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Members of the WIU Wind Ensemble are pictured in 2010 with students from the Federal University of Bahia.
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WIU Director of Bands Mike Fansler is pictured entertaining students in Brazil.
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WIU Bands Planning Humanitarian, Educational Trip to Brazil in 2014

October 3, 2013

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MACOMB, IL – More than 150 members of the Western Illinois University band program will travel to Brazil in March to join in collaborative performances and donate instruments to aspiring musicians in impoverished communities.

The tour, which will run March 13-23, will be the latest in a series of cross-cultural engagements coordinated by WIU Director of Bands Mike Fansler and 1976 WIU alumnus Doug Adair. Students from WIU's Marching Leathernecks, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Studio Orchestra will participate.

The trip will be a follow-up to the 2010 WIU Wind Ensemble tour through Brazil, which Fansler arranged with Adair, who lives in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Fansler and Adair wanted to develop collaborative opportunities for WIU students and Brazilians interested in learning about American band music, while connecting WIU with schools and communities where instrument donations could create transformational experiences for Brazilian students.

"We learned prior to our 2010 trip about the extreme need for instruments in Brazil," Fansler said. "There is no music education in the secondary school programs there, and the condition of the once popular 'filharmonicas' (local bands) are now struggling to survive. One filharmonica I saw consisted of about 18 people, ranging in age from 8-65."

The donated instruments from the 2010 trip were given to a Brazilian university, which Fansler said brought about the beginning of a band program for that school. When he returned for a recent visit, Fansler played with the new band.

"To think that just two years ago there was no program is pretty amazing," he said.

Fansler said the lack of instruments leads to schoolchildren not participating, spending more time in the streets and getting into trouble.

In 2012, Fansler spent five weeks in Brazil, where he taught at a several universities and a military academy. He traveled more than 400 miles to learn about the needs of various filharmonicas across the country.

"I visited with directors who were pleading for help," Fansler said. "That led to the idea to hold a festival in Brazil where band members can come and see a showcase of American band music."

While in Brazil, WIU students will tour the country and learn about the culture while performing for a variety of groups. They will also perform in the first "World Wind & Percussion Festival" to share American band music to the Brazilians, many of whom will be hearing such sounds for the first time.

"This trip really ties into cultural awareness, as well as social responsibility and personal growth, which are some of Western's core values," said Fansler. "Our mission parallels those values."

The WIU Bands program is currently collecting used instruments that will be repaired and taken to Brazil for donation. The goal is to collect at least 150 musical instruments so each band member can play one while they are in Brazil and then leave it behind to benefit the filharmonicas.

"We are taking instruments, regardless of condition, and we will be putting them in playing condition," Fansler said.

The bands are also collecting money to help defer the costly bill for the trip. Fansler said fundraising for the program has been ongoing for about three years, but is falling about $40,000 short of the total cost.

Fansler said the WIU program has invited other bands to join them in Brazil for the showcase concert. Once in Brazil, the entry fee to play at the festival is 25 donated instruments, and so far, the 150 members of the Naperville Central High School band, directed by 1999 WIU alumnus D.J. Alstad, are making the trip.

The WIU students traveling to Brazil range from freshmen to graduate students, and nearly every academic major on campus will be represented through the three ensembles.

Fansler also hopes these trips lead to an interest by Brazilian students to attend Western and an increase in the existing cultural and academic exchanges between WIU and Brazil.

Anyone interested in making a donation of money or instruments can call Karla White at (309) 298-1505, or drop-offs can be made in Sallee Hall, room 204, on the Macomb campus. Instrument donations can also be made at Naperville Central High School.

For more information about the trip, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations