Letters to the Center

Please post your own letters to the Aegean Center     (in comment area below)

Hello everyone at the Aegean Center and anyone else who remembers me.

From Antoinette Herivel-(a student from -Fall 2001)

I have not written to you -but I always think about you all. My time in Italy and Greece was one of the most important “journeys” of my life-even though I had to wait until my 50’s ! I was there after going through a very difficult period of my life, and afterwards had many more difficult times and challenges to face. But the Aegean Center, the island, the staff and students were a “gift”—-a buffer that helped me to carry on with optimism and continue my learning growing and exploring as an artist, teacher and human being.

I hope to come back to see you all and the wonderful completions of the building– before I get too far into “seniordom” ! Meanwhile–My piece of Parian Marble from the mine sits in my studio to remind me to treasure each moment of life and to celebrate through making art. I think often about the sea and the hills and the incredible peace and tranquility that I experienced during my stay. I must have picked a lot of oregano whilst I was in Paros, because I managed to save the dried leaves up until recently- in a jar on my kitchen counter! The Canadian variety just does not taste the same, so that means I just have to come back soon!!

Jane– please put more of your paintings on the website– I loved seeing what you showed a couple of years ago. I check the website every now and again to keep up with events.

All the best for the new semester,
Antoinette, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dear John and Jane,

I have been thinking about you both, Orfeas, the Aegean Center, Paros. Are you well? How is everything on Paros? You must just be starting / getting ready to start a new semester at the Center. I so admire you both for what you are doing. You really change people’s lives in the most beautiful way.

When I first inquired / applied to the Aegean Center back in 2003 I did not think that music would be my main focus. I knew singing was something I wanted to keep up and get better at, but honestly I was drawn to the Aegean Center because of your philosophy and approach to learning, and because of the fine arts. When I realized I had the opportunity (after corresponding with Orfeas) to make music my primary study, it was a very new idea for me but very exciting and something I definitely wanted to pursue. But I had no idea what it would entail. I think I was shocked, at first, to realize how much I didn’t know; the learning curve was so steep and I felt like I would never get it right. But Orfeas and you, John and Jane, turned my desire for perfection and idealism into LOVE of my craft. Suddenly music became my chosen craft, quite unexpectedly (though I had always loved it in my heart, I had not realized it until that cold March of 2004 when I began life at the Aegean Center). My experience at the Aegean Center began my transformation from a girl with idealistic dreams and aspirations, into a woman who does what she does because she loves it.

I am now into my second semester in the music program. While I still have no love of the university system, the instructors are wonderful and the program is very good. I have an amazing voice instructor who I love very much. She is Korean and has the most exquisite voice. I feel like I am responding well to her teaching method. Of course I am taking music theory which keeps me on my toes, to say the least. Also taking piano, guitar, music literature, and choir. Last semester for my vocal jury I sang Se Laura Spira (Frescobaldi), The Daises (Barber), Was ist Sylvia (yes, the same one Elli sang in 2004), and Care selve (Handel). This semester I am auditioning for the Vocal Performance program so at the end of the semester I will sing my songs from last semester plus Vezossa aurora, Wir Wandelten (Brahms), and an English art song and contemporary song (probably a jazz or musical theater piece) which are both yet to be decided. It will be a 20 minute recital and I am already a bit nervous for it.

My current professor/voice teacher commented in response to my concerns that I was in the program simply because no other doors seemed open to me, said:
“You are here because you love music. You love to sing, you love to perform. You are doing this because you love it. No other reason is needed– no other reason is valid.”

Without my experience at the Aegean Center, I would not be where I am. I know this because, more than anything else, the music program at the Aegean Center made me realize that I could do what I loved to do. I wanted to return again in the fall of 2004 for no other reason other than I love the Aegean Center, I love you, I loved what I was studying, I loved Greece. I tried to intellectualize my reasons for going and returning as if I had to prove to the world that I was making an intelligent decision. But there was no other reason other than love, as sappy and cliche as that may sound. And, believe it or not, love IS the most intelligent thing, I believe, we can act upon.

You know, the longer I am away from my experience with you at the Aegean Center, the more I appreciate it. It has proved to be the moving force in so many things in my life. Thank you for your love, and for giving me that opportunity. You are both so incredible and I miss you very much. Give my love to everyone.

Love, Madia
Madia Cavanagh, (Full year student, 2004)

ELECTED Silence sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear,
Pipe to me in pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
:Gerard Manley Hopkins

Dear John,

“Learn your craft. Understand your medium. Don’t obsess trying to find your voice…If you are serious and work and ‘look’ and ‘see’ and work and work, your voice will emerge.” These are the thoughts you gave me when I first came to the Aegean Center and began working with you. I have been living by them and they have changed me. I had passion, but no direction. You gave me that. This journey of learning and self-discovery has been incredible. I had no idea life could be this good. My spirit has never felt so free, confident and happy. I feel so capable and no words can express my gratitude for what you have given me. Your selfless kindness, encouragment and faith in me has been the greatest gift. Thank you for everything.

Viki Ciostek

Dear John,

I’ve been wanting to write this letter for over a year, but it is only now that I find the mental space and time to do so. You have been in my thoughts and I hope this finds you well in Paros, a place that seems far too much like a dreamscape to me now since I was there.

After nearly five years since I began, I have completed my degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology from Stanford. Perhaps you were aware that when I arrived at the Aegean Center in the fall of 2003, I was uncertain if I would return to Stanford: academics were a struggle and I felt depleted by the same paradigm for education I had know my whole life. Although it was not easy following through with my remaining years at Stanford, I felt a stronger foundation of my own values and ways of seeing after my experience in Italy and Greece. And what difficulties did remain, provided points for further shaping and reaffirming my values in response.

I look back to those three and a half months away [at the Aegean Center], as a very seminal period for me. It was the first time I in my life where I felt respected and supported to be in a place of “not knowing.” It is rare to be given the time and the space for self-reflection and exploration, not to mention in such a numinous landscape of mythical energies. Our hikes over the hills and shores of Paros remain vivid in my memory; I still feel a profound connection to the land there. It was as if the terrain was a internal topography, externalized: it opened up a channel to my own invitation, allowing me to see things with new eyes. I filled every page of the leather-bound journal you gave us, and rereading through the writings, there is a truthfulness –a authentic voice–in them, that I think will always be at my core. But it was there in Paros that this voice emerged, that I solidified a critical sense of belonging and knowing in the world. I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity, and for you making it so.

I know that you must deal with the mundane problems and logistics of administration for the school, but in the midst of these things, I hope you never loose sight of the larger picture?the essential value and far-reaching effect of the work you do. It is truly a gift, an offering to those who are fortunate enough to receive and experience it.

There is always more to say, but I will leave it here for today. I look forward with great anticipation, to the day I journey back to Paros where the light is more luminous than any place I have ever been. For now, the Center and the land of Paros remain in my heart and I will return to these places again and again as a source of deep beauty.

With love and gratitude, Eva
January 2007
(Student Fall Italy/Greece Session 2003)

” To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing in the world of forms, truth, love purity and beauty – this is the sole game which has intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents and attainments in themselves can have no lasting importance.” : Meher Baba

I feel your school accords with this and that’s why I am returning in 2007!

Thank you,
Shirin [Student Autumn 2006]

Yasu, Packs and Carsons. I hope this finds you refreshed after the holidays and looking forward to the next group of curious students. Thank you for all you have shown and shared with all of us. I miss you, the island, Italy, everything – every word from Jeffery about the art we were looking at and the ground we were standing upon, moments with Jane in my studio or the group discussions in the meeting room over a pile of her beautiful art books and pages of quotations that often triggered long conversations. Thank for your patience and the fount of knowledge that you shared; I told you many times and I will tell you again – I “re-learned” how to paint with you and am now facing the challenge of making what I learned integral to my previous process of painting without abandoning all that I loved to do before learning all that you had to give us.

I’m sitting here weeks after I’ve returned – well, a month now, isn’t it? – with thoughts of Paros and Italy and the experience you made available for all of us keeping me up at night. It’s not a bad thing, but this wistfulness for a state of mind that shifted when I returned…I have no place to watch the sun set over the sea here, nor a place, an empty room with naught but my paintings and one window with that amazing Parian light as a main light source – my studio became a solace for me at the Center rather than something that I felt I “had” to go to.

I loved the way all of you teach, the idea of learning in the place you live and being part of the place, both in Pistoia and Paroikia, made the experience richer (as I’m sure you’ve heard many times) and more real. I’ve said this to many people – I thought my love of Renaissance and Greek art and its history was intense before I left, but now it feels like it’s part of me, like I need to look at it and think about it in order to be a happy human being. There were times I realized that I’d never be able to wholly relive this experience, and this makes me sad, but I type that with a smile knowing that there are things that will never be forgotten, even if and when the knowledge of art history fades (I hope not) or the passion for learning art history fades (I hope not), or when my curiosity for literature and pursuit of painting fades (never!), I will still have the simple memories of Place. I will never, ever forget that hike through the cave and that whole day in general, or the way it felt to dive beneath the water and touch an ancient Roman well, or the way it felt to watch the sunset while perched on part of an old church overlooking the sea… simple moments like that I will always treasure.

I know I will never be able to re-live it all – the hikes, the feelings that rose on said hikes (some very frustrating, but my, I learned so much about myself in those moments), the feeling of the Aegean Sea on my skin and the experience of being with a group of people so beautifully curious about everything that it inspires me still… all of it. But, in knowing that, I smile and realize if and when I return, which I will, it will be a new beautifully real but seemingly “waking dream” for me to walk through and find new beauty therein. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To quote Keats, who I grew interested in while there for different reasons and so sought to learn more about him with Jeffery –

“Was it a vision, or a waking dream?”
“Fled is that music: do I wake or sleep?”

Teresa DiNapoli,
(Fall 2006)

Osiyo, John Pack!
Hope this short note finds you, Jane, Gabriel, and Nathaniel in best of health and happiness. The holiday season has passed and I have finally began to write and draw again. I’ve found my head FULL of details from my time spent on Paros every time I sit down to write something. It’s amazing how much my time there influences my work. Just like you said it would! Furthermore, I’ve broken the habit of writing on my computer and now everything I write is handwritten first. My experience there not only shows in my work, but my closest friends have commented that I seem to be more centered and calmer now, more focused. For this alone, I owe you a thousand thanks. I’ve also noticed that I’ve grown to appreciate silence as its own sort of music. On the long car ride to my sister’s house for Christmas dinner, I turned the car radio completely down and just let myself relax. This is new to me! THIS is what I was missing! For it’s in these moments of quiet that my mind begins the creative process and the ideas, shy creatures that they are, venture out.

Enough said. I’m sure you’ve heard it all a million times. I will add, though, that I’m still practicing my Italian and it is improving daily. I plan to return to Italy for a language immersion course sometime in the future and am interested in discussing with you the opportunity to return to the Aegean Center.

Thanks again for everything!
Darla (Student Autumn Italy/Greece Student 2006)

“When someone seeks, it happens that his eyes see only the thing he seeks. and he is able to find nothing, to take nothing, because he always thinks about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal

Finding means:Being free. Being open. Having no goal”

A year ago, when I decided to come the the Aegean Center, I had no idea what to expect. My feet were always restless, always on the go. I was a runaway looking for something, something that was missing in my soul. You welcomed me with open arms and warm hearts…The term ‘Aegean Family’ is something an outsider could never understand. You have made my stay magical…simply magical. Your support, your knowledge, your understanding are the least of the gifts you have given me. You have taken me, a lost soul, and guided me through the most incredible Journey…one that has changed me forever and opened my eyes to how beautiful life can be. Your faith in me has ignited a drive and a confidence within myself that I never would have imagined…No words could possibly paint my true gratitude.
I look at you, how beautiful you are together, and how you have created such a beautiful world around you for us students. How you work so hard and battle so many obstacles…You are amazing. It gives me faith and pushes me in not giving up on my own goals and desires. Thank you for everything…everything. I will miss you more than you know.
Viktoria (Full Year Student 2006)

Leaving Paros means leaving behind a beautiful land (thank you, John, for all the hikes), a culture I’ve grown fond of and respect. It means leaving behind a school I admire deeply and thought only existed in my dreams, and it means leaving the people who brought it to life. Thank you for opening your hearts. Thank you for all that you have done. No words can truly express how grateful I am.
Leaving Paros means leaving behind a family…a home.

Warm wishes,
Alexandra (Full Year Student 2006)

“To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light…” : Emerson

I keep saying to myself not to be sad because this place doesn’t need to be missed as a literal place. The Center is a state of mind that we all take with us. That said, I will miss you all deeply. It has been a beautiful, magical experience, and although 3 months is a short time, what you have embodied in me will last a lifetime. More than anything, you’ve all instilled in me and inspired me to LOOK, ABSORB and APPRECIATE. For this I can never say enough thanks…

John – I’ve already written to you about your amazing passion, but I’ll reiterate by saying that your earnestness and ardor to learn serves as an example for all who come here to the Aegean Center–you truly are as the change you wish to see in the world, and thus you’ll touch, be touched, change and be changed by so many beautiful people. Thank you for allowing me to be one…

To Jeffrey and Liz – for thoroughly teaching to any and all who truly wish to learn – Thank you! I hope to be back to hear it all again, Jeffrey, and to better experience the darkroom, Liz.

Jane! I can’t begin to thank you enough. Your patience and kindness helped me to achieve a dream, and I would not have been able to do it without your incredible lessons and endless encouragement. I now will go on, continuing to practice your lessons until I’m satisfied–even if it means setting up stacks of boxes for hours on end! I will miss you so much! I will be back in your class again someday!
For helping all of us to see this sparkling world, THANK YOU ALL!

With Love,
Olivia Pollock (Dec. 2006])

My daughter first came to the Aegean Center to study Art but she has learned more than that, she has learned how to “live”—to live a fulfilled life. You have all been a great inspiration to her. You have provided a safe and peaceful space for her to be and have given her the freedom to explore and expand her creativity. It was such a joy for me to see her so happy, relaxed and contented. What a wonderful gift you have given my daughter. This has been a special year for her and the experience she has had here will always be precious to her and will help her with whatever she will do in the future.

Pui, Parent 2005-2006 Hi John, I am consistently blown away by what you have done with the school (now the singing program). I just spent some time on the website and pretty much had tears in my eyes the whole time…I am proud: proud of the school, proud of you and Jane, just proud that I had the opportunity/experience. There is no doubt in my mind that my ability to do what I do every day began with you. When I work with my students, I try to extend & emulate what I received from my teachers at the Aegean Center: the trust, compassion, and belief that they can succeed in life.

Julia Cain – 2006 (Student from Fall 1993)<jcain@nwacademy.org>

John, Here is part of a letter that I got from my Grandmother, thought you would like to see it. Dear Deborah,

Happy Thanksgiving! This is probably the first Thanksgiving you have ever spent any place other than Wayne so I hope it is a memorable one for you and for all of the friends who are there with you. We will be thankful for many things as we sit at the table with your family and your Uncle Doug and his family but one thing in particular is JOHN PACK. He has led you on a most wonderful experience. Every time we read one of your e-mails we are grateful for him and for his wife. Even though we will probably never know them, we are grateful for their leadership, their care of the students in your program, and their interest in opening up your world to so many wonderful things. Bravo!

Dear everyone, Hello from Vermont and our first foot of snow. I’ve finished school (just kidding, you never finish school) and have spent some time meditating on the four amazing months I once spent at the Aegean Center. Not only is this place mesmerizing in and of itself (when you meet someone on the outside, someone who knows Paros, the two of you will undoubtedly stand in silence for a moment and smile with the secret knowledge you share, then move on just to be social, because you can’t possibly explain to anyone else around you what Paros is like, how important it is) but the school is a diamond in the rough and tumble nonsense it sometimes becomes to “go abroad.” If I had never gone to the Aegean Center, I’d never have learned to paint. I went as a writer, and I left as an artist, and as an appreciator of aesthetics, of process, of time and of creation. It’s really great to have some splashy stuff on your resume, but it’s even better to have an experience like this to add to your *life.* Splashy stuff might get you in a door somewhere, but the Aegean Center is a marble pillar that you can’t achieve any other way. You won’t ever forget it, and it will continue to ripple out into parts of your life for a long time to come.
Thanks, you beautiful people, and peace to all of you.
Melissa (Spring 2004)<mbounty@chooseco.com>

Dear John, It would be right about now that I would be coming by for a visit. I’ve been back to Europe every other year since 1997, when you first had me over as a visiting artist. But I’m making an exception this year – I will instead do a four-week-long artist residency at Stock 20, a facility in Taichung, Taiwan. I couldn’t manage both.

But you, Jane, Gabriel, and the school are in my thoughts. It looks like the school is doing beautifully – a Lefkes studio, a new scholarship or two. It may sound strange, but following the travails of contemporary art, the postmodernist project seems to have run its course. Its greatest proponents are dying off or thoroughly ensconced in comfortable perma-jobs. It’s adherents are starting to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s next. What’s next, of course, is what you’ve been doing for over nearly 20 years – establishing a possibility of faith in art that anyone is welcome to join should they choose. That will take different forms in different places, but the nihlism that has permeated the art world for four decades has finally run up against simple physics. Nature abhors a vacuum, even a vacuum of belief.

Some of what we talked about when I visited in 2003 has come to pass. I now have a corporation, Drawww, which takes a broad view of technique – the skillful application of technology, from the stone age to the computer age – and seeks to foster it for the sake of bringing more artistry into the world. Right now the projects of Drawww are simple ones – an online archive of the writings of a dear former teacher at the University of Miami, the website for my gallery in Miami, and a comics project. But other things – the ones we talked about – are starting to look like real possibilities.

I Hope this finds everyone happy and well. Take care until we speak again.

Franklin- 18 October 2005

“My experience at the Aegean Center was one of complete magic. The atmosphere and artistic instruction combined were enough to make any soul sing with glee! I studied solo and ensemble singing with Mr. Orfeas John Munsey, and all i can say is boy, can that man get some of the most foreign and inspiring sounds out of a body. The instruction was rigorous yet incredibly comfortable and the family of artists that is created is completely unique. Never have i had the chance to create a high E with a large, heavy pillow squished between my legs in order to produce the most supported sound from the deep chambers of the body. Orfeas often referred to some of these forms of “torture” as the most important elements within a singer’s technique. And i am so greatful to him for it. With a combination of these gentle spirits, the beauty of Paros, the inspiring courses and the passionate greeks, one is sure to find themself within one of the most awe-filled lands on earth. I would venture there if you ever have the chance.”
Sheila Karls- (2005 Spring)<skkarls@tds.net> October 2005
Why has it taken me so long to post a note of gratitude and share at least a few of my positive feelings for the Aegean Center?! The Aegean Center is an en experience that remains isolated in my mind as if protected in some magical bubble of wonder… I appreciate beyond words that which the school stands for and is. I am grateful for the teachers who teach with such passion and create such an environment in which students feel protected and free to wonder, learn, absorb, create, expand, reach, build and challenge….. A wonderful community was created, constantly inspired and inspiring….Sewing circles, communal yoga, potluck dinners, sharing stories/music/things/advice, reading and writing back and forth, day and night long photo shoots….and more made the Aegean Center a school all around- not only while in class, in the school or photo lab. This kind of creative environment we shared is truly unique. And what better place than Paros- where natural beauty, wonderful local characters (and animals), the array of aromas and spices… heaps of new things and ways to learn and draw inspiration….
If I could give back at least one fond memory’s worth….
I will never forget the Aegean Center and one day I will have the means to give a little something back.
With lots of love,
Kassandra Lefakinis- (2001 fall/winter)<Kasyx9@hotmail.com> July 2005
So many plans change, so many ways of remembering, so many realizations even a year later. I’ve never so wanted to give back to a place. Recently I’ve found myself thinking about how great it would be if I could just send the Aegean Center a whole library of art books, a collection of cameras or a shiny white baby grand to go with all that beautiful Greek whitewash.?omeday. I miss you all–John, Jane, Orfeas, Jeffrey and Liz–and wish you the very best. And Gabriel too.
Susan Kosoff <skosoff@wheelock.edu> July 2005
“When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.”
– Rudolf Baheo
We are all here on a journey of some kind-some kind of artistic odyssey, out of the limits of our own cultures into the limitlessness of another. Here, we are accepted based on personal, human merit. Here, we are valued for the mere fact that we have experienced life, or that we are just beginning to understand the soul of our lives. Our environment-the culture of Greece, the ethos of Paros, the comfort of the Center, and the passion of John Pack-is our Muse. The inspiration that lies innate in the pure beauty and artistic history of this place has been born within each of us as we continue to hone our craft. Even though we may not participate in each course, we are gaining new appreciation for many art forms. The effort we apply to our art directly connects to the experience of the process and the beauty of our final product. Judgment has no place here; the artists and their work are met only with open-mindedness, constructive support, and encouragement. Each of us is in some way lost, lost in a world that encourages consumerism, materialism, and financial gain. We are of the part of the world that does not subscribe to these beliefs; therefore, we are in essence outsiders, searching for places and people who are like ourselves. So we have come miraculously to find ourselves among a select group of individuals, and we have become, in this short time, a family of artists. We have taken the risk and the opportunity of transplanting ourselves from our everyday routines into the vast unfamiliarity of the Aegean Center, of Paros, of Greece. Being thrown into the ‘unfamiliar’ challenges our limiting beliefs, our past experiences, and in essence, who we are. This continuous odyssey of losing and discovering who we are defines our art. We are here to experience the process, and when we come out on the other side, we will see it with new eyes.
Suzanne Adams – June 2005
Dear Jane,
Somehow I want to thank you and John for what you are doing, and what you have done for me.I’m not sure it is expressible, and everything I write seems a very lame attempt. I guess I can just say simply that you both caused me to grow and change. What is more valuable than that? But it was also nice to discover that there are some people in the world who hold some of the same artistic values. I’ve been hunting for schools for the past month, and to be honest, I’m just depressed; they begin to look scarily similar. I know I will be hard-pressed to find a teacher like you. I don’t know if it feels a thankless job sometimes, especially with students coming and going, but I hope you will remember your students who believe completely in what you and John do. I am glad that life deposited you on Paros. I also want to thank you for being you even though this may sound strange. You are a steady person, calm and gentle, and strong and firm, and I’m using too many adjectives, but I can’t hit on the right one to convey the picture in my mind. I think that if one is determined to learn, learn they will. But when there is a reliable teacher who knows how to mentor as well, learning occurs much faster. So thank you. I’ve only just started to realize how much of what you have said I have retained. Hopefully something in this letter comes across that does not sound too trite. Love, Elli Seifert
Elli Seifert <jaded_red28@yahoo.com> February 2005
Dear John,
Lately I’ve been feeling “homesick” for Paros… It was such a thrill to see Jane; it somehow made everything seem real again. I imagine that you are busy getting ready to welcome a new group of students for the spring semester. Is it very cold there? The weather here has been beautiful, but there is nothing comparable to look forward to like the blooming of Parian wildflowers. I hope all is well for you. I think of you often; sometimes it seems like I could just turn the corner and there it would be: the deceptively barren rock of Paros, with its windswept white-washed houses staggering along a coast of breaking blue waves. And a hint of madness from southern winds sweeping through the narrow, uneven streets, as the sun sets with its particular pink-orange glow fingering still-standing ancient terraces. Does anything ever change on Paros, I wonder? I know the answer must be “yes”, but there is a spirit resting there that remains constant. And in it all lays enfolded like some precious gem, the Aegean Center, with all its joy and triumph and subtlety. It is such a gift you have given to the students that seek you out; there is so much beauty.
With love, Madia
Madia Cavanagh <madiacavanagh@yahoo.com> February 2005
I would love to hear from you information regarding purchase of students’ art work. I live in Brooklyn, NY, but I can arrange for pick-up from Athens. Thank you so much! Regards, Hariclia Makoulis
Hariclia Makoulis <ambrosialusa@netscape.net>
Brooklyn, NY USA – December, 2004
I just read every entry in the guestbook. Yes, every entry! And I am so inspired, excited, and now committed to being there very soon. I know in my heart that this will be a life changing experience and I will make any sacrifice to be a part of that wonderful, magical place.
roxana <roxana_marroquin@hotmail.com>
West New York, NJ US – November, 2004
The Aegean Center is not just a semester abroad; it’s an education of the senses. The smell of apricot orchards in the morning; the shimmer of the wind through the olive trees; this is your classroom and these are your teachers: men and women who have seen a lot and thought a lot, who are not afraid to feel. I remember, more distinctly than any day in the classroom, an afternoon eating lunch with Jane. She ordered a plate of fried sardines and a salad. Something about the way she drizzled the olive oil on, something about the way she licked it from her fingers, revealed exactly what it was I had crossed the Atlantic to learn: to savor life, not just live it, for once to be fully engaged. It comforts me to know that there is a place, still, where wonder is still important. It comforts me to know that there is a place where art is a rigorous discipline, a craft, and also a joy. But most of all it comforts me to know that each semester more students experience the magic and mystery of the old world through the eyes of these American dropouts and visionaries, that twice a year, twenty new souls feel what it is to discover life on their own terms. To learn that there is no achievement, only the attempt. That success in life is equal to the honesty of the attempt, the beauty of the attempt. The Greeks, as Keats said, believed that “beauty is truth, truth beauty.” There are few places in the world where this is still true and the Aegean Center is one of them. I feel lucky to have discovered it, and to continue to discover it. Some mornings I still wake with a Greek wind on my lips, the taste of a cucumber salad.
Cora Stryker <Cora_Stryker@yahoo.com>
San Francisco, CA U.S.A. – August, 2004
If my experience at the Aegean Center could be summed up in?wo words, it would be ‘life changing’. When I first came to the Center last fall, I was an enthusiastic but dispersed artist?resh out of highschool.?hrough my first semester, I took almost every course I could fit into my schedule–two?rawing classes, oil painting, incaustic, writing, art history, literature, beginning singing?nd ensemble.?his last was where I really grew and fell head over heels in love–with performance. With the help of the teachers and their desire to help growing artists to find their path, I was able to narrow down my interests to the performing arts. When I returned to the Aegean Center for the spring semester, I studied solo singing with experienced musician and performer Orfeas John Munsey. In terms of technique, I?as making leaps and bounds within a period of only two or three weeks. By the end of the semester, besides finding an entirely new voice with practice in the belle canto techniques, I had a repertoire ready to be performed.? and the other solo singing students took part in a successful concert and also were provided with recordings to take home.??earned so much about technique, the industry?nd how to make it as a solo performer during that second semester. What I learned helped?e to decide to focus my?rtistic?nergy into one area.?his experience changed my whole plan I had had?or?he next few?ears. I am currently back in my home town of Boston preparing my auditions for the musical theatre department of Boston Conservatory, and I am very excited. I am?erribly grateful as well?or the kind help and support I recieved from Orfeas and?he Pack family.? would not be who I am without their talent and dedication?n their jobs.
Nicole Alba <breathart_8@hotmail.com>
Boston, MA U.S.A. – June, 2004
You will only understand how much you love something when it is time to say goodbye. For me this is Paros and the Aegean Center…I miss it already and know I will return someday soon!
Dan Daley <danielpatrickdaley@hotmail.com>
NY USA – June, 2004
As the 2004 Spring Session came to a close I wanted very much to know every detail about the Center’s final week… the student exhibit, the reading, and particularly the solo concerts and ensemble performance. I was one of the first students to attend The Art of Singing program at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in the fall of 2003 and it was totally life altering. A mature student, I had studied voice for three years prior to my arrival at the center and was very uncertain of what to expect. I was overwhelmingly surprised! The voice teacher, Orfeas John Munsey, has an incredible wealth of knowledge to share with his students, not to mention his unique style of teaching matched with his enthusiasm. I was completely lifted into a world of musical magic and the learning spectrum was enormous. There was no doubt that I had made the right decision to attend the singing program and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Vocalists of all levels will benefit greatly from the program and their time spent with the extraordinary Orfeas Munsey. The whole experience cannot but change the way one looks at the world and oneself. I will be returning the fall of 2004 to continue individual study with this dynamic teacher of voice.
Catherine Bootsman <bootsman@islandnet.com>
Victoria Canada – June, 2004
During the Italian Session we absorbed a great deal of knowledge, specifically about Italian Renaissance Art. The Villa was truly an experience especially the amazing homemade meals every night shared with our new friends and teachers. Make sure to try the zuccini flowers and gnocchi……yummy!!!! Be sure to ask Jeffrey where to get the best gelato!!! The teachers are incredibly inspirational and provide an encouraging learning environment. ALL the teachers love what they do and want to share their love with us. We gained so much from the Italian session that we decided to return for the following Greece session. Paros is now a second home to us. What makes it so is John, Jane, Liz, Jeffrey, Orfeas, and Gabriel who spread their positive energy and make the school a wonderful place to learn. Feel free to email us with any questions you might have!!!!
DAN & VANA <danielpatrickdaley@hotmail.com, savanakretchmar@yahoo.com>
NY and Chicago, – May, 2004
As I left the port of Parakia on that big ferry, begining my trip back “home”, I knew the lights from the blue domed chuches were fading, the sounds of the waves were growing silent, and the smell of jasmine was becoming more faint. But I cried as I sailed away, not so much because I was leaving, but becuase I am one of the precious few who know of this magical place. I don’t just mean the beautiful scenery, the sunny days, and the beach…I mean the Aegean Center and Paros both. John, Jane, liz, Jeffrey,and Orpheus made us their family. Paros treated us as locals. I was surrounded every day by beautiful art and people who truly believe in living life to the fullest. That day I left Paros I cried, for all those who will never get to encounter such magic and love. John and Jane, thank you a million times over. i carry everything you have taught me in my heart everyday. i dream of Paros and Italy when I fall asleep at night. You made me believe in what I knew was inside me all along. I love you. I’m sending you hugs from across the sea.
Jessica Elefante <babyj13dance@yahoo.com>
NH, NY USA – March, 2004
I studied with Orfeas John Munsey at the Aegean Center during the Fall 2003 semester in Italy and Greece. I had studied voice for?our years previous to this but I still had so much to learn. Orfeas helped me to develop my chest voice as well as improve my breathing and extend my head voice to its full beauty, I learned so much from him, after my semester at the Center I felt like a real singer. I learned many new peices that I could add to my repetoire and was taught how to teach myself, as a lot of the work was to be done personally in my own time. I found it difficult at times because I didnt feel I could live up to Orfeas’s high expectations, but he believed in me and pushed me to develop my voice and my skills. I highly recommend this program to any interested singer, but I must add that one must be very serious in your study as it is difficult and challenging but irreplaceable. I learned so very much during my time at the school, not only in my music development but my own personal development. The independence as well as the friends I gained at the center will last forever. Paros, and the wonderful teachers at the center will capture your heart and I promise you it will be an experience you never forget. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them!
Meg Cadwell <Meg Cadwell > Thursday, January 08, 2004
John and Jane, merry christmas to you all, I hope you are having a special holiday time together and hopefully getting some rest after all the wonderful craziness of the last weeks. John and Jane, thank you for welcoming me into your world and creating such a special place for all of us to be and to create. The whole experience for me was like a dream come true, which sounds so cheesy but it’s true. I’ve played with art for so long, to actually be in a place where I was learning, breathing and living art was such a gift. I don’t know if all along I have been waiting for someone to validate this part of me or for myself to accept it, but this experience was like breathing freely without fear or anxiety. Thank you. I know that wherever I go from here, there will be something from my time at the Aegean Center that will give me rest and hope. I pray that the blessings that you have imparted to us will continue to abound in your lives and those you touch. I love you.
Stacey Blackman <kalabesh@yahoo.com> December, 2003
I have just spent two weeks on Paros visiting my daughter Megan, that included an unforgetable Thanksgiving(I really mean this, ask any of these students where they were on Thanksgiving ’03, years from now, and they will tell you with a big smile on their face!). I have just re-read what is on this web site, and the comments of others, and wonder what else I could possibly write that has not already been said and anyone who has come in contact with the Packs and this school, knows how true these comments are. So I will address my words to prospective students and parents who might wonder who these folks are, and is this program all its cracked up to be? My two weeks there, I believe is longer than most parental visits, and frankly it was my vacation that had the happy coincidence of including the very special world that my daughter had found. I had most of the time to myself because Meg had so many school related activities. It was the off season on Paros and this gave me the chance to engage many of the local folks I met in conversation that throngs of tourists dont allow time for. When the subject of John and Jane Pack and the Aegean Center came up, the response was all pretty much the same…loving and envolved parents, responsible and caring educators, and many said that John could be Mayor, he is so well liked. These are qualities that are earned over years on a small island where foreigners are under greater scrutiny by their neighbors. My observations confirmed these opinions, and I will be happy to discuss in more detail anyone who might have questions about the Aegean Center. When I sent the money by wire for the tuition a few months ago, I wondered if I was doing the right thing? Now that I have seen for myself how the program in action, the friends my daughter has made(several, I’m sure, will be life long), the education(on so many levels) she has received in a safe and caring environment, the answer is clearly YES! Thank You all for the memories, your friend…dave cadwell
Dave Cadwell <sixbandaid@yahoo.com>
West Cornwall, Ct USA – December, 2003
Overwhelmed with memories of such a magical time spent with phenomenal people, I sit here, in my 650 sq. ft. apartment in brooklyn, and can still feel freedom in my mind and heart, remnants of my time in Tuscany and Paros. Thank you, Jane, John, Jeff, Liz, Cari, Chris….you remind me of the peace and joy one can have when truly being on her path. Missing you all terribly, Alexandra p.s. my love to all you Fall 2002 students….
Alexandra Maria Elite <alexandraelite@yahoo.com>
New York, NY USA – Monday, August 18, 2003
It is very difficult to explain to the unknowing what an amazing experience and the rare opportunities gained from the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts. When you begin the Monday morning meeting for the first time you begin to work together as a family. The gains and losses are shared as one. With the small group it’s hard not to know something special about each person. The bonds and friendships that are gained remain a lifetime, for these people around you share the same feelings of a new and exciting place. The personal involvement of the teachers with the students is an important part of the program also. Whether it is the class settings or the one on one teaching, valuable knowledge is shared freely and openly. It produced a need for achievement above and beyond the norm expected in most educational environments. I utter the complete truth in saying I learned more in 3 months than I learned in two years at University. I learned not only about art but also relationships with others, relationships with myself and to appreciate what ever is thrown my way. Growing is a must with the Aegean Center, pushing through blocks with art, realizing every day is a new and exciting opportunity and taking advantage of them. The Aegean Center has been the best series of memories in my life, I cherish my time spent on the island with all the wonderful students and the amazing teachers, I count down till I return. I would hope that ANYONE who has any questions or just wants to talk about the center to feel free to e-mail me; I guarantee a response to your letter.
Stephenie Taskey <Stepheniet2001@yahoo.com> August, 2003
Dear Jane and John, It is difficult for me to be brief about the positive intellectual and emotional gains Ariana derived from attending the Aegean Center of the Fine Arts. From early adolescence on, Ariana had a budding passion for the Arts. A quantum leap in her artistic sensibilities and enthusiasm for it followed after two semesters at your school. In Italy she was exposed through Jeff’s lectures and through personal observation to the great Italian Renaissance masters. In Paros she studied Classical history, literature and ancient forms of painting, such as the Fayum tomb portraits and Byzantine Ikonography, while simultaneously learned specific techniques of drawing and painting.
Jane’s instruction of these techniques proceeded at the student’s own pace. This individualized approach enabled Ariana to absorb and practice these techniques so that she could gradually develop her level of skills and confidence in her abilities. She was immensely stimulated by and gained a great deal of knowledge from her art history and Classic literature courses with Jeff, asking him to personally lecture her on Plato’s Symposium after the semester was over. Elizabeth’s photography lectures were both informative and inspiring and impacted on Ariana in such a way that she would like to take up photography.
All members of your faculty showed a genuine enthusiasm for teaching, and were eager to impart their knowledge and love of their subjects to the students. Also, there truly was a “safety net” in your school – you and the rest of the faculty were warmly supportive and understanding of the students who were, after all, very far from home.?
Then there is the setting, the island of Paros itself, and her immersion into the culture of Greece. Ariana flourished there, and fell in love with the school, the island and the culture. She made lasting friendships not only with the other students, but with the local people on Paros, from whom she began to pick up a Greek vocabulary of her own. The school housing was incredible: olive, orange, apricot and pomegranate trees surrounded her apartment. She found herself participating in the close-knit community of Paros, attending Easter services in the 1700 year old Byzantine church, preparing Easter dinner for all her fellow students, meeting and embracing the Pariotis.
Our daughter left in September rather shy and reserved and came home an enthusiastic, outgoing and confident young woman, prepared and ready to embrace the next stage of her life.
With many thanks for affording Ariana the opportunity to attend your school and to have an inspirational experience which will impact on her the rest of her life, I remain,

Yours sincerely,
Margaret Taylor <Robertutaylor@aol.com> July, 2003

§ 6 Responses to Letters to the Center

  • Lara Buelow says:

    Dear Aegean Center: John, Jane, Jeffery, and Liz:

    I am still thinking of my time in Italy and Greece often! I am hoping that I might have another opportunity to do the program again sometime in my life. I remember John saying that people always return to Paros once they have been. Well, I haven’t gotten my chance yet, but every break I have, I play with the idea of going back to the island.

    I made a lot of good friends in the program that I still keep in touch with. The Aegean Center is one of the most positive abroad programs I have experienced – I definitely recommend it for any passionate artist/traveler.

    I hope to stay in touch and keep up to date with all the artwork.
    Cheers, Yiamas,


  • Amber Rae says:

    My Dearest Aegean Center Family,
    I was writing in my journal the other day and I decided I needed to share it:

    “I am so happy for the experience I have enjoyed. For the people on the island. Happy for the school and how many students have and will go through it. Happy for John and his enthusiasm for life. For Jane and her support. For Jun and his friendship…For everyone I have learned from. This experience has been the best in my life. Who would have thought a small town, middle class girl would have a grandmother lucky enough to set up a fund and who would have thought the opportunity would have arrived for this girl to go to Greece. To attend one of the finest schools. To grow. Mature. And find real friends. This school, this year, the last six months: mean so much to me.”

    Thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow from you all! I do miss you but I am so thankful for having met you. The Aegean Center will always have a place in my heart.

    Much love,
    Amber Rae

  • To all future students!

    I attended the spring 07 semester, and found myself on a beautiful Aegean island! The voyage was well worth it! John Pack the director made everyone feel at home, and I had a lovely apartment near the center! On Fridays John took the students on hikes to various locations of Paros and shared with us his vision of the island and learning!
    Jane Pack was my art teacher, and with her calm and engaging approach to teaching, I found myself learning new and exciting techniques , that I use to this day!
    In my Greek Literature class, Jeffrey Carson shared with us his immense knowledge of Ancient and Classic Greek studies, which was fascinating to me!
    Liz Carson is the photography instructor. Though I was not her her class, everyone who was raved about her!
    I was an “older” student and a professional artist, but I felt as enthusiastic and excited as my younger classmates! I would recommend the Aegean Center for all ages! It is one of the many Treasures of the Aegean!
    And again thanks to everyone at the Center!

    Victoria Papale ,Spring 07′

  • Jill Root says:

    Dear Lovers of Light and Shadow,
    I am writing now in the days of ever expanding technology…about the past when email was not even in my awareness. I arrived in Paros in 1986 when Andy Whipple was moving on and John Pack was moving in.

    I was a naïve and sensitive 22yr old that craved knowledge and experience but did not have much confidence as a photographer (which is what I attended for…supposedly). John told me many stories about his life and his way of seeing. He gave me authentic feed back on my work…he was kind, direct and honest. He encouraged me to take as many photos as possible (these were the days of 35mm film), to have patience and to take more photos !!!!

    I put down my camera for many years after leaving Paros…but my receptivity to life and my visual awareness only continued to grow. I directed my patience and devotion to the healing arts for many years and found ways to translate John Pack’s teachings into just about everything I did. I am assuming he still tells the story of waiting “7” years before pulling out his camera with the Indigenous peoples in the South West. John gifted me a test print of Mrs.Yazzie…(from the Ganado series). …and I still peer into those ancient eyes once and a while for the reminder of patience, reverence and more patience.

    I have fallen in love with photography again and the digital world now allows me to take lots and lots of images to see and explore…

    The whole faculty touched me deeply…but my wondering spirit really resonated with John’s ability to see… the visible and the invisible.
    John was an instructor in photography but he became a guide to living a rich and spiritual life.

    If you are a student there now…I am sure you can resonate with what I am saying here…if you are considering going…and you feel a need for the least bit of a nudge to go…Do not hesitate !
    With much love and appreciation,
    Jill Root

  • Richard Toews says:

    I’m not quite sure what I should write. I have long held the warmest memories of the school. I was a young, impressionable student at the Center when Brett Taylor was still its director (1979-80). It was there that I learned to see the world in new and exciting ways. For that, I will always have Liz to thank. Look up, she said.

    Much has transpired since those days so long ago. Many people have passed through your doors, but you need to know that you have had a powerful influence on so many of us. I speak as one, but I have no doubt that I reflect the memories of so many.

    Richard Toews Ph.D.
    Director at Ariel Productions

    Vancouver BC

  • Κατερινα Λ. says:

    The school and the people are wonderful.
    I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity of exploring the most beautiful side of the island,its artistic side.
    Mr and Mrs Pack you are amazing,all teachers too.
    Ειναι μαγικα!
    Τhe best educational experience I’ve ever had!
    In one sentence: This couldn’t be better!

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