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Colby-Sawyer College

New Hampshire



Music, Music, Music

       July 25, 1999

This Elderhostel was in a charming small town in New Hampshire, not far from Hanover and Dartmouth College. C-S is a small college of 850 students, with many dormitories and other buildings. The EH on July 25, l999, featured courses on opera, Hayden and Bach. Hostelers were housed in a dormitory. The common area for us was the dormitory lounge. Unfortunately, it was rather scruffy, and appeared as though it was thoroughly cleaned a few decades ago. The coordinator never told us about the two air conditioners, but it did not matter too much as they worked sporadically. The courses were in the alumni lounge, a room with terrible acoustics, and two small fans that barely made a dent in the 90 degree heat.

Two of the courses were wonderful; the course on opera, taught by Dan. Dan was an English teacher in a local middle school whose hobby was opera. Dan traced the history of opera with videos and cassettes and even sang a few songs himself! I am certain that every one of the 25 people in the group was delighted with him. The same can be said for Peg, who was a music teacher and a devotee of Hayden. Peg taught us how to appreciate the life of Hayden through books, slides, and the various compositions of this very important figure in classical music. Sadly, this cannot be said for Martha, who was supposed to teach us about Bach. She obviously knew a great deal about Bach, and had a great amount of material, but she was too disorganized to be coherent, and lost half of the audience after the first day. Suggestions about more music and less talk did no good.

The food was excellent. I cannot imagine better food aboard a luxury liner. Mike Hennerrnan, the Food Service Director, was so accommodating, not only with food but with information about the area, that I wrote a letter commending him to his superior. The idea, given to me by a close friend, is: "Don't thank me, thank my boss!"

I am sorry to say the major failing in this Elderhostel was the coordinator and her assistant. The orientation was inadequate and hurried, about 45 minutes before dinner on Sunday, July 25th. There was no social the first night, or a chance to begin to know other Elderhostelers. There was no field trip or a discussion of local interesting sites. A few tourist pamphlets were strewn around the dormitory. The coordinator only appeared when some of the people from the Boston office visited. The assistant coordinator, a student, was never present, but could be reached through a bulletin board or email. She arranged for the farewell continental breakfast on the last morning when everyone was in a hurry to go home. She was late. Her attitude can be summarized in her comment "I can only do one thing at a time." The word for the coordinator and her assistant is....indifference.

Most people though 2 out of 3 good courses were enough, but I have been to so many better Elderhostels I am not sure if I want to return to Colby-Sawyer College. I am glad I went though, and I am very happy I was able to resume Elderhosteling after about a year of absence.

The major problem with Colby-Sawyer was the coordinator and assistant. Better facilities for the classroom should have been found, especially with the brutal heat. The dormitory lounge should have been cleaned. The farewell breakfast should have been offered on time. There should have been an attempt at socialization. There should have been suggestions about what to do in the area between classes and dinner.

I have suggested to Elderhostel in Boston a few years ago that they should honor and praise model coordinators as examples for others, a kind of mentoring system. I have singled out at least two excellent coordinators in the New England area as examples: John La Plante in the Incarnation Camp, Ivoryton, CT., and Rene Hurwitz of the St. George School, Newport, RI as coordinators who make a difference.

The key to a successful Elderhostel is not the food, or even the excellent teachers, but the coordinator who is the host or hostess to it all.  










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