Lee's Excellent Brazilian Adventure

Lee's Excellent Brazilian Adventure

by Lee Monroe

As many of you already know I spent the week of July 8th in Brazil at their annual Winter Arts Festival, held for three weeks in July.  It turns out that this is a very big deal in this part of Brazil.  It is sponsored by the government and is overseen by the Minister of Culture.  I was there to teach some Master Classes in Finale and to talk about being a professional music copyist.  Accompanying me was Rich Viano, the Express Music Publishing Percussion Manager, who was there to teach percussion classes of course.  The gentleman who administers the festival, Antonio Carlos Neves Campos, invited us.

Neves, as his friends call him, runs a music conservatory in Tatui.  Tatui is a town of about 100,000 maybe 2 hours west of Sao Paulo, which is one of the largest cities in the world (est. population 22,000,000).  Rich and I were quite honored with the invitations but really had no idea what to expect.

One of the reasons I had an interest in going to the festival was the fact that Marvin Stamm, a great trumpet player from New York was to be one of the guest artists.  I accepted with the condition that I be there during the same period.

Time was short and we (Rich & I) still needed to get our Brazilian Visas.  Since I didn’t have confidence that it would arrive in time through the mail, I elected to travel down to Miami for a couple of days and go directly to the Brazilian Consulate to attain our Visas.  I made a little mini-vacation of the effort, taking my wife and kids down with me.   The trip went without a hitch and we had a great time in Miami.

From Orlando to Sao Paulo, the Scenic Route

Rich and I showed up at Orlando International Airport to catch our flight on Sunday the 8th.   We boarded the plane with no problems but then sat on the runway due to a lightning storm in the area.  We ended up being over an hour and a half late to Atlanta for our connecting flight to Brazil.  We arrived a half hour too late to catch it.  Since there was only one scheduled flight to Sao Paulo each day we were forced to hang out at a local Holiday Inn courtesy of Delta Airlines.

I was able to get a hold of my wife, Rosanne, in Orlando who then in turn emailed Neves of the missed flight.  Luckily for all he was up late working and decided to check his email one last time.  He called Rosanne about 1am Monday morning to let her know that he received the message, saving himself a 5 hour round trip from Tatui to Sao Paulo.

The following day, Rich and I made the long flight to Sao Paulo (8½ hours in all).  Outside of being the constant target of the flight attendant’s food cart the flight went well enough.  We arrived in Brazil about 7:30am and after clearing customs I was anxious to meet Neves (we had only one phone conversation prior).  As we exited the International area we noticed a large group of kids with a large sign, balloons were everywhere and we were thinking, “Hey, this isn’t too bad” and it wouldn’t have been, had the reception been for us.  Alas the group was no doubt welcoming home a wayward family member returning from making their fortune in the world.

Rich and I continued to examine every little sign that anyone was holding, looking for our names or something about the Winter Festival, all the while dodging the shark-like cab drivers circling at the first scent of fresh foreign blood (no doubt anxious to give us the scenic tour of Sao Paulo).

To our disappointment there was no one.  Standing just outside the International exit gate were two Delta representatives at the ready to loyally serve the traveling public.   “Hi, I was supposed to have met someone here to drive me to my location in Tatui” I asked hopefully, “Can you help me?”  You would have thought that I asked them to take me to their leader; they had absolutely no clue what I had just said.  

It was at that moment that I got my first pang of concern.   Our ride had to be here somewhere.  Rich and I began the merry-go-round trek, circling the terminal checking every piece of paper someone had in their hand, even the folded ones (we got more than a few awkward glances).  

This went on for about an hour and my pang count began to rise.  I am thinking to myself, “I can’t speak Portuguese or Spanish, no one here seems to speak English, I have very little idea where I am going, and I had no idea what to do next.”  By now it is around 9:30am and I am feeling a little panicky.  I had a phone number for Tatui (2 hours away) that I thought I should try.  

Upon arriving at the phone station, I noticed that it isn’t apparent how to make a long distant call.  I humbly meandered over to a little half door that had a sign in Portuguese that included one word that resembled “tourist”.  I took a chance and went over to talk to the gentlemen sitting behind the half door and to my delight he had a smattering of English (maybe one semester).  After much effort and a visit to the money exchange at the terminal he helped me purchase a local phone card at the little shop next to his.

Loaded for bear, I went back to the phone stations to try again.  As confusing as our method of dialing area codes and local phone numbers are to tourists to the United States, I was probably in a much worst state.  I couldn’t quite get it all to work and finally went back to another shop and purchased an international calling card (it cost be about $4.20 for 10 minutes).  I eventually got through to my wife and asked her to try and contact Neves.

It was about this time (10:30am) that Rich came running to tell me that Neves had arrived.  It turns out that Marvin Stamm, Bill Mays, and Rich were standing near each other when Marvin noticed Neves wondering around the terminal and called out to him.  Rich said “That’s who I’m looking for” and we finally all got together.  Neves had been at the Airport since 6:30 but Delta had directed him to the wrong terminal, so all of us had been wondering around for quite some time.

I hadn’t seen Marvin in almost 25 years and of course he didn’t remember me.  As I was coming up through school I had backed him up a couple of times in school bands where he was a guest artist and clinician.  This was my first time meeting Bill Mays.  After listening to him play at the first rehearsal that night, meeting him became one of the highlights of the trip for me.  He and Marvin are both incredibly unique musicians.

(Bill Mays, Neves Campos, Rich Viano, Marvin Stamm, Lee Monroe)

The trip to Tatui was uneventful.  We got a nice tour of the countryside.  There are parts of Brazil that are quite breathtaking and there are parts of it that can be rather depressing.  I am sure that every country has its poor areas and its nicer areas; certainly the United States has its areas that we aren’t all that proud of.  It just seemed that particularly around Sao Paulo the poor areas were quite devastating.  The squalor was extreme and the living conditions could be described as somewhat primitive. 

Talking with Neves and others from Brazil, it seems to have everything to do with how Brazil’s resources are managed that is at the root of the country’s problems.  For example, Brazil’s government through its decisions has deemed that the country’s energy needs would be dependent primarily on hydroelectric power plants; well Brazil is currently in a severe drought that is having a significant effect on their power supply.  There is a palpable economic dichotomy that exists throughout the country.  The country is rich in natural resources but it appears a long way away from being able to manage them to the maximum benefit of its people.

Even with these difficulties, the country has an indomitable spirit.  Brazilians are proud of their heritage and take great pride in their work.  I was very impressed as I dealt with Brazilians on a one-on-one basis and have developed quite an affinity for them.  I certainly hope to maintain the relationships that I developed on this trip.

The drive to Tatui was quite enjoyable for Rich and I.  Being cooped up with Marvin Stamm and Bill Mays for the 2½ hour trip to Tatui had to be more enjoyable for the two of us than it was for the two of them.   In fact, Rich and I were quite fortunate in the amount of time we did get to spend with these two musical giants.  We got to see a great deal of them; almost every meal, every car trip and much of our free time was spent together.  For me in particular, it was like getting paid to go to a fantasy camp, the hang of a lifetime. 

(My hotel in Tatui)

We arrived in Tatui in the early afternoon and got a chance to get cleaned up and relax before our classes that afternoon.  It was quite interesting taking a shower at the hotel.  I kept turning what I thought was the hot water knob only to continue to get colder and colder water.  It wasn’t until the next day when I was having breakfast with saxophonist Dale Underwood, another guest artist at the festival that I was advised that the water heating technique for the shower in my room involved this electrical element that would heat the water as it went through.  Needless to say the more water you put through it the more difficult it was to heat the water.  The next morning I had a trickle of warm water, ahh.

Next - Finale Master Classes

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Lee Monroe is the owner of Express Music Services.  He has been a fulltime copyist for 19 years and was strictly a hand copyist for the first 15.  You can check out his hand music font by following this link - LeeMusic.

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Lee's Excellent Brazilian Adventure - pt. 2

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