Worst thing about me was fixed in Ecuador, OLEY!

Hello, there! Yes yes yes, I made it all the way from a small old city Bethlehem, Palestine to Ecuador. Let me tell you first a little about myself. My name is Aleen Masoud, a 22-year-old Masters student in Arts, Business and Creativity at Newcastle University. I started playing the violin at the age of 10 at Edward Said National Conservatory for Music and at the age of 18, outside of my bathroom’s door, I started singing too. You can say I’m a traveler too, but never thought I’d travel to South America in my life. So, how did I end up there?

I decided that I wanted to do something special before the stress that I knew it’s coming in my life. So, I started googling; fun things to do before being a student, again. And guess what I got? NOTHING useful! So, after spending time thinking, I knew what I needed was a new cultural experience plus doing something fruitful to the society; Yup, that’s called volunteering. Back to googling, I read about Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) and that was exactly what I needed. I did a music internship for 4 weeks and not only that, I made friends, became part of a family, saw beauty itself and gained weight, Duh!

I was excited but more nervous. Especially that my mom was stressing me out more, thinking that I might get kidnapped (After watching a movie called Snatched), ill or worst-case scenario die. I took the risk because that what life is about so, on 16th June 2017, I arrived at Quito. I must tell you that every single thing with PAA is very organized. After 2 days of sight-seeing, it was time to meet my host family and start the program, where I did it at SINAMUNE institute.

Now we are getting into the point, worst thing about me is knowing directions, which I’m horrible at! I travelled around the world from UK, touring around the States, Europe and around the Middle East too. But the problem, I always used to depend on others when traveling. I was only a follower and I would always say, ‘I don’t know, you do it, you organize guys, if you depend on me we’d get lost’. And voilà, it was only me, myself and I on this trip. And to be honest, I never thought I’d manage. Guess what? I never even got lost! I have to admit that this experience made me know more about me, my abilities and the person I want to become in the future. And made me absolutely ready for my next step at Newcastle and knowing even if I get lost I can manage, I am INDEPENDENT!

Quick advices:

  • Don’t pack that much, you won’t need it.
  • Make sure to break your money into $1,5,10.
  • Learn some Spanish, por favor!
  • Always have an open mind and heart.
  • Drink enough water.
  • 4 weeks is not enough, go for a minimum of 8 weeks.
  • Don’t think about love there, just enjoy your moments.
  • Must dance Salsa with a local. Back to the previous point, it’s not love, you’re just dancing.
  • Be careful, same in any country you travel to.
  • If you care about your shape, lose weight before going there.
  • Have fun!

Never Wake A Sleeping Sea Lion

Kayla Mernoff stops by to let us in on her summer music volunteering in the Galapagos!

             Within minutes of arriving on the island of San Cristobal for my music volunteering program in the Galápagos, I had already seen a beach, a few sea lions, and probably got a little bit sunburnt. It was an incredible feeling, to say the least. At that point in time I didn’t know how quickly four weeks could go by, and how much of an impact this trip would have on my life.

I arrived at my host family’s house and was immediately greeted by my host parents who were waiting to help me carry my suitcases to my room and introduce me to the rest of the family. I learned pretty quickly that they spoke almost no English, and while this seemed slightly intimidating at first, I was excited to improve my Spanish. After a trip to the office and a tour around the town, I discovered that I would spend my time teaching beginning English, and then working with a teacher at the local music school. While I was not expecting to teach English, I was up for the challenge and excited for what lay ahead of me.

The first few days of work took a little adjustment, but I soon got into a routine. At the time there was one other volunteer working with me at both the office and the music school, and she showed me how everything was laid out and how she went about teaching. The group of five year olds I was working with in the English class liked to run around, climb on top of me, and pretty much do anything except do their work. Though they seemed very against productivity at first, I soon learned how to have fun and teach them the alphabet at the same time. As I do speak Spanish, the language barrier was not a huge issue, but I did learn that it is sometime difficult to understand little kids, no matter what language they are speaking.

At the music school we helped with the violin and beginner music classes, along with teaching private piano lessons. The kids were very interested in learning, and even though they were only between the ages of 3 and 6, I could tell that some of them will grow into talented musicians if they continue with their teacher, Alva. Teaching 3 year olds about the musical staff and treble clef was no easy task, but by the end of my four weeks, they even knew a few notes on the piano. My piano student also improved each week, even though he was always tired and I am not the best pianist, and this was definitely an encouraging feat for me. I was also given a chance to play trumpet (my primary instrument) at a local church, thanks to Alva! By the end of my trip I had two other volunteers working with me at the school, and we are now fluent in what I like to call “Spanish for musicians.” I connected so well with Alva that I am now working on a project to send her students more instruments, as they do not have very many. I look forward to keeping in contact with her and the students, and hope that I can provide them with the instruments that they need to teach more kids the joy of music.

As amazing as the opportunities to volunteer on the island were, I cannot leave out the incredible people that I met and places that I visited. Going into this I was unaware of how many different countries were represented by the volunteer staff. While I met volunteers from the United States, the majority of my friends were from Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and even Australia! We met up most afternoons after work, and sometimes again after dinner. We took daily trips to nearby beaches, went snorkeling with sea turtles and sea lions, saw the Giant Tortoises, and even got to travel to two of the other islands to explore, swim, shop, and just spend time together. I’ve mentioned sea lions a few times now, so I should probably mention that they are EVERYWHERE. They lie on the benches, play in the sand, ad make a lot of noise. We were advised not to go near them, and I saw plenty of people try to pet them, unsuccessfully I might add. Beware of the Alpha Male! One of my favorite memories of this whole trip was taking pictures at sunset on one of the nearby beaches, Playa Mann. I was able to bring my trumpet, and take an incredible picture right next to the sea lions. That picture is surely the best representation of my trip.

            Overall, this was one incredible experience. The kids I taught all hugged me on my last day, and one of them even drew mea picture called “La Fiesta de Cumpleaños de Las Profes” (birthday party for the teachers). Between the kids, my host family, and all of the friends I made, I have people all over the world that I share these special memories with.

As much as learned on this trip about music, Spanish, and myself, I learned two major lessons that I will never forget: Glue and glitter do not mix with five year olds, and more importantly, never wake a sleeping sea lion.



Julia Perry Alum Spotlight Interview: RADA

We had a chance to catch up with PAA alum Julia Perry, and she offered us some insight about her experience on our RADA program!

1. What skills did you pick up that most helped you professionally?

The skills I picked up that helped me the most were most definitely those I developed when I was thrown into living and studying with a completely new group of people. Not only was it my first time living on my own, but it was my first time living in another country, and so immediately we all learned how to live and function as a little family. Additionally, I learned how to navigate and stay focused during a long school day! Although the classes are quite enjoyable, they are very long days, and so I learned how to stay energized and focused through long classroom days!

2. What is your fondest memory from RADA?

My fondest memory by far is the last day of classes. Doing our mini performance we weren’t focused on anything but doing our best and having fun, and without a doubt, I look back on that and smile because it was simply a wonderful day.

3. What impressed you the most about the program?

What impressed me most about the program was how knowledgeable the professors were on Shakespeare. Every question we had was answered intelligently and in a way that we could understand, making learning about Shakespeare not only easy, but truly fun.

4. What advice would you give to someone going on the program this summer?

Go with an open mind! Be ready to learn and work hard, but also have a lot of fun. My days were filled with text break downs and dance classes, and my nights were filled with delicious dinners!

PAA RADA Shakespeare Acting Intensive

Amy Abrigo did our RADA “Shakespeare at Large” Summer Acting Intensive last summer, 2016. We caught up with Amy as she was applying to MFA Directing programs, and here’s what she had to say:

1. What skills did you pick up that most helped you professionally?

Remembering to breathe! This is a skill that can be used in any profession or stressful situation, but it was really wonderful to be shown so many ways to get connected to our breath.

The professor who taught us voice (not singing) shared with us plenty of stretches, warm ups, and ways to get our voices connected to the text. We learned new ways to breathe and were also heavily reminded to keep breathing while onstage. There is so much that can really come alive onstage when you are fully connected to your breath.

2. What is your fondest memory from RADA? 

  1. One of my fondest memories from RADA was watching the other members of my class visibly grow in their skill-set as the course continued. We learned so much in a short amount of time, and it was beautiful to see those changes come alive when we were asked to redo our monologue at the end of the week that we originally did on the first day.
  2. There was a time when the entire class went out to a pub after class to get to know each other and have a good time. We were all talking about practicing lines and working hard and it was great to be in a space where everyone was there for the same purpose and really enjoyed what they were doing in the program.
  3. Every day, Tim would sit us down during rehearsal and just talk to us. Tell us about theatre, share stories of his past with us, and teach us these beautiful overarching lessons through one story. I really enjoyed when he shared his wisdom with us, and it reminded me of how although we live in different countries and focus on specific disciplines, all of my fellow students and professors are part of this larger lovely community of theatre artists who just love making art and that really excites me.

3. What impressed you the most about the program?

The level of training we received was nearly equivalent to master’s level in the United States, in my opinion, which was fantastic! All of the professors treated us as professional artists. We were given high expectations and expected to follow them and that was it. I loved that we were actually pushed to challenge ourselves and learned so much along the way.

4. What advice would you give to someone going on the program this summer?

Arrive earlier or stay later if you can so you can really explore London, the theatres, etc. If you can, save up or fundraise extra money so you can make a longer trip out of the program. You’re going to London, why not take a train to Scotland? Or stay a few more days in London just to explore?

I would also highly recommend getting most of your food from the grocery store instead of eating out or PRET-A-MANAGER, which can be much more expensive and not necessarily as healthy. There are so many grocery stores on almost every block in London, so it is easy to find a Sainsbury’s, where you can get a 3-5 pound meal deal, which means you pay about 3-5 pounds for a full lunch. This is a great option for RADA lunches, is much cheaper, and actually quite healthy as they use all natural ingredients and have healthier options in London compared to America.

I would also recommend carrying cash instead of using a card as there are transaction fees every time you use your card. Take money out in waves with your debit card if you need to, and then just use cash. It’s so much easier and doesn’t cost you more.

Try out a few of the local pubs! Alcohol actually tastes much better in London, is much cheaper, and there are so many more options! Also, the bartenders actually let you try something before you buy it, so try something new!

Theatre is much cheaper in London and every West End theatre has rush or lottery tickets, so try for those! They are the cheapest tickets and also the best (usually front row)! Don’t forget about the other off-West End theatres in London. I’d recommend the Almeida Theatre, but ask your professors! They know the area, they might even be working on a show, and they can let you know what shows are open and good to see! So bring extra money for tickets! Be sure to see any ‘Broadway’ shows you want to see as well because – you guessed it – they are actually cheaper in London.

Be sure to check out the local museums – I recommend the Victoria & Albert museum, but look up when you are walking around or taking the tube because you will see posters everywhere telling you what exhibits are currently out, etc.

Also, take the Tube! You have an Oystercard for a majority of the program, but there are some days that aren’t covered, and if you arrive early / stay late for the trip, you can order a visitor’s Oystercard online ahead of time for a lower cost. If you can get day passes instead of individual rates it’s great because you can take the Tube/buses as much as you want whenever you want and not have to worry. Use the Tube! Yes, you can walk everywhere, but you will get a lot more done if you use the Tube to explore all the areas of London. Don’t be afraid! You will make it, and you will feel so much better once you get a hang of the system – and then you will ask why every country doesn’t have this much accessibility.

The New Alternative Sound From Italy

Elizabeth Willis is a student at West Texas A&M University.  She has participated in multiple PAA programs, including the Music Industry Internship with Indie Rock Band in Rome, where she interned for Kutso.

Remember when we all use to wig out over some wicked good artists like Weezer, The White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Nirvana? I do and to be honest I still listen to them. These bands all had something in common at the peak of their popularity, they weren’t afraid to go against the status quo and sing about how they really felt. The goal was to give listeners something that was different and usually made a statement. For years this has been one of my favorite genres of music to explore and I’m here to introduce you to a new sound that you might enjoy with alternative releases being put on the back burner. Kutso, is an Italian Indie band that was founded in 2006 by front man Matteo Gabbianelli. Other members of the band include Donatello Giorgi on guitar and vocals, Luca Amendola on bass and vocals, and Simone Bravi on drums. The band released their first official album “Decadendo (su un materasso)”, Decaying on a dying mattress in 2013 at Circolo Degli in Rome. The hit single “Alè” remained in the top 10 of Indie Music Like for more than 4 weeks gaining mass popularity. Over the past two years, Kutso has scheduled more than 200 performances across Italy and has won numerous awards at multiple music festivals. In February 2015, they released their second album “Musica per persone sensibili” which included three hit songs “Elisa”, “Io Rosico”, and “Spray Nasale.”

Kutso has such a unique sound and even more of a unique persona. They are able to bring an audience to life with the combination of vocal range, excitement and much more. If you watch some of the band’s music videos, or even better, watch them live, you will see how energetic and explosive they are! I encourage all of my fellow alternative and indie rock lovers to check them out online and if you’re in the same city, live! Below I have listed a link to some of my personal favorites, I hope you enjoy.

On Running Away and Joining a Costa Rican Circus

emily-priceEmily Price is a senior studying Creative Writing with minors in Theatre and German at Arizona State University.  This summer she went on PAA’s Circus Arts (Theater) in Costa Rica program where she had the time of her life learning Spanish…and how to juggle.  She is currently a Performing Arts Abroad Ambassador at ASU.

I wanted to do something epic this summer. So, I told my parents I was going to run away and join the circus – in Costa Rica. They didn’t believe me.


A random sloth I found while out walking around the University of Costa Rica

But I actually did. I hopped on a plane (well, three planes, because that was cheapest) and went to San José to start the Circus Arts Program offered by Performing Arts Abroad. I had never been anywhere like it. Coming from the Arizona desert, I was thrilled to be surrounded by such lush tropical trees. I remember my first evening there – after eating a delicious meal with my host family, I went out on the balcony and watched a black cat crawl across the rusty roof of an adorable house across the street, while the sun set and the very air seemed to teem with life. Then I made sure to let my parents know that I was in Costa Rica. They have since forgiven me.

I had no knowledge of the Spanish language prior to my trip, other than what DuoLingo had taught me in the couple months before I left. So it was a good thing the first week of the program consisted of Spanish classes at the Costa Rican Language Academy, which were extremely helpful, as well as held in the prettiest school ever.


The courtyard at the Costa Rican Language Academy

After a week of classes in San José, I took a bus ride through a surreal landscape of mountains to the little city of San Isidro. How do I even describe San Isidro? Surrounded by foggy mountains on all sides, it is the most picturesque town with the friendliest people, bakeries on every corner, and butterflies wherever you look. I lived with another volunteer from the United States in the house of an adorable woman who gave us entirely too much food at every meal.


San Isidro del General, Costa Rica

I spent three weeks in San Isidro, training and volunteering with the circus group, Circo FantazzTico, which helps the local youth gain confidence and reach their full potential through juggling, aerial silks, trapeze, fire-dancing, and acrobatics. There were other volunteers from around the world who each contributed their own talents to the group. Every day groups of volunteers went to different places in the area to train. My favourite place to go was to a home for girls, where the young, smiling girls just wanted to hold my hand or show me their plate-spinning skills. They were such sweethearts – a bit difficult to keep focused, but sweethearts nonetheless.

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

One of the insanely talented young men in the circus

Eventually my Spanish was good enough to have actual conversations with the delightful people in the circus, provided they spoke slowly enough. I was learning how to juggle and how to climb silks as well, and I helped teach some theatre games and spot with acrobatics. I had never learned so much so quickly, nor had I ever had so much fun in my life. When we weren’t training, we volunteers had parties, went out dancing, watched fire-dancing shows, and one weekend we went to the nearby beach.

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

The magical little town of Buena Vista, one of the places we volunteered in

My experience with Circo FantazzTico and Performing Arts Abroad – and this is going to sound dramatic – changed the course of my life. I am now taking aerial classes twice a week, I can speak in another language, and I am much less introverted. I’m even considering returning there to volunteer for a year after I graduate, instead of going to Germany like I had originally planned. I just fell in love with it. In Costa Rica, I learned to just go with the flow. There was much confusion during my time there, with the language barrier and everything, but things always seemed to work out, and the people there have such positive attitudes. They greet you there with a kiss and a “pura vida.” I’ve never been so inspired anywhere else, and I’d recommend it for anyone else who has a love of travel, language, and the performing arts. The circus program in Costa Rica blended all of those passions of mine so perfectly, and I hope I get to return very soon.

An Invisible Impact: Music Volunteering and Social Change in Costa Rica

now - 1 copyMary Kate Mutze studies Music Education at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Queens College.  She dreams of becoming a high school music teacher in her home borough – the Bronx.  She volunteered with PAA’s Music Volunteering in Costa Rica program.  (And was very excited about bringing home as much coffee as she could.)

I spent an incredible four weeks this summer teaching music to children living in impoverished areas of Costa Rica. It was a transformative teaching experience for me, and reshaped the way I think about music education, social and economic inequality, and the world. I packed big dreams in my luggage: the idea of positive social change through music education, and the knowledge that music has the power to bring hope to children in hopeless situations. But my dreams were sometimes clouded by the challenge of language barriers, a lack of resources, and spotty student attendance records due to the rainy season.

MK Teaching 3 copySome days, I felt amazing.  When my students shrieked out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on violin, in spite of the hairless bows, my limited Spanish and the noisy construction site we were using for a school, I felt like a pedagogical superhero.

MK Teaching 8 copy

Magic can happen anywhere.

On other days, I struggled to see any musical progress, and I questioned whether I would even be in Costa Rica long enough to make a small impact on these students. MK Teaching 6 copy

When I returned to school this week for the last year of my music education program, a professor said something that hit home with me. “So much of what we do is invisible,” she said. Those words reminded me of a public school classroom in back in San Jose, Costa Rica and a group of girls with liras learning the song “Soy Tico” by rote. For two weeks, we sang and reviewed phrases over and over to perfect problems with syncopation and notes. Despite the mundane repetition, the girls remained cheerful and laughed with me as we sang parts of the song over and over.
MK Teaching 9We laughed at ourselves as we sang and danced and I taught them the
accented syncopations of the traditional Costa Rican folk song. Although seeing them practice during their lunch breaks in little duos or trios in the courtyard gave me a sense of accomplishment, I still questioned my impact. Realizing that an influx of music volunteers must be the norm in their lives, I doubted any of the girls would remember me. I consoled myself in knowing the girls were mine for a few short weeks this summer, and that our shared enthusiasm and love of rhythm and percussion had bonded us together, even if for just a short time.MK Teaching 2

As a music teacher, so much of what we do is invisible to the naked eye. We teach for the love of it – and because we know that music has the capacity to bring people of all backgrounds together. This summer, I experienced the joy of teaching and the small victories that resulted from my day-to-day interactions with these children. It was not until the final day that I realized the full impact of my volunteer experience. Two of the girls shyly handed me notes they had made for me – envelopes and all – and written in English. “Para Merry” (For Mary) they read. “I love you. Have a lot of yoga and takes coffee.” I cried when I read those notes.MK Teaching 10 copyMK Teaching 7 copy

I realized that I was hoping for a tangible sign that I made an impact in some way while I was there. Those notes were my “aha” moment. They brought home the impact these kids had on me. I will never forget the kids, and this experience. And those notes were packed alongside those big dreams that went back home with me in my luggage. They now have a special place on my desk and in my heart.MK Teaching 4 copy