The St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble, directed by Dr. Matthew George, recently returned from a Jan. 16-26 performance tour of Italy.

During their 10-day visit the ensemble played five concerts, collaborating on two with local ensembles, and delighting audiences with a diverse repertoire that featured Italian and American works old and new.

Featured soloist Christopher Volpe, a St. Thomas trumpet instructor and director of the Brass Choir, performed Alexander Goedicke’s popular trumpet solo, “Concert Etude.”

Shared concerts with two ensembles in Sicily, especially in the town of Villafrati, was a tour highlight, George said. The host ensemble welcomed the students on a busy street, where they stopped traffic and attracted townspeople with a rousing rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” then walked both groups (to the tunes of additional marches) to the concert venue for rehearsal.

The ensemble also gave concerts in Rome, Messina, Catania and Campodarsego.

“This was an extraordinary experience for all involved,” George said. “Our students not only had the opportunity to experience the splendor, history and culture of Italy – especially Sicily – but were also able to ‘serve the culture’ through their own music making and concert performances. They experienced Italy from the inside out … . Our students performed beautifully and represented music at St. Thomas so well. But beyond that, they were great ambassadors for the university and, I daresay, the United States.”