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Singing for Their Supper - World Artists make themselves at home in Annapolis

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bay Weekly By Robyn Bell

Made up of 30 high school students ages 15 to 19, the world-renowned Estonian Children’s Choir has performed all over Europe and will play two free concerts in Annapolis.

Betty Mcginnis dreamed big. She wanted to bring together not just her community but the whole world. That’s how World Artists Experiences was born as an all-volunteer effort to bring international arts to Annapolis.

That’s a nice way of saying that World Artists Experiences depend on human resources rather than money. Especially as you see and hear all performances for free.

So when World Artists come visiting — as they regularly do under the auspices of World Artists Experiences — volunteers open up their hearts and homes.

As will more than 100 volunteers from Anne Arundel County when the Estonian Children’s Choir comes to Annapolis August 18. Each family will host one or two student singers and show them through historic Annapolis. In turn, they’ll visit the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“Hosting an international family is a great way to break down preconceived notions about their culture and to learn the details of both cultures,” says Steve Hays, who has hosted families for 10 years.

Now, when Hays travels, he visits friends from countries that have been a part of the Artists Experiences.

“It’s a great way to immerse yourself into another person’s culture,” says Carrie Quattlander, a volunteer who helps organize the backstage action. For Quattlander, the experience is a different sort of excitement. There’s social media, publicity, field trips, meals and transportation to plan.

Both agree that their visitors teach them to see their world in new ways. Egyptians wonder how we don’t get sick from going outside in extreme heat after being inside in air conditioning. South Africans are amazed at the pristine uniforms of Midshipmen.

They’ve also found that the vast differences in our culture can be reconciled when people get together.

“Food is an international language that demonstrates a welcoming gift,” Hays tells us.

Global artists like the Estonian Children’s Choir visit through World Artists Experiences’ Ambassador Series.

Made up of 30 high school students ages 15 to 19, the world-renowned choir has performed all over Estonia, Germany, Spain, Austria, Cyprus, England, Hungary, Greece and Italy.

The performers’ visits to the United States are sponsored by embassies and ministries of culture and ethnic affairs to increase understanding through the arts.

“Art encourages two countries to become friends with a better understanding of the people and culture,” says Mcginnis.

Volunteers are needed and welcome.

“So far, 95 percent of the visiting groups have asked to return,” she says.

Hear Estonian Children’s Choir on August 18 in two Annapolis performances: noon at the State House ­rotunda; 7pm at the First Presbyterian Church on Duke of Gloucester St: free:


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