Most students cannot wait to relax during winter break and to enjoy the time off from classes and assignments—but one Central College music combo took the opportunity to escape the Iowa winter and toured in Mexico during January.
The Vocal/Instrumental Jazz and Pop Combo, popularly known as Combos, left for the sunny skies of Cancun and Merida where they learned to appreciate the local culture. Under the direction of associate professor of music Gabriel Espinosa, students were able to expand their love of music, try different foods, meet new people and explore ruins and beaches.
While in Merida, the Combos performed for community members at a night concert at Marista University, at the city’s cultural center, the Olimpo Music Hall, as part of an anniversary celebration of the founding of Merida and informally at a local jazz club. Sophomore Zane Peters couldn’t get enough of the Mexican atmosphere.
“The trip to Merida was so great and educational,” he says. “It gave the members of the group a chance to have fun together and bond, as well as learn about a new and exciting culture.”
One of those new cultural experiences: visiting ancient ruins. Sophomore Melanie Breza was awed by the chance to see former Mayan cities. “The monuments that we visited were incredible to see and learn about. I enjoyed visiting Chichén Itzá and Uxmal, and learning so much about the history of both sites,” she says.
This isn’t the first time that Central students toured Mexico—in 2011, Espinosa took 50 students to Merida, along with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. And the trip won’t be the last. It was such a hit with students and locals, Espinosa plans to take another group next year. One student hoping to be on that trip is junior Chris Askren. As a current member of Combos, he saw the way the group’s music impacted not only the ensemble, but those around them.
“Our trip was beneficial because it gave us a rare opportunity to affect people outside of the country—we had the chance to see the impact music can have on people who don’t even speak the same language,” he says. “It is a powerful experience, and the most important thing for us to do on our trip was to have a positive impact on Merida with our music.”