Is it ok to be jealous of your kids? I hope so. This summer my daughter Ally spent 6 weeks studying in Spain. After classes, my wife flew over to meet her and they spent the next 2 weeks traveling all over the continent, before Allyʼs boyfriend tagged in for yet another week.
I didnʼt get to go along. And to be honest, I was pretty bummed out about it for a while. They would send me pictures of the amazing sights they had just seen, and Iʼd send them a shot of the lawn I had just mowed, or the dishwasher I had just loaded up. Mind blowing excitement...
My trip for the summer was a week in Milwaukee, as part of the music staff for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Americaʼs triennial Churchwide Assembly. I was excited about the assembly itself, having played the last one in New Orleans a few years ago. But I was expecting pretty stale evenings in a boring city, nothing like the endless party of the French Quarter or my familyʼs European adventure. So, I packed a bunch of books and some work projects, thinking Iʼd have lots of time to fill after the dayʼs events were over.
But I seriously underestimated Milwaukee. Never having been there, I knew next nothing about the place, and still know very little. But what I saw was pretty impressive. The architecture is outstanding and there are parks and urban trails everywhere. Remnants of the cityʼs historical German heritage remain, mixing in with todayʼs somewhat more diverse population.
And of course, thereʼs beer. Lots of it! From legendary retired breweries like Pabst and Schlitz to modern gems like Lakefront & New Glarus (Spotted Cow), you almost canʼt avoid the stuff. And why would you want to? Everywhere you go there are cool bars, restaurants and hang out spots. The rivers cut through the city at seemingly every turn, making for plenty of great spots to hang out with friends and enjoy a brew.
From what I saw of the city, it seems like itʼs focused on being a good place to live. Pedestrians, bikers and runners have the advantage of urban trails that make getting around quicker and safer than in many other big cities. Getting outside and staying fit seemed very popular too. Runners seemed to be outnumbered only by dog walkers. Some of the intersections have little automated “flip book” cartoons on the light posts so you donʼt get bored while waiting for the “walk” signal. Some cities give the feeling that theyʼre about business or industry first. Milwaukee had a much different, much better, “residents first” vibe.
Musically, the week was a rarity. Great, purposeful music made with great people. Each of us played a variety of instruments in what seemed like a zillion different styles, representing as many cultures as we could. The players are all very talented, but more importantly, each understands that the role of the music is to enable the peopleʼs worship. This is a different mindset than most “gigs” and demands a more mature, ego-free approach. We provided music for 6 services/Masses throughout the week with over a thousand people attending each one. I think itʼs exciting and inspirational to be part of big gatherings like these and I really enjoyed spending time with the rest of the team.
So no- I didnʼt get to go to Spain, France, Italy, Ireland or England like some people in my family. And yeah, I still am a little jealous. But Iʼm also thankful to have had another opportunity to travel to a new place, learn a little about it, and make meaningful music with great people. For pics of the trip, head to the photos page or dig around on Facebook.