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Raylene Lowe, Annelise Wiering
Raylene Lowe is on the left, and Annelise Wiering is on the right. (For The Pantagraph)

Among the primary differences between today’s college students their formerly college-aged parents surely has to be their worldliness, their daring, their opportunity, ability and zeal to more fully explore the world.

We did internships in Paris, Ill.

They do studies, as part of their degrees, in Paris, France.

We went to Cairo, Ill., for a day to experience Little Egypt on the way back from Carbondale.

They go to Cairo, Egypt, to admire the Pyramids, after veering off to glimpse at Florence, too.

Which brings us to Raylene Lowe and Annelise Wiering.

Both juniors at Illinois State University, they are adventurous, confident, two highly talented music performance majors and Concerto/Aria winners who could have just hung out in Illinois for the summer — Raylene in Normal, Annelise in suburban Chicago.

But no.

Next week, meeting up in Paris (columnist note: the one in France, not Edgar County), they will launch a summer that could only be described as — well — more than just an adventure.

Taking up flute and violin, they plan to wander the streets of Europe for three months, through seven countries, as nothing more than street musicians, standing on  corners and  subway stops, to  “bring the warmth, energy and beauty” of music — like love, a universal life language — to others.

Yes, this is not the Vienna just south and west of St. Louis.

“Instead of staying at resorts, being tourists,” says Raylene, daughter of Ruth and James Lowe of Normal, “we want to be among the people and blend with the culture. We’re at home playing in concert halls for paying listeners. But playing on a street corner over the noise of crowds and traffic … that’s about as ‘out of the box’ as classical musicians can get.”

After months of planning, using pipe cleaners and ribbons to connect the dots on a map of western Europe, Raylene and Annelise have plotted out their 100-day odyssey in a structured-yet-free-enough manner to say, “Hey, let’s stay here longer” or “Time to go, NOW!” without feeling trapped.

They’ve set up places to sleep — with friends, friends of friends, a cousin in Germany, hostels in Austria and southern France.

Then there’s their music.

In Europe (your humble columnist recently returned from a week in Paris himself), street playing is everywhere.

Musicians camp on the concrete bridges over the Seine in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral.

They play in the 120-yard expanses underneath the enormous girders of the Eiffel Tower.

If you board the Metro trains that sprawl across the city, you’ll find street musicians — some pulling battery-operated amplifiers on carts to augment their sound — in train doorways, to play for a minute or four, then quickly get off to board the next stop.

And so it will go for Raylene and Annelise.  

If you would like to follow them, they plan to blog (lesjongleursdeux. blogspot.com) and also post pictures and videos.

“Oh sure, we’re a little scared,” says Annelise, “but our excitement outweighs our fear. Our personalities balance (Raylene is “very strong, persevering,” Annelise “sensible, level-headed”) and if there’s any combination that can defeat some Euro-freak, it is surely that one!”

Yes, you could probably say this is a long way from Normal, too.

And for them, how awesome and educational it should be.

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