Music has always been a profoundly important part of my life. Having played violin since I was five years old, and later picking up bagpipes and piano as well, I've grown up inundated in musical expression. After all these years, I've realized that making music is something I will never be able to live without. I find unparalleled peace in the unfiltered emotional outpour and sincere, naked exposure of playing a song for oneself or someone else. In a sense, creating music together with others multiplies these feelings and projects them onto each player in the group. This soaring feeling of connection opens up one's soul and creates an unimaginably loving, intimate and creative space for being. Though I've experienced this feeling many times before, never has it been more powerfully present than during this past week. So much so that I still haven't fully processed my part in all of it. What I do know is that I'm incredibly grateful for the state of mind this experience has allowed me to reach, and I have every intention of perpetuating it. Thank you, Ethno.

Ethno exchanges exist in countries all over the world, and each edition provides an opportunity for musicians to come together from different places to teach, learn and share folk music during a one-week-long, intense physical gathering. I've participated in several of them over the past decade, and have always been taken aback by the transformative power Ethno camps have had on not just my musical interest and ability, but also on my eagerness and need to express myself to the world. This time was no different. We enrolled in Ethno Chile mostly by lucky coincidence. Maria had managed to get in touch with the organizing team and arranged our participation as part of our time in Chile. And so it happened that on a sunny Chilean afternoon, we got off a bus in a remote but lovely hacienda in a town near Santiago, excited, nervous but mostly curious about how these next days would turn out.

Intense may be an understatement. Three days of 12-hour workshops (only interrupted for lunch and dinner) with extra practice untill midnight, followed by jamming and all-night-long parties. One concert a day over the next three days, with exhaustive sound checks and finetuning of the repertoire. And all-night-long parties. The musical discipline and dedication as well as the kindness and patience of everyone involved simply blew me away. You see, at Ethno all music is learned by ear and every single note in the program is memorized by all participants within a very short time. Each song in the repertoire goes through a teaching phase, then technical mastering and finally the arrangement creation. This all takes a lot of time, mutual support and creativity. To integrate all contributions across different musical and performance styles, and make them work in a compelling way is a daunting and entirely unpredictable task. The Ethno leaders help to guide this process and have a crucial role in crystalizing a once-in-a-lifetime set list from the raw energetic ingredients that the participants provide.

It's a unique way of creating music, requiring an emotional intensity and exposure that inevitably carries over to the people involved. Over a very brief period of time, I became extremely attached to the people I was working and existing with. It's difficult to describe how powerful this was for me. It was as if the petals covering the inner center of my being were slowly peeled away, revealing a blazing core that all of us have underneath, but that we dare to show all too rarely. The sincere positivity, respectful discourse and playful curiosity that was happening all around encouraged me to say and do things without the fear of being ridiculed or judged. This created an incredible bond of acceptance between all of us, which in turn helped our creative process and ultimately our individual and group performance.

I cried a lot, we all did. Not because we were sad but because we felt everything. We poured our hearts out, we utterly expressed ourselves. We played incredible music, not only because people's level was excellent but also because we just dared to. I felt entirely, truly alive. I felt accepted and loved. I think we all did, which is what made us so eager to reciprocate those feelings that it all just skyrocketed exponentially. How's that for a viral wave.

So I feel very open and exposed now. It was very difficult to say goodbye to all these lovely souls after only eight days, eight days that seemed more like eighty. It's really incredible how much you can learn about yourself if you're simply exposed to circumstances that allow you to safely and confidently explore. I hope that after we inevitably close up again to face the challenges of the outside world, I keep remembering my human vulnerability. Because that vulnerability, when expressed and nurtured properly, is a massively powerful gateway to inner peace and happiness.

To all the people I got to know and who I will see again later in life...

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

February 17th, 2022

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