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.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 6

Sophie Marshall - 1“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fifth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

This week has probably been my most memorable week so far. With our time in Florence quickly coming to an end, we’ve been trying to pack as much into each day as physically possible. On Tuesday night we headed up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sunset (again). Last time we did this, hiking up all those stairs was a huge struggle that involved lots of breaks and some serious panting. But this time I made it all the way to the top without a single break and was only slightly out of breath once we reached the top. All this walking is clearly paying off – I don’t think I’ve ever been this fit in my entire life!

Ponte Vecchio

Super fit!

We (somewhat stupidly) decided that we wanted to come back the following morning, so on Wednesday we woke up at 4am(it was a struggle) to hike back up to watch the sunrise over the city. Despite the ungodly hour and the lack of sleep it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t think the world has ever been as quiet or as beautiful as it was at 5:56am that morning.sunrise
Before we knew it, it was the weekend again and we headed off on our respective adventures. On Saturday I headed to Venice with one of my housemates, and not surprisingly, it was incredible. The city is like a maze, with so many dead ends and bridges and tiny streets – if I didn’t have my GPS we probably wouldn’t have made it back to the train station in time. I smashed out a solid 10 videos with ease, and we even managed to fit in a gondola ride (which was gorgeous)!Gondola in Venice Despite the sweltering heat (we both got sunburnt even with the copious amounts of sunscreen we applied), it was such a fun day – I slept so well that night after all the walking.

Canal splits

My secret: always remember to stretch.

On Sunday I took the train to Verona to do some exploring (and to make up for the missed trip last week). I can only assume that there is going to be some sort of Egyptian exhibit in the arena in the near future, because there were huge props and sphynx statues EVERYWHERE. After having some fun with those I walked around the city, checking out the various sites. The House of Juliet was ridiculously packed, so I wasn’t able to film in the courtyard, but I did manage to quickly do one in front of a wall of love locks. I also got the stereotypical photo with her statue – apparently it’s good luck, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward to grope a statue in front of hundreds of people.
Juliet

When in Rome–er–Verona, I guess.

After a quick stop for lunch I took another train to the nearby Lake Garda. Desenzano was easy to reach by train (only 30 minutes!) and by 2pm I was walking along the shore of the lake and enjoying the spectacular views. The light breeze was wonderful after the ridiculous heat in Verona, and I was eager to go for a swim. I went for a quick walk along the jetty to do some filming (there were some great views), then set off to find a rock to claim as my own.

Jetty in Desenzano

On the Jetty in Desenzano

After a brief walk along the lake I found a perfect spot and spent a solid hour floating in the water and cooling down. I’m so so glad that I decided to do both places in one day – Lake Garda was beautiful and if I’m ever in Italy again I will definitely be back to explore the other towns.

5 weeks down, 83 down, 17 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 5

post 5.4“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fifth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

Throughout this whole adventure my main difficulty has been finding the confidence to actually bust out my moves in public. Now that I’m well into the second half of my trip, I only find it difficult about 10% of the time, which is a HUGE personal achievement for me. I can feel how much my self-confidence has grown, and although I still feel incredibly awkward most of the time, the videos are definitely getting so much easier to film. My new concern is that I’m not going to manage the full 100 locations. When I first started, I was pretty much just winging the entire thing – picking a place, chucking the music on at any random moment and hoping it’d turn out ok (which luckily for me, did work out quite well). But now that I’m getting closer to the end I think I actually need to sit down and plan out the rest of the video as a whole. I need the locations to be spread out throughout the video, not clumped together in one section, which means I’m going to have to plan which part of the dance I’m going to do before I actually start filming. So this week I spent a lot of my downtime making a rough plan in Excel, which will hopefully help me stay on track (it’s colour-coded and everything!).

Love Locks on the Jetty

Love Locks on the Jetty

This entire week has been ridiculously hot and sticky, so on Friday afternoon I took one of my housemates to Viareggio to check out the beach. When I was there last week it was slightly cloudy, so the mountains in the background weren’t very visible, but this time it was PERFECT! We set up on some rocks along the jetty and had a great view of the beach and the mountains.
porto antico

Porto Antico

On Saturday morning I set off for a day trip to Genoa, a port slightly north of Cinque Terre. It was so much bigger than I was expecting and I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do. I strolled through the city centre and browsed a few shops before stopping for lunch, then headed down to the Porto Antico (the old port). The harbour was beautiful, with its combination of massive cruise ships and smaller sailing boats contrasting nicely with the houses on the hill behind it. I spent a solid 3 hours just wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere, and at one point I managed to sit down just as a group of free runners started jumping and flipping off of the wall in front of me. In hindsight, I wish I’d gotten a video with them flipping in the background but I was too busy watching them to even think of it at the time!
Free Runners

Free Runners

On Sunday we were supposed to go on a trip to Verona and Lake Garda, but it was cancelled on Saturday afternoon due to low numbers (much to everyone’s disappointment). So instead we had a bit of a sleep in then went for a late breakfast at La Milkeria (they make great waffles!). We took the long way back to the apartment and browsed some of the local markets as we went. We decided to get some cheese and wine and have a picnic in the park, so after popping to the shop we headed over to the park down the road.

Picnic

Picnic

Apart from the large swarm of pigeons we attracted, it was a great afternoon. As disappointed as we were in the cancellation of our trip, it was a nice, relaxing day.

4 weeks in, 59 down, 41 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 4

post 4.5 “Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fourth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

I am pleased to announce that after 3 solid weeks of frustration, I am now capable of unlocking our apartment door all by myself! My housemates are incredibly proud of me – they were getting pretty sick of having to let me in/provide assistance every time I felt like going out. The novelty of being chief door opener whenever we all go out together will probably wear off soon, but for now I’m finding much joy in showing off my newfound door opening skills.

in the gardens 1

VICTORY!

This week marks the halfway point of my time here in Italy. After classes on Tuesday we went and explored the beautiful Boboli Gardens and the Belvedere Fort.

The view from the gardens

The view from the gardens

I may or may not have gotten in a little bit of trouble for dancing at the fort (ok I did get in trouble). I say trouble, but the guard basically just laughed at me a lot for the first 2 videos, then told me I had to stop after I’d attracted a small crowd, so no major drama.

Disturbing the Peace in the gardens

Disturbing the Peace

On Thursday we all had our final exams for our respective classes (I totally nailed my Italian exam in case anyone was wondering), then everyone headed off for the amazing weekend trips they had planned.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

I was supposed to work on Friday, but at 10pm on Thursday night, my internship boss emailed me to inform me that the following day was a public holiday and that I didn’t need to come in again until Monday! Score! I’d somehow gained an unexpected long weekend! So with no time to plan anything more exciting, I headed to Viareggio on Friday (about an hour and a half west of Florence by train) to go to the beach.
 Viareggio 2
On Saturday morning I caught the 6am train to Cinque Terre, a series of five coastal towns on Italy’s west coast. If you ever get to visit anywhere in Italy, go to the Cinque Terre. I had the most incredible weekend hiking between the towns, swimming, sunbathing, dancing and relaxing.

Starting the weekend right #viareggio #italy #paabroad #paaitaly #beach #sun #summer #imsunburnt #swim

A video posted by Sophie (@lipbalmiscool) on

It’s beautiful. I stayed overnight at a hostel in Biassa, a 10 minute bus ride from the first Cinque Terre town, Riomaggiore.

 

Riomaggiore (cinque Terre)

Riomaggiore. Did I mention it’s beautiful?

This was perfect because it was 10x cheaper than actually staying in the Cinque Terre, but still close enough to be convenient. After hiking 3kms between the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza on Saturday, I fell asleep almost instantly.

Sunday involved much of the same – swimming, eating, relaxing and enjoying the incredible views. I visited the middle town of Corniglia, which involved climbing a thousand stairs (I may be exaggerating slightly, but there were A LOT of stairs) to get from the train station into the actual town. If you want to swim, you then have to climb down another thousand stairs on the opposite side of town to get to the marina (which I did with only a few mental complaints). And then the process is reversed to get back to the train. Your legs will be in fantastic shape by the end of it, I promise you – mine definitely are. The other 4 towns are much easier to get to and involve a lot less walking (thank goodness).

Me in Corniglia (cinque Terre)

Obviously, the stairs are worth it.

Of course, I smashed out as many videos as I could, managing to get around 10 over the 2 days. Such a beautiful place, I could’ve stayed there for so much longer. It was with great reluctance that I boarded my train back to Florence that night.
3 weeks in, 52 down, 48 to go. Bring it on.

Florence in the Dark: What it’s Like to Study Abroad While Blind

13735615_10208946357592077_5218429589830526083_o

Christina Ebersohl is a Music Performance major (viola) at Portland State University.  She just completed Performing Arts Abroad’s Summer Study Abroad semester in Italy.

I’m not exactly a discrete study abroad student in Italy. I mean, I don’t exactly have the olive skin of the Italian women (the Irish is strong in this one), I constantly have a giant red viola case strapped to my back, and, if that isn’t bad enough, I don’t eat meat.

Oh, and I’m blind.

But honestly, the Italians are far more upset about the not-eating-meat thing.

“Sono cieca.”
I spoke a decent amount of Italian before arriving in Florence, which I credit a huge amount of my success to. But when you come to a new country, especially when you come with a disability, it is indescribably helpful to have a few pocket phrases already in your repertoire. My winning gem is: “mi dispiace, ma sono cieca”, or “I’m sorry, but I’m blind”. It’s not that they ignored my glaringly obvious white cane, or missed the fact that I had to press my face against the glass case to see if that was a croissant or mortadella (always a crowd pleaser in a touristy café, let me tell you). But Italian customer service is far different from American service: If you don’t ask for help, often times, you won’t be offered any. They aren’t being rude. They just believe in giving customers space and time to decide what they want or need.

“How do you get around?”
I joke that I get around Florence better than my sighted classmates, and truthfully, I do to some degree (she said with a HUGE helping of humbleness). Honestly, Florence is a confusing city to get used to no matter what. Streets like to zig zag, veer off into alleyways, and randomly develop new street names without warning. But unlike my classmates, I don’t squint at buildings trying to make out the impossible street signs, or glare at the map on my phone with disgust. I look up directions before leaving the house, and use meters and landmarks to guide me. If my directions tell me to walk 200 meters down a road, then turn right, I judge a pretty accurate distance, and when I reach my corner, I find something to distinguish it—a smell, a noise, a color, etc.

IMG_20160709_123105608 copyOn my first walk to the sQuola building (where we have Italian class), I had to take a left on Via dei Giori. At that corner, every morning, was a cart. And every morning, a man would be filling that cart with books to sell while singing American pop songs in the most wildly out of tune Italian imaginable. But he was always my landmark. And because of him, I was twenty minutes early to my first Italian class, while others were late because they couldn’t find the street (But don’t worry—I, too, have gotten plenty lost in this city!).

“But are they nice to you?”
The people of Florence have been extremely thoughtful and generous towards me. My teachers have gone out of their way to make sure I feel included and comfortable in my classes, and the faculty of the university have made the field learning excursions as accessible as possible—going so far as leading me, arm in arm, through the Parma cheese factory and describing what they are seeing. The residents have been just as kind-hearted: the owner of the Parma factory gifted me a block of his specialty cheese because he admired my spirit, and the bartenders at my regular café always greet me with kind conversation, even during a mid-morning rush. I haven’t experienced any sort of gruffness or impatience from the Italians.

But I don’t think that it is all good luck.

The people of Florence, specifically, are constantly bombarded by tourists of all nationalities, often times rude and demanding, and usually unwilling to attempt any real communication short of unintelligible grunts and finger pointing.

So when business owners encounter an (obvious) foreigner (like my delightfully pale self) who expresses an interest, desire and partial ability to communicate in polite Italian, it goes a long way. I can’t count the number of times I have listened to a long rant from Italians (in Italian, mind you) about how people (Americans specifically) need to be more open minded about learning a language when they come to another country. To them, it is a sign of respect—for the culture, the history, and really, the people whose lives you are affecting daily.

All in all, I have received more negative reactions from some American students I have met while abroad than I have from any Italian my whole time here.  But like everything else, you just have to take it in stride. Being successful in a study abroad program isn’t just about what the university or program can offer you, but the attitude and motivation you bring with you every day in your new country, and the ability to shake off the things that just don’t matter. Much like anywhere else, it truly helps to be kind and cheerful to others you meet—it always perpetuates good things in the long run.

Or, if all else fails, just smile…

received_493419024161620…because you know that fresh biscotti and a frothy cappuccino await you at your local café.

 

Five Friends You Make Studying Abroad

IRE - 1We at Performing Arts Abroad are incredibly proud of the Study Abroad programs we offer in Ireland, England, Italy, and New Zealand, as well as the participants who go on them. Students are applying now for Spring semester, and in honor of them and the $1,500 scholarships we’re offering (more info on that here), I wanted to take a look at the type of people you’re sure to run into while abroad.

For the purposes of this post, we’re sticking with people who are also international students like you. This way you can look in the mirror and ask, “Oh wow, which one am I?”

#1 The Homebody

Whether you’re in London or Barcelona, Limerick, Ireland or Dunedin, New Zealand, chances are you’re probably going to want to get out there and explore! There are new places to see, new streets to roam and new foods to eat, and most of your fellow international students will be right there with you.

Let’s hit the town!

Then there’s the Homebody. The Homebody rarely ventures out, and when they do, it’s not for long. You might ask why they came all this way to experience the thrills of a dorm room in a far off land, but who knows?

IMG_1470 copy 2

Yes but it’s an ITALIAN twin size bed.

Maybe they’re pacing themselves. Maybe they’re like this at home. Maybe it’s their first time traveling on their own and it’s all a little overwhelming. Whatever the case, don’t write off the Homebody. They make hanging out at home more fun, and once they’re more comfortable being in this exciting new place, who knows, they may even evolve into…

#2 The FOMO

FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out, and you couldn’t keep this person home if you tried.

giphy copy

The FOMO only has X number of minutes in this amazing country, and by golly they are not going to waste a single one of them! Going hiking this weekend? The FOMO is there. Seeing a play tonight? The FOMO is there. Visiting the market, having a party, or taking a tour of the most haunted basements in London? You can always count on the FOMO.

Check...check, check, checkcheckcheckcheck.

Check…check, check, checkcheckcheckcheckcheckcheck

Remember though, it’s not a good idea to try to keep up with the FOMO the whole time. You can drive yourself into the ground having so much fun, and if you burn out early you can unwittingly turn into a Homebody. Whoa, we came full circle there, didn’t we?

#3 The Insta-Local

11376090_386843654841027_152722640_n copy

Nobody wants to look like a tourist (especially when we are one) but the fact is, no matter how hard we try, we’re going to stick out in a new place.

Sometimes it's best just to lean into it.

Sometimes it’s best just to lean into it.

Whether it’s because of a language barrier or our unfamiliarity with the local transit system, it takes time to get your bearings and feel comfortable in a foreign city.

That is, unless you are the Insta-Local. The Insta-Local immediately blends in seamlessly, either through instinct or a concerted effort. Within hours they can navigate the local transit system blindfolded. Within days they’ve got the local sports team’s jersey, know all the cheers, and can tell you everything about league standings. Within two weeks they’ve developed an accent that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

Wha--? How? I didn't even know there was a beach here!

Wha–? How–? I didn’t even know there was a beach here!

The best part about being friends with the Insta-Local is that they’ll know the coolest hotspots in town that only the locals know about. We don’t know how they know, but they do. It’s like a 6th sense.

Like the pub where you have to bring your own instrument.

Like the pub where you have to bring your own instrument.

The polar-opposite of the Insta-Local is the “Everything is Better Back Home” friend. We were going to give this person their own number, but they’re super annoying. Don’t be the EIBBH friend.

"I like the pizza back home better" "I swear I will stab you with this pizza cutter."

“I like the pizza back home better than here in Italy.”
“I swear I will stab you with this pizza cutter.”

#4 The Party Animal

4th7 copyWe all go abroad for different reasons. For some it’s the adventure, for some it’s curiosity, and for some it’s a chance to get away from home. For the Party Animal, it’s the lower legal drinking age.

There’s no doubt about it, there are exciting clubs all over the world and the Party Animal will find them.  You won’t see them much, and the “study” part of study abroad may or may not happen.  (These are rarely the PAA participants.  We’ve found that performing artists have a drive and intensity about them that precludes debauchery.  Mostly.  Obviously we’re very proud.)

#5 The Best Friend

ITA - 1

This is an exciting time in your life, and you’re doing something that will stay with you forever. I love hearing my mom’s stories from her semester in Spain in the 60’s. (For some reason their housing was in a convent. The old Spanish nuns and the precocious American college girls weren’t a great mix. But I digress.)

You’re on an adventure, and chances are you’ll find that one buddy to be adventurous with.   You’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life, and be grateful they have just the right amount of goofiness in them to match yours.

They’ll give you the courage to do things you might be to scared to try otherwise, and won’t make you feel guilty on those weekends you’re just tired and want to stay home. Keep an eye out for the Best Friend.Eymundson 7 copy

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 3

Post 2a“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the third in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

My favourite thing about doing these videos is watching them back and seeing people’s reactions as they notice me randomly dancing in the middle of a crowd. Some people don’t even notice, but others do a full on double take as they walk past. I still can’t work out if it’s easier or harder to film myself while my housemates are standing near me – I feel less on display having friendly faces around, but they also spend the entire time laughing shamelessly at me. The only upside is that their laughing makes me laugh as well, so I actually look happy in those videos, rather than just incredibly awkward. It is definitely getting easier though, but I think that’s more to do with the circumstances in which I’m filming rather than a growth in my own level of self-confidence. My GoPro decided this week that it no longer wants to connect to my phone, so I can’t preview what I’m getting in the shot, meaning that I have less things to procrastinate with now. It’s more of a ‘set up the tripod, aim it in the general direction of the cool thing I want to be in the shot, then hope for the best’, which kind of forces me to just get on with it.

image6

Sure they look friendly, but they’re ruthless.

This week has been pretty full on for everyone, with classes now being in full swing, but we still managed to get out and explore. On Monday night we hiked up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sunset (so many stairs!). The view of Florence was breathtakingly beautiful – I will definitely be going up there again. After classes on Thursday we climbed the bell tower of the Duomo (once again, so may stairs! I’m sorry legs!!!), and saw yet another spectacular view of the city. I even managed to sneak in a video!

13388655_1100098333386969_144071400_n copyAfter work on Friday we took the hour long train ride to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower – prepare yourselves for stereotypical tourist photos. It was pretty amazing watching hundreds of random people all doing the exact same pose at the exact same time – imagine how weird it would be seeing that in your local city, yet here the locals are so used to it they hardly bat an eyelid!

See the Tower, Be the Tower

See the Tower, Be the Tower

On Saturday I decided to take a day trip by myself to the nearby town of Lucca. It’s pretty small and there’s not a great deal to do, but after such a busy week it was a nice relaxing change. After a few hours of exploring I set up my camera in front of the Basilica di San Frediano. I got up and performed half a count of moves, only to be video-bombed by some street performers who set up right next to me. Too lazy to move the camera or wait for them to move, I just went with it, laughing to myself at how badly my dancing went with their music.

Sunday was the most relaxing day of the week – we had a Chianti wine tour booked for 2pm so got to sleep in, go for a hike up the mountain and take the morning at our own pace. Typically, at 1:55pm it started bucketing down with rain, meaning that we were rather wet by the time we got on the bus. Our first stop was a small winery in the town of Monteriggioni (about an hour drive from Florence). Once again, we got absolutely soaked walking up the hill, but they had an AMAZING dessert wine which made up for it. Next stop was a winery in San Gimignano for the sit down tasting. Nine glasses of wine later and everyone was feeling pretty content (maybe even a little more than content to be honest). It was a great way to finish the week.

Wine Tour.

Wine Tour.

Two weeks in, 26 down, 74 to go. Bring it on.

Crushing it:

Crushing it.

Crushing it.