Youth use nature to reach creator

Students come together as summer rafting guides

by Carolyn VanBrocklin,

Towering 14,000-foot mountains with green forests and red rock canyon walls surround rafters on the Brown’s Canyon portion of the Arkansas River. This sight greeted seven Elon students every day as they guided customers down the river and up the mountains for Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting, located in Buena Vista, Colo.

Seven Elon students worked together at Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting in Buena Vista, Colo. this summer. The students, pictured above, pose in their rafting gear by the Arkansas River.

Seven Elon students worked together at Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting in Buena Vista, Colo. this summer. The students, pictured above, pose in their rafting gear by the Arkansas River.

Recent graduate Will Berry was the first of the students to work at the rafting company four years ago. Over time, other Elon students have come to work there through their various social connections.

Elon alumni Scott Jones and Sean O’Conner were bible study leaders, senior Elizabeth Walt participated in a co-ed group as part of InterVarsity and senior John McGreevey led a small group that sophomore Stuart Jones was part of.

Each year Noah’s Ark hires 20 new guides, and all together there are about 60 guides. New guides are trained once they reach the destination.

“I love outdoor stuff like backpacking, and I love rafting, but I didn’t think I could be a guide,” Walt said.

On the first day, everyone piles into rafts and attempts to guide. Training takes a month on average, with trainees going down the river two or three times a day. When individual guides are ready, the first trip guiding customers is taken with an instructor.

The guides go to work at 7:30 a.m. , eat breakfast and attend a staff meeting where they “discuss the river because it changes every day,” Walt said.

Because it’s a Christian organization, the guides also have a morning prayer or Bible study session. Then they prepare the rafts for the customers.

On a typical day, river guides take groups of customers down the river either on two 10-mile, half-day trips or once on a full-day trip. Brown’s Canyon is a class three rapid. Rivers are classified on a scale of one through five.

Each time they go down the river, the guides give safety talks and then get everyone ready to raft. There are two different kinds of rafts. In a combo raft, the guide does most of the navigating and rowing, mostly used for families and younger people, Jones said. In a paddle raft, the customers paddle and are responsible for the raft’s movement, but the guide tells them where to go.

During the trips, the guides talk to their customers and take them through the rapids.

“Your goal is to create a relationship with customers,” Jones said. At first, the guides are focused on navigating down the river, “but after a couple of weeks, it clicks.”

In addition to rafting, the guides also go on backpacking trips in the mountains, sometimes 14,000 feet up. They take 10 to 15 people into the woods and try “to do so in a way that pushes people to a certain limit, but not a limit that’s unsafe,” McGreevy said.

The guides also try to instill in the customers a “love for creation and the Creator at the same time.”

Sometimes unexpected things happen while navigating the river and mountains. McGreevy described the “backpacking trip from hell” that took three days to get to the point they should have reached on the first day, and to top it all off, the cooking stove exploded.

Outside of rafting and guiding, the guides form strong relationships. They all live together in staff housing, and they “play together and work together, which  creates a really good atmosphere,” McGreevy said.

“It’s great because the company has dinner every night, because we’re so tired we’d probably just eat cereal,” Walt said.

The intensive training and the Christian spirit of the group are a way for all the participants to form stronger friendships.

Being a guide is a two-year commitment, but the community aspect also draws people back.

“We all love rafting, but that’s probably not why we keep coming back,”  Walt said. “The community out there and the friends we have are what keep us going back.”

For Immediate Release
August 17, 2009
Contact: Angela Olson
(301) 581-5194
Fifth Season of Innovative Program Continues to Nurture Young Washington, D.C.-area musicians
N. Bethesda, Md: Strathmore’s Artist in Residence program launches its fifth season and
continues its mission of promoting up-and-coming Washington-area musicians and fostering
collaborations between these musicians in a diversity of genres. The artists chosen for this season are
singer-songwriter and ukulele player Victoria Vox, musical theater and R&B singer Jobari Parker-
Namdar, jazz singer Lena Seikaly, rock cellist Loren Westbrook and his cello quartet Primitivity,
classical bassoonist Ari Allal and Trustfall, composed of 19 year-old twin brothers and singersongwriters
Max and Spencer Ernst. The emerging artists are mentored by successful and wellestablished
local musicians: University of Maryland professor and woodwind player Chris Vadala,
Grammy winning singer-songwriter Marcy Marxer and jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet.
The Artist in Residence program at Strathmore was introduced in 2005 as an initiative to help
cultivate local musical talent in the Washington, D.C. area by connecting established performers with
emerging musicians. Each Artist in Residence is a featured performer in the Mansion at Strathmore
for the duration of one month. During this month, the artist presents two diverse public performances
on the first and last Wednesday of the month. The artists have the opportunity to develop an audience
in the community; perfect their performances; create an educational program; and premiere a new
work commissioned by Strathmore. The premiere occurs on the last concert of the month and reflects
the musical growth of the Artist in Residence. Each musician also performs on the Millennium Stage
at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The class of musicians attends professional
development workshops presented by Strathmore, including classes on marketing, recording and
booking events. Former Artist in Residence graduates include singer-songwriter and Jammin’ Java
owner Luke Brindley, indie singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn, saxophonist Jeff Suzda and
percussionist Simone Mancuso of the Mancuso-Suzda Project, hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon and
current mentor Frédéric Yonnet.
Singer-songwriter and ukulele player Victoria Vox performs during the month of
September in the Mansion at Strathmore. Vox graduated from The Berklee College of Music with
honors and a degree in songwriting, releasing a handful of guitar-driven albums before a friend gave
her a ukulele. Her first ukulele driven record, Victoria Vox and Her Jumping Flea was funded by fan
donations and released in 2006. The disc was well received and featured on NPR’s “To The Best of
Our Knowledge,” and songs were featured on television and in independent movies. On Chameleon,
released on her own label this spring, Vox partnered with producer Mike Tarantino. The two mix the
ukulele with her acoustic guitar, electric bass, percussion and other instruments to flesh out Vox’s
burgeoning songwriting talent and pure vocals, moving the ukulele from the novelty bin to the pop
Musical theater and R&B singer Jobari Parker-Namdar is a senior Musical Theatre major
at Howard University, singing R&B, pop, rock, musical theater and everything in between. He has
performed in every musical produced at Howard University including Company, Working and A
Chorus Line, as well as the world premiere workshop performance of U.G.L.Y. He performed at many
local theatres in the area including: Signature Theatre’s Anyone Can Whistle, Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret,
Lost Songs of Broadway Cabaret; MetroStage’s The Stephen Schwartz Project; and Arena Stage’s The
Red Hand Guitar. Parker-Namdar is in residence at the Mansion in October.
Jazz singer Lena Seikaly, Strathmore’s Artist in Residence during the month of January, was
a participant at the 2009 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
and a 2005 participant at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass program directed by Christian McBride. As a
featured vocalist, Seikaly has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, the Ascona Jazz
Festival in Switzerland, at several jazz venues in France and at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee in
California. She is a regular vocalist for six bands in the D.C. area, including her own trio, quartet and
quintet. She became the vocal jazz instructor at the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in
September 2008. As an accomplished composer and arranger in various styles of jazz, Seikaly released
her first album, Written in the Stars, in February 2009.
Rock cellist Loren Westbrook and Primitivity, a cello quintet with percussion, perform
Westbrook’s compositions of rock music at Strathmore during the month of February. Westbrook is
one of a handful of cellists that are also expanding the cello’s repertoire to include rock music. His
original compositions for rock cello quartet are influenced by musicians such as Shostakovich,
Apocalyptica and Metallica. Westbrook has performed as soloist at the Kennedy Center, the Clarice
Smith Performing Arts Center, major universities around the United States and many venues in the
Washington, D.C. area, and has been featured on NPR. He was selected as concerto soloist with the
2002 Kennedy Center Summer Youth Orchestra. He has been principal cellist of the Kennedy Center
Summer Music Institute Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Repertoire Orchestra at the
University of Maryland. He taught cello at the International School of Music, D.C. Youth Orchestras,
Levine School of Music, Ottley School of Music and in his own private studio. He was conductor of
the D.C. Youth Orchestra and assistant conductor at Wootton High School and Thomas Pullen Arts
Magnet School.
Classical bassoonist Ari Allal is an active freelance bassoonist from the Washington, D.C.
area. Allal served as the principal bassoonist for the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra
Canton, both located in southeast Michigan. Since moving to D.C., Allal has performed in the
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra during the Washington National Opera’s production of
Wagner’s Siegfried. He is in residence during the month of March.
Singer-songwriters and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst of Trustfall, are April’s
Artists in Residence. Trustfall has built a name through numerous performances at Washington,
D.C.’s 9:30 Club, Virginia’s Jammin’ Java, New York City’s Mercury Lounge, Baltimore’s Rams
Head Live and other elite venues up and down the East Coast. Networks such as MTV and ESPN have
used Trustfall’s compositions, and their music was featured on the CBS TV series Cane. The band
recently took the stage in front of 625 students at Rockville High School in Maryland to promote teen
responsibility as part of the “Every 15 Minutes” program for Students Against Destructive Decisions
(SADD), where they featured their original anti-drunk driving anthem “Drive Home.” Washington,
D.C.’s On Tap magazine called Trustfall one of five “bands to watch” at Dewey Beach Music
Chris Vadala is the Director of Jazz Studies and Saxophone Professor at the University of
Maryland. His performing career has been highlighted by a long tenure as standout woodwind artist
with the internationally recognized Chuck Mangione Quartet, which included performances in all 50
states, Canada, Australia, Japan, Philippines, China, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Bermuda, Puerto Rico,
Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, England, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Poland,
Belgium and Switzerland. He has performing credits on five gold and two platinum albums, plus two
Grammys, one Emmy, one Georgie (AGVA) and one Golden Globe Award.
Grammy award winner Marcy Marxer is a multi-instrumental studio musician, performer, songwriter
and producer with 30 years of experience. Marcy’s guitar playing spans a variety of styles: swing (rhythm and
lead), bluegrass, old time, Celtic fingerpicking and folk fingerpicking. Marxer enjoys connecting music and
people. She directs three ukulele orchestras: a seniors’ ukulele club, a Brownie ukulele club, and the Ukulele
Orchestra of Washington. She also created several online social networks for musicians: Girls With Guitars
Network and Ukulele Social Club.
Frédéric Yonnet is one of a few musicians to successfully demonstrate the harmonica’s
versatility as a lead instrument in contemporary jazz, R&B and other genres of music. He has
performed with music legend Stevie Wonder and recently recorded with generational icons, the Jonas
Brothers. His recent tour with Prince exposed him and his powerhouse sound to a wider, more diverse
Strathmore is now in its 26th year as an arts presenter and cultural destination. Strathmore
nurtures art, artists and community through creative and diverse programming of the highest quality.
Its 11-acre site includes the Music Center at Strathmore, a 1,976-seat concert hall and education
complex, the turn of the century Mansion at Strathmore, outdoor concert venues and sculpture garden.
The Mansion at Strathmore, located at 10701 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, MD, is immediately
adjacent to the Grosvenor-Strathmore station on Metro’s Red Line and a half-mile from the Capital
Beltway. Parking is available on site for all Mansion performances. For further information or tickets,
call (301) 581-5100 or visit
Strathmore is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts
thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit
organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities.
Strathmore is also supported in part by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.

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