Cape Town Has My Heart

Name: Erin Lee

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavors

  1. Cape Town, South Africa was the final destination of my STEP journey this past August. On this service trip alongside Dr. J, my hands were busy working with the Sakhulwazi Hub who’s objective was to empower people of Philippi to solve problems through innovative and sustainable solutions for the community at largeIMG_0225IMG_0200
  2. One paragraph does not suffice in summarizing the transformative journey the people of Cape Town, South Africa led me down. Wisdom, gratitude, understanding, active listening, appreciation, and love are words that briefly sum up the overwhelming emotions I experienced while in South Africa. Journeying thirty hours or so to reach Cape Town, I was constantly tossing thoughts and expectations in my head of what I thought I would see and experience. I have never been so wrong, and for once I’m extremely glad that I was. On my flight back to Columbus, Ohio I understood that I would never be the same. Flying thousands of miles away from home to a foreign world that is engulfed in my veins, I knew that I was made to be a light. As cliche as this may sound, one thing I understood of myself after this trip was that I have a duty to serve people. Gandhi said it best, “Service is the rent you pay here on this Earth”. My time on this Earth here is precious, and as I climb I aspire to lift those who need a helping hand. After this trip, I vowed to always have an open and helping hand.



3. Working with an outstanding woman affectionately called, “Mama Rosie” was the highlight of my experience in South Africa. Her infectious smile inspired me to be a light and to others in need. The relationship I cultivated with her inspired my desire to serve because of her will to be of service to others within the community. As a pillar within her community, through daily activities of gardening and sowing, she empowers women who desire to better themselves. Grasping all the information I could, one grand lesson I learned from Mama Rosie was to continuously teach others what I have learned because you may never know how that lesson may uplift and empower another. In Cape Town, I had the opportunity to see and learn about the increasing gap of wealth and health equities between the rich and the poor. Listening to the stories of people within the township of Phillipi, I learned about their daily struggles to access a human’s bare necessities like water. Something, I have take for granted everyday. This experience transformed my way of thinking spiritually because I began to notice that I forgot to be thankful for the smallest of things that so many people live without. Working with health aids within the township, we had the opportunity to hear the stories of the ill and poor. One man’s story changed my life. Though the language barrier was apparent, I could feel his pain, raw emotions, and faith. This whirlwind of emotions took an extreme toll on me and forced me to self reflect. Being completely transparent, this elderly man poured his heart out to us about his struggles, his sorrows, his fear, and ultimately his faith that everything would be okay. Suffering from cancer, he told us about his troubles with access to quality medicine, a nearby hospital, quality health care, and his lack of access to food to support his dietary restrictions. In the midst of all this pain, the one thing he said that had never failed was his faith. This moment was the most jaw-dropping, heart pounding, tear jerking moment of my life, and for one moment I felt helpless and human. These raw emotions are the most difficult to describe, but at this moment I knew that I needed to do something.

  1. To my lifestyle, this change was significantly valuable because I have seen that in everything I do I am happy. At times, we get the idea of happiness confused. By serving others, I am happy because I am ‘doing happy’. Positive action for others has molded my journey in life in a positive manner in which I have truly been ecstatic to get up every morning and do the things in which I love. This journey has to driven me pursue a Master’s Degree intertwining the fields of social work and public health to help the world be a better place one day.

Check out this video to see more of my journey:

Italian Clarinet University- Camerino, Italy

  1. In August 2015, I spent ten days in Italy, primarily at the Italian Clarinet University in Camerino. The goal for this expedition was to learn from world renowned teachers and performers through masterclasses, lessons, and concerts. After the festival, I spent three days in Rome to absorb the culture before coming home.IMG_3209

2. As was my intention, I learned a tremendous amount while I was in Italy, and I believe I improved as a clarinetist. However, I also observed that performers my own age, even younger, sounded so much better than I did. While I expected this to happen, it was a sobering realization. Following the trip, I came back to Ohio State and took an audition for placement in bands, and placed substantially lower than I had hoped and expected. Combined, these two occurrences threatened to crush me. I spent weeks, months contemplating my purpose here. I was greatly tempted to change majors, but filled with anxiety about the time and effort I would have wasted the past two years. It was not without a substantial struggle that I was able to come to grips with the fears and doubts that floated through my mind, and though the situation has improved, it is still a day-to-day battle.

The heartbreak I experienced from these events proved to me that I really was in the right area of study. I have such a strong desire to improve, move up, and be recognized for my work. While I finally observed the true scope of the clarinet world, I decided there was no reason I did not belong there. Nobody in the world, not even the amazing artists at that camp, is the best. Everyone was special for their own reasons, and I knew that can be me one day.

  1. While in Camerino, I attended masterclasses led by famous clarinetists, such as Giora Feidman. He, for example, is a renowned Klezmer performer. Yet most of the students who played at the masterclass played classical pieces, not Klezmer. It was very interesting to watch Feidman relate his knowledge of Klezmer music to classical playing. When he did teach Klezmer, I found it extremely interesting because I have never been exposed to that before. The way he reaches inside himself and up to God to play music was very interesting to see. I learned a lot about teaching, as well as performing, by watching him work.

I was able to have four private lessons with an Italian clarinetist named Nicola Bulfone. He spent a little time with me working on technique, but the majority of our work focused on expressivity. He reinforced my previous teaching that yes, the proper notes are important, but what is more important is the message and the feeling you are communicating. The technical details are only important because they facilitate and uncover the beauty of the emotion. In addition to musical skills, this relationship developed my professional skills. I had to learn to work through a language barrier, and work together in an open and collaborative environment. Nicola is one connection I have in the larger world of clarinet, and my network can only grow from there.

Additionally, I played in the festival clarinet choir. This ensemble was made up of about thirty of the students attending the festival. We were mixed together on parts without regard to nationality, age, or experience level. In addition to choir pieces, we accompanied several solos and duets by the faculty of the festival. Being surrounded by so many amazing clarinetists was inspiring. The ease of performing when feeding off so many positive energies was an amazing feeling.

I had the time to befriend many of my peers at the festival from all over the world. While these were personal relationships, they may also be professional one day as well, if we all continue to be involved in the clarinet world. I learned so much about other cultures from the friends I made there

In addition to the music related skills I gained, my time in Italy was an incredible cultural experience for me. Studying and experiencing their culture, history, and traditions gave me a first-hand account of a completely different part of the world. Because of this experience, I am currently enrolled in a beginning Italian class. I am still feeling the effects of my time in Italy, as it is continuing to shape me into a well-rounded, open-minded individual.

Traveling to Italy and having all these experiences showed me how amazing the musical world is, and how much I truly want to be a part of it.



  1. Following my first solo recital last month my clarinet professor, Dr. Hartig, and I have discussed my journey as a clarinetist thus far. Something that struck me was her observation that for my first two years at Ohio State, while I had been improving, I did not seem convicted. I did not seem to know if I really wanted this life- this career. The passion I had so long felt for music was gradually depleting. I could not have begun my junior year with lower self-esteem, but those two terrible setbacks I mentioned earlier showed me how much I wanted to succeed- how much I wanted to learn, improve, and impress. I seized my hopes and dreams once again, and have not stopped striving for them since. The difference has been noticeable not only to Dr. Hartig, but to the rest of the clarinet studio and my classmates. In the past semester, multiple people, both close friends and near strangers, have complemented me on my renewed passion, determination, and progress as a performer. It truly amazes me that my own journey has had the power to inspire my peers.IMG_3200IMG_3219

Yes, there is the odd day or week when I feel like my wheels are spinning but I am going nowhere. Yet at the end of these dips in confidence, I remind myself where I was not seven months ago, and how far I have come since. The fire is once again lit in my belly, and nothing is going to stop me from achieving my dreams. Seeing first-hand all the amazing experiences the real world holds for me outside of school and outside the country has given me the determination to keep studying. I am positive this would not be the case had I not traveled to Italy in August. I would not have been exposed to the real world, and not performed so poorly upon returning. If neither of those things had happened, I believe I would still be going through the motions with no direction in my mind or passion in my heart. Here I am, convinced I can succeed, that I can achieve all my goals and more, and none of it would have been possible without my participation in STEP.



For more details about my day-to-day experiences in Italy, visit by blog!