This year scheduling did not allow me to musically frolic through the hills of Umbria so I shall instead wax nostalgic about why this experience is so near and dear to my heart.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Locanda del Gallo
I'm not sure you could pick a more stunning retreat away from the mania of modern-day life as Locanda del Gallo. Nestled amidst the rolling Umbrian hills, the Locanda is a bed and breakfast in a country house and former village that have been sitting for centuries on a ridge in the center of the most picturesque valley I've ever seen. (If you're questioning your geography, yes - the Tuscany Project originally began in Tuscany but later moved to this prime location in Umbria.)
Not sure if you're sold yet? How about the salt water infinity pool that looks out over the valley?
Still haven't bought your tickets? Then you obviously haven't tasted Chef Jimmy's food. I'm not kidding when I say that one day I saw one of the staff walking up the hill holding a sack of truffles they had just dug up...which we devoured in pasta that night. And the simple pane that accompanies every meal? I could die happy if I ate only that with oil and vinegar for the rest of my life.
The Locanda is paradise. It's La Dolce Vita at its finest. Paola and Erich make you feel at home immediately and by the time you are watching it disappear around the bend, you're already planning your next trip. (If I had my way, I'd get married and honeymoon there.)
I'd be there every year just for the location, but the Tuscany Project is so much more than that.
IT'S ABOUT FAMILY: The Community of the Tuscany Project
The greatest thing about the Tuscany Project is its core faculty who are not only incredible teachers/friends/mentors but also working artists who bring their own life experiences to the table. As friends and fellow artists now for over two decades, Belle, B.Z., Anja, Ron and Co. bring their varied and unique backgrounds together to surprise you from every angle. They meet you with compassion, insight, and an openness to collaborate.
Often I've learned the biggest lessons not from the faculty but from the other attendees themselves. I have forged life long friendships because of this experience, the majority of them from around the globe. (I blame the Tuscany Project for inspiring me to plan my next big trip - to New Zealand. I have to visit all my Kiwi friends!) The meals that last for hours are always the highlight of my trip.
SO MUCH MORE THAN SINGING: The Project
As I've been writing this I find myself forgetting, as I often do, that this is first and foremost a singing project. The reason I do is that it has become so. much. more. You start your day with movement, vocal exploration spans from the technical to the interpretive, performance studies include individual and group singing. Encompassing all of this is the ever-present Italian summer that is as much an instructor as the people around you. Your internal clock slows, your perception of the world around you alters.
Singing at the Tuscany Project is not about competition. Every year includes attendees who range from professional musicians to the most passionate shower singers you'll ever meet. Singing together, whether solo or as a group, is about community, support, and a shared personal love over position within the larger group of talent. Often my favorite performances by the end come from someone who I watched discover their own voice right in front of me.
The Tuscany Project is important, not just for singing, but for art in general. It reminds us that we live in a diverse community, each with our own unique talents that are essential to its growth. We thrive together. When one falls, the rest catch them. When one succeeds, everyone is lifted up. I've been to team-building retreats whose terrifying afternoon of trust falls pale in comparison to even one afternoon at the Locanda.
To anyone who is looking for something to jolt them awake in their life, I could not recommend it enough. To everyone who is out there right now, I am there in spirit!