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The Chamber Singers Tour of Puerto Rico

By Nick Pulliam
On February 1, 2019


Over this winter break, the Chamber Singers went on tour to Puerto Rico. The Chamber Singers are a group of PSU undergraduates who go on tour every year. In the past, they’ve been to New Orleans and South Korea.

The goal of the annual tours is to sing with people in other parts of the world and to experience new cultures. This year’s group was made up of 19 students and one professor. The students sang with two university choirs and workshopped with one high school choir while on the trip. “We got to meet people who were our own age doing exactly what we were doing in Puerto Rico,” said Cali Jacobs, a student in the group.

Every student I spoke to students who went on the trip, they had nothing but great things to say about the people they met while down in Puerto Rico. “I didn’t know what to expect because I actually have Puerto Rican heritage, but I’m adopted. I’ve just heard what most people have heard in the media,” said Jerome Torres, another student in the group. “You know it was devastated by Hurricane Maria and I heard that it’s pretty poor and needed some help, but when we got there the people were so kind and there was such a sense of community. They were obviously affected by the hurricane but it didn’t seem to do anything to their spirits which was pretty surprising. Because I feel like if maybe that happened here it would be a different story, so it was just awesome to see that.” The territory was still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in 2017.

While the students were visiting, it was in the midst of another controversial time. “When we went, it was during the government shutdown. So we talked a lot about how the National Parks were being affected,” said Emma Cooke. She also mentioned how the prospect of becoming a state was important to many of the people they talked to. “Statehood is really important for them and they’re fighting to become a state because at this point they have no representation. They can’t vote and voice their opinions in our government so it’s really hard for them to have all this backlash from the government and not be able to change it and so they’re really pushing for statehood. They have no representation in Congress or anything.”

The students also appreciated the natural beauty they were able to witness everywhere they went on the island. “I was one of the drivers and I noticed that all of the license plates say Isle de Encanto which means the Island of Enchantment. And I thought that was really fitting because everything we did there seemed to just be amazing and beautiful,” said Asher Clarke, another student on the trip.

Another thing students pointed out was how different the culture in Puerto Rico is compared to mainland U.S. culture. “It’s kind of like you’re on island time,” said Christopher Komisarek, “It felt like a vacation for sure.”


The group of students got along very well and bonded over the course of their trip. Dan Perkins, the professor in charge of the tour, believes this was because of what they did on day one. “I think what was unique about this tour is that we started it by doing this challenging rainforest hike. And there were several students who did not want to do it; they were afraid and everybody decided to do it and it was a really cool, unifying activity and teambuilding activity that I didn’t really expect. It served to really connect the group for the rest of the week and it impacted the way we sang together.” There were three times the group was scheduled to sing, but singing spontaneously wasn’t out of the norm while they were in Puerto Rico.

The group ended up spending an extra day in Puerto Rico. “Our flight actually got canceled,” said Cali. While an abrupt change in travel plans can be stressful, it had the opposite effect on this group. Cali said, “We were able to stay Saturday night. We made this huge dinner together and we played games and hung out and it was really fun.”

Now that the students are back at Plymouth, they’ve had some time to reconvene and gather their thoughts on the trip. And on February 5, they’re going to be performing the entire repertoire they sang while in Puerto Rico, to give anyone interested an idea of what their experience was like.

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