Road Stories Blog

Last tour stop in Red Oak, Iowa

High school students learn how to use different drums.

By Eric Young Smith, tour manager

After another inspiring week in Charleston, Illinois, we faced our longest drive thus far on our tour. The GPS informed me that our drive from Charleston, Illinois to Red Oak, Iowa was a daunting 470 miles, or eight and a half hours on the road.

While I have traversed this distance in one day many times, I couldn’t help but think this would be a cross-country trek a few times over back home for my Israeli friends. They had already repeatedly expressed their awareness of a difference in scale: big house, big car, big food, big sky, big country.

Yamma Ensemble in Charleston, Illinois

Band plays for high school students on the floor of a gymnasium.

By Eric Young Smith, tour manager

Sunday morning came early, and we left the still-sleeping village of Saugatuck behind us to arrive that afternoon in Charleston, Illinois for a special event. Our next residency was to be hosted by Eastern Illinois University’s Doudna Fine Arts Center.

Saugatuck, Holland, and South Haven, Michigan

Yamma Ensemble on stage under blue lights.

By Eric Young Smith

After packing for a modest road trip, we left Wabash, Indiana. We had a full week of workshops and engagements, and knowing it was time to leave our new friends left us wanting more time in all of our past World Fest communities.

Our road trip began with talk of memories and experiences of the tour, and as the miles went by, so did the landscape. As we approached south Michigan toward the southeast corner of Lake Michigan, the topography changed from nurtured farm lands to rolling dunes of sand, and forests ablaze with color, shining in the afternoon sun.

Yamma Ensemble in Wabash/Hartford City, Indiana

A large group of people poses in the countryside.

By Eric Young Smith

I arrived with Yamma Ensemble in Wabash, Indiana to find our hosts, Andrea Zwiebel and Tod Minnich, welcoming us to a wonderful reception. These two work with Honeywell Center, an incredible facility capable of hosting levels of celebrity and production one would think to find only in a metropolis. But, this is a quaint, beautiful, Midwest town, and it shows in the warmth of their smiles and the enthusiasm expressed by all attendees of the reception.

Yamma Ensemble in Elyria, Ohio

Band performing on stage

By Eric Young Smith

Upon meeting the Ensemble in Cleveland, I was first taken by the engaging nature of their collective personality. Despite the notable unique character of each member, they as individuals seemed to complement each other in a quiet, confident way. They interacted with a level assumption and ease that only close friends know.

Remembering our week in Detroit Lakes

Ensemble sits outside at a picnic table with television crew nearby

By Shigeyo Henriquez

We arrived in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota at the most beautiful time of the year—fall colors at their best. The weather was perfect, warm, sunny, and in the 80’s the whole week. Is this really northern Minnesota? People in Wausau told us it would be much, much colder in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. Wust el Balad are not used to the cold weather, so they really loved this unusually warm fall.

A great week in Wisconsin

Performance in a high school auditorium

By Shigeyo Henriquez

On Sunday, September 18th we arrived in Wausau, Wisconsin. Shortly after we checked into the hotel, Barbara Klofstad, Education Director at Wausau Performing Arts Foundation, met us at the hotel lobby and escorted us to a reception at Rib Mountain Historic Chalet.

Wust el Balad in Detroit Lakes

Classroom with kids and ensemble in a workshop

By Amy Stoller Stearns

We are loving having Wust el Balad here! What great, great guys! I know this update will be full of exclamation points because it’s all so good!!

Wust el Balad's First Week in the Midwest

Wust el Balad on stage

By Shigeyo Henriquez

September 13th. Ken and I waited for Wust el Balad’s arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. They were scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m. We waited and waited… It was almost 9 p.m. Where were they?

Letters from Alexandria

Kids in a music workshop

By Arts Midwest

Last week, we received an envelope in the mail from Alexandria, Minnesota packed full of letters from students who participated in the Arts Midwest World Fest residencies there over the past few years.

Thank you so much to all of the students who wrote to us! All of the letters were very thoughtful and kind. Here are some of our favorite quotes…

“After watching these four groups, …I realized that all of the music was so different, but yet so beautiful in its own way.