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Gearing Up for a Jazz Fest in Costa Rica

On July 26, four Jazz Studies students and Eddie Buggie, the residence hall director for operations, flew to Costa Rica. On their agenda were nightly performances at the Costa Rica Jazz Festival followed by sightseeing around the country. Second-year master’s percussionist Sammy Miller recounted the first day of the nine-day tour.

Sammy Miller

Sammy Miller

(Photo by Luke Celenza)


1:53 a.m. I leave the Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola Jam Session where I was playing to head uptown to pack for the Costa Rican tour. I’d been at the club earlier watching fellow Juilliard-drummer Dag Markhus play as part of a Ben Webster tribute and then played some myself.

2:50 a.m. Time to eat/dispose of unfinished groceries—half a banana, a little bit of rice, two eggs, toast. But the uncooked parsnip must be disposed of, sadly.

3:02 a.m. Start packing.

3:06 a.m. Contemplate whether to bring hiking shoes and decide to bring ’em. (Note to readers: If you go to Costa Rica, bring them. They come in handy.) Close up the suitcase.

3:10 a.m. Shower.

3:45 a.m. Meet up with the rest of the group—guitarist Adam Moezinia, pianist Luke Celenza, bassist Dan Stein, and tour administrator Eddie Buggie—in front of Juilliard to meet the car that’s driving us to Newark.

4:29 a.m. At the airport I try—and fail—to input my newly acquired Sky Miles account number, but it turns out we can’t receive any points for these flights. I’m no closer to becoming a silver medallion member. 

5:10 a.m. Buy a muffin. Looks fresh, tastes very stale. 

6:37 a.m. Settle in to my aisle seat and chat with Brandy, a pharmaceutical representative from Atlanta, who’s next to me. We discuss the cold plane (or as I would later say, Hace frio). A few minutes later I’m asleep.

9:10 a.m. Once on board Delta Flight 415 from Atlanta to San Jose, I discuss steakhouses with my seatmate, who owns one on the outskirts of Atlanta. His 5-year-old daughter sits between us. She tells me she likes drums, but prefers guitars.

12:10 p.m. Having landed in San Jose and cleared customs, I find my luggage at Baggage Claim Uno. 

12:17 p.m. We go through additional bag security screening, and even though I forget to take my cymbal bag off, the police officer waves me through. He doesn’t need to scan it. Very friendly.

12:19 p.m. Even though we already have a ride from the airport reserved, a swarm of cab drivers try to convince us to go with them instead. A particularly energetic driver comes up to Eddie Buggie, our chaperone, and pitches, in Spanish, the most premium cab offer, but eventually realizes Eddie doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. The driver está muy triste.

12:45 p.m. One of the festival organizers, Rodrigo, arrives at the airport terminal to pick us up and brings us to our hotel, Casa Orquineas.

1:30 p.m. After we’ve dropped off our stuff, we meet at the Centro Cultural and eat traditional Costa Rican food: rice and beans, plantains, and black coffee in the cafeteria.

1:46 p.m. Our guitarist, Adam, makes his first of many attempts to speak Spanish: “I am muy full.” 

2 p.m. The Costa Rica Jazz Festival organizer, Manuel, tells about the differences between Costa Rica and other places, particularly—the laid-back, friendly nature of the people and their love of life. He also encourages us to explore the country. (He’s right; it’s a beautiful place with beautiful people.) 

3:20 p.m. After a trip to the currency exchange, we walk to a local mall to buy shampoo. Success! We spend the next couple hours hanging out.

4:14 p.m. Luke successfully accesses WiFi.  

5:10 p.m. Edgar, a local pianist who recently attended Juilliard Jazz’s camp at Utah’s Snow College, shows us around the San Pedro area, which is where the university is and where students hang out. It’s one of liveliest areas of San Jose that we’ll see. 

7:20 p.m. We’re having dinner at a restaurant downtown. Bassist Dan Stein opts for tap water, to the rest of our surprise. (He drank tap water for the whole trip and, to my knowledge, didn’t have any issues.)

7:55 p.m. After dinner, we walk around San Pedro some more and stop by a club to see a salsa band—the musicians are friends of Edgar’s. The music is amazing and we all attempt to dance. 

8:27 p.m. Back at the hotel, I practice on my drum pad and Adam, my roommate, practices guitar. It’s a small space, but we make it work. 

9:43 p.m. Sleep!

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