra is his… We can’t wait to see the video that Vanessa will create from this incredible tour later this summer!