Impressions of a First Time Chautauquan

Posted on Jul 09, 2024

What It's Like to Join Tour for the First Time by Julia Sokoloff

A wild cast of characters visit Forks

Editor's Note:  Written on June 28, as a delightful new Chautauquan, Julia, left us mid-tour for a family obligation.


Hello! I’m Julia and I am on my first Chautauqua tour, playing clarinet in the band.

How did I get here? I knew of the Chautauqua, vaguely, and was drawn to the mission, the music, and the vibe; a friend sent me information and an application; they said “yes”; and so here I am!

I have found this to be an unusual and very wonderful group of musicians and performers. Right from the start I felt welcomed and valued – and despite being new, I have not felt left out.  Touring musicians spend long hours with bandmates in travel, a tedious necessity to be endured. But for Chautauquans, traveling and living together is an important part of the experience. Traveling together means time to get to know each other: slower conversations, longer stories. I learned that some are full time performers, circus people. Others have “day jobs” and use vacation time to join the Chautauqua. And some (like me!) are old enough to have mostly left the working world behind. Each person brings their unique gifts and talents to the group. Everyone is kind and community-minded, looking for opportunities to help and connect.

the bus crew
Packed into the bus, we are headed out on tour!

You might wonder how we keep ourselves fed. Kristin is a marvel of organization and industry. We travel with a full kitchen: 3 fridges, propane stoves, folding tables, dishpans and drying racks, pots and pans, spoons and spatulas, 50# bags of carrots, onions, rice -- everything needed to feed a group of hungry performers and our frequent guests. Out of this she performs magic: 3 tasty and healthy meals appear every day, plus snacks, for at least 25 people and often more, all served with love. Of course everyone pitches in to help, but Kristen is the creative genius behind it.

Trumpeter Mark Tanski and our Beloved and Tireless Chef Kristen Crowley

Playing in the band has been really fun. We get to dress up in colorful and flamboyant clothes, parade around town, and accompany the acts during the show. As we rehearsed we got better – funny how that happens – and a collection of individual musicians of varying abilities came together to become a band. Eben’s skillful leadership balances good humor and high musical standards.

For the show in Forks we had no drummer. Does anyone know a drummer who might be available? Well, turns out someone did. Karen called her friend, who called someone else – and the next day, a cheerful and proficient young drummer appeared, with his own drum kit, rehearsed with us once, and did a great job at the show. Magic!

After a week with the Chautauqua, I feel like I have become a slightly cooler and more interesting version of myself.  Another magical transformation!

Band Practice on the Bus
Band practice in close quarters, aboard the bus on the Hoh Reservation.


Written by Julia Sokoloff, Photos by Faeble Kievman, Mark Tanski, Paul Magid, and Julia Sokoloff