Foreign exchange students learn about Clovis’ musical heritage

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Julie Grandjean, left, an 18-year-old exchange student from Belgium, looks at a jukebox Friday with Cristobal Bastias, 17, from Chile, center, and Christian Damvig, 16, from Denmark. The teens were among a group of foreign exchange students to tour the Norman and Vi Petty Rock and Roll Museum.

Benna Sayyed

When Drago Vukelic of Zagreb, Croatia, heard he was joining other foreign exchange students in visiting the Clovis Music Festival Thursday, he wondered if it would actually be enjoyable.

“When I heard that we were going to a small city in New Mexico, I thought to myself ‘well, what are we going to do there,’ but when I got to the festival yesterday, I liked it,” said Drago.

Drago was among 17 foreign exchange students the Clovis Rotary Club brought to town to learn about the spirit of Clovis as part of its annual international foreign exchange program, which also sends New Mexico and West Texas students abroad.

Although a handful of the students were familiar with American rock ‘n’ roll music by means of Elvis Presley, they had no familiarity with classic rock before stopping in Clovis.

Saturday, Clovis-Curry Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ernie Kos called the festival a success, noting cash receipts this year will exceed expenses. Kos estimated attendance at about 3,500, saying, “It exceeds previous years by far.”

“We met our budget last year,” said Kos. “We will exceed it this year. Not by much, but to us it’s a lot because we won’t be in the red.”

Kos said international fans attending the festival included people from Canada, Denmark, England, France and Italy.

Buddy Holly’s musical history seemed to intrigue the Rotary exchange students, providing the foreign teenagers an introduction to an American musical genre that many in eastern New Mexico cherish.

Eva Hauzsar of Fribourg, Switzerland, was very happy to have discovered classic rock through Buddy Holly’s legacy, and said the music seemed to have a unifying quality as opposed to separating people by various musical tastes.

“I have heard of modern rock bands like Green Day but this (classic rock) is new to me. I like the upbeat nature of it and that it can make you smile,” said Hauzsar.

Samatha Hellessey from Melborne, Australia, left the festival satisfied she had gained a better understanding of American rock.

“I liked how the community really comes together and celebrates and embraces its musical culture,” said Hellessey.

“It was full of fun and culture,” she said.

Tammy Garner, president of Clovis’ Thursday Rotary Club, was elated the students’ visit to Clovis coincided with the music festival.

“Some of them had heard of Buddy Holly in their country, and some of them had not. Not knowing the background, I don’t think it was quite as impressive as it is to those of us who like Buddy Holly, but they enjoyed it,” said Garner, noting the students got a good feel of the city through the festival.