Damian and Tara Savarino speak with The Bridge Online
courtesy of Damian Savarino
The trio— (L to R) Damian (holding son Dominic),Tara, and Richard Roberson— at the Greek temples just outside of Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily.
Damian: I said, “If I get this grant, this will be the thing that tips the scales to going.” And I I got it. So we did a benefit concert in downtown Harrisburg last spring where we raised almost $3000. We started setting up the venue for the concert. The people that we stayed with had time and they are very connected in the community. Sort of how the Sicilian culture works. He said “I’ll make sure to find a way that we can do this.” He got our materials forwarded to a professor at one of the conservatories in Catania, who lives in the area. He became a principal administrator of the fund raising on their end, publicity on their end…
Tara: He also organizes a concert series which he put us into. Catania is one of the larger cities in Sicily.
Damian: We were working on this on two fronts. Our relatives were working on it there, trying to set things up. We were working on it here, trying to raise money.
Tara: All being translated!
Damian: : Yeah, we were emailing each other, translating emails…
Tara:: There were a couple of things throughout the whole trip that were lost in translation but once we got there, we just sort of said, “Oh okay, we misunderstood that, so we’ll just do it this way.” It wasn’t earth shattering.
Damian: We realized we wouldn’t have as much control over the situation as we would if we were doing a program here.
Tara: Which is many ways was so refreshing and freeing.
Damian: It was fabulous; it exceeded our expectations.
Tara: The concert itself, the whole venue was completely different than anything we had experienced, mainly due to the fact that it was in Italy. It was in a small space, but it was full. Children would walk in off the street, and be like, “oh my goodness, what’s this?” They’d sit down and they’d stay. Everyone was dressed up; it was an event. There was an announcer with a microphone.
Damian: He was like an emcee… He would come out between each song,
Tara: It was all in Sicilian,
Damian: really fast,
Tara: We were standing back stage listening saying “What? What? What are we doing next? When do we come out?”
Damian: We’d wait for the applause. It was a hoot. It was an event. More than like a concert, where you go and everyone’s quiet…
Tara: You know how sterile those concerts can be.
Damian: This was full of energy.
Tara: After the first couple of songs we realized, Okay, we’re going to hold out those high notes…
Damian: We need to loosen up
Tara: Loosen up our gestures and be less the professional American singers and really get into this Italian music. And at the end of the concert, they formed a line by the stage—
Damian: It was like a receiving line.
Tara: And they would shake our hands and pinch each cheek. They wanted to interview us in Italian, after the concert, but we were so tired. In my attempt to NOT have an interview, I said in Italian to the presenter, “We’re so tired. We’re so thankful everyone was here. Could we ask our son to come on stage with us?” He had been in the audience. So Dominic makes his way up the center aisle and all of these Italian women turn and see this little boy coming up. They start clapping for him. So he comes up on stage, and Damian picks him up. They said that was a really important moment for the Italians to see because they (particularly the Sicilians) have this impression of Americans as being fragmented…
Damian: You know, our divorce rate is so high in the United States
Tara: Family is not important. They'd think, "Yeah, so they sing," and then all of a sudden they see this family unit together.
Damian: They see us together and me holding Dominic up on stage -- it really endeared us to them at that point. They presented us with plaques. Richard got a plaque, I got plaque, and you got a plaque, beautiful marble plaques. They had done publicity. We did a television interview a couple days beforehand. There was a newspaper article— it was a really well publicized thing.
Now how long were you there?
Damian: 10-11 days.
And the concert fell at what point in the trip?
Damian: The very end of that stay. The concert was a Saturday night and we left on Monday.
That must have been hard; you must have just wanted to stay.
Tara: It was very hard. I had a hard time. Our host family was so gracious. The wife was this calm maternal, fabulous cook—sweet wonderful woman; it was really hard leaving her. They were just enamored by Dominic, his paleness, blond hair and blue eyes. They looked at him and they’d just want to touch his skin. He called her the Pasta Lady, the lady who made him pasta.
Damian: As you can tell, there were so many personal aspects to the trip that were so fulfilling. To be reconnected to relatives that I never knew were out there. Seeing the heritage. For Tara, it was personally fulfilling because she had been to Rome and studied and this was going back and being immersed in the language. The food, the culture. Experiencing all that it was so personally fulfilling. At the same time there were professional fulfillments. We did our European recital debut. Richard came and played for us. There was a certain amount of publicity that was very fulfilling to see happening on a professional level.
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