Meredith’s connections with Sansepolcro, Italy, began 20 years ago when students first studied abroad there, and the College established a semester abroad program in Sansepolcro in 2009.
Since that time, Meredith College has become a part of the local community. Meredith study abroad participants have taken part for four consecutive years in one of the town’s centuries-old traditions. As part of this tradition, Meredith students processed on the feast night of St. Egidio, the city’s patron saint. The event took place two days prior to the Palio della Balestra, a crossbow competition begun in 1619 and held twice each year between Sansepolcro and rival city, Gubbio.
“It is an honor for Meredith students to be asked to participate, an honor that shows that we are seen to be a part of the town,” said Betty Webb, director of the Meredith in Sansepolcro program.
Meredith students processed in varied costumes that reflected the range of medieval women’s dress across the social spectrum.
“It was great fun to watch the people of Sansepolcro recognize Meredith College and a few even clapped for us,” said student Rosanna Turchi. “It made me understand how welcoming these people are and how much they appreciate us coming and enjoying their wonderful town.”
Professor of Music Ellen Williams experienced this community feeling this summer, when she led a program for young singers called the NC Young Artist Project in a two-week visit based at Meredith’s palazzo.
“We made great connections in just two short weeks and really felt like part of the community,” Williams said.
The group included 20 young singers, including high school students. Participants took master classes and performed in a variety of locations in Sansepolcro, coordinated by Betty Webb and Sansepolcro program assistant director Sara Andreini. Their performances included a production of the opera “Suor Angelica,” and a musical theatre evening featuring songs from Rogers and Hammerstein, “Mamma Mia” and “Hairspray.”
“None of the high school students had done opera before,” Williams said. “Some of them plan to major in music, so this was a beneficial experience for them.”
The group also presented arias in a performance held on the steps of the palazzo. The singers introduced themselves and their songs in Italian, and performed for a gathering of locals.
Williams is planning a return of the program in summer 2013, and hopes to expand to a three-week program.
“We had a goal of making forays into community arts in Sansepolcro,” Williams said. “We made a good start at that.”
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