The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Orchestra trip confirms senior's desire to become Spanish interpreter

After a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, in October with eight other fellow orchestra members, Emily Marsch, a senior LAIS major and upright bassist, said she was confident she wanted to be a Spanish interpreter after college.

"Since coming to college, I've known I wanted to do something with Spanish" she said. She said she just hadn't been sure what that would be, until now.

She said she had started thinking about becoming an interpreter last year after she had already tried an education class and didn't like it. Then she discovered that interpretation was an option and began to explore it more through classes at VCU.

"Many people don't know the difference between interpretation and translation," she said, "but interpretation deals with the spoken word, while translation is purely on paper." There are a lot of ethical dilemmas to interpretation that are not present in other fields, she said.

"Interpretation deals with the simultaneous, the consecutive and sight." In other words, interpreters need to be able to interpret while someone is talking, after each sentence when the speaker pauses or at the same time while using the text in front of them.

The University of Richmond orchestra traveled to Cartagena in October for a seven-day cultural exchange program focused on music, as part of the "Fundacion Tocando Puertas Para Abrir Futuros," which tries to connect people through music.

"We were in the safe, touristy areas most of the time, but we got to see the honest view of Cartagena too, when we visited a public school there," said Kevin Westergaard, a sophomore and cellist for the orchestra.

He said after the concert, the students had broken into groups divided by instrument and did some practice sessions with the kids before reconvening to all play together. Before leaving, the Richmond orchestra donated some instruments they had brought with them.

"I donated my saxophone and got a message from a kid there saying he tried the sax and loved it," said Leslie Kinnas, a junior and violinist. She said she had become close with a 13-year-old violinist at the school named Gracie. "She is the happiest kid ever when she plays," Kinnas said.

Kinnas, Westergaard and Marsch all separately said that although the saying was trite, music had proven to be the international language.

Even though Marsch is fluent in Spanish, Kinnas admitted she couldn't speak it and often had trouble communicating. "I tried saying, 'use your up-bow,' but instead I told him to use the bathroom," she laughed. Once they started to play together, all the translation problems melted away, though, she said.

Marsch, Kinnas and Westergaard all said they felt much more confident after the trip and recommended it for others. Kinnas and Westergaard are working together on a duet now just for fun, and they both said they felt more confident outside of music as well.

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Marsch pointed to the trip as her defining moment for her future. "Seeing your work help people directly--seeing the immediate effects of my work is so fulfilling," she said. Meeting Colombians on the trip made her realize that Central or South America is where she eventually wants to work after college, she said.

Contact reporter Richard Arnett at

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