By Ken Keuffel
A degree from Appalachian State University can take you anywhere you want to go.
Ask Trestan Peck ’15, a music teacher and trumpeter who studied at Appalachian’s Hayes School of Music. Or, look him up the next time you visit Cairo, his home for the last couple of years.
Peck, a native of Boone, lived in Colorado and Hendersonsville before attending Appalachian. He called his new residence “surreal sometimes.”
“Egypt is a zany, chaotic beehive of activity,” added Peck, a four-year recipient of Appalachian’s Franz Merrell Memorial Trumpet Scholarship. “It can be like stepping through the looking glass.”
It also appears to be a source for good jobs. Since fall 2015, Peck has been teaching music, conducting ensembles and serving as the fine and performing arts coordinator at Metropolitan School, an international school in Cairo for pre-K through sixth grade. While featuring some courses in Arabic and French, Metropolitan offers English-language instruction in many others. Peck said Appalachian gave him the tools to do the job, which includes overseeing arts teachers, the arts curriculum and productions.
When Peck is not teaching, he plays trumpet with a Latin pop-jazz ensemble called Llegó La Banda, the Cairo Big Band Society and the Cairo Symphony, where he is second trumpet.
All of this makes for a full schedule. Peck credits Dr. James Stokes Jr., his trumpet teacher at Appalachian, for instilling in him a strong work ethic.
Stokes “showed me that even the best of the best musicians have to work hard for what they want,” Peck said. “Because of him, I practice my own instruments during my lunch or before school so students can hear me learning and hear me working for what I want.”
Stokes called Peck “one of the most creative, musical and intelligent students I have had the pleasure of teaching.” He said Peck’s high standards still rub off on trumpet players at Appalachian.
Just before graduating with his Bachelor of Music degree in instrumental music education, Peck decided to apply for international jobs. Since he considered teaching a “forever” career, he wanted “forever to be an adventure,” he said.
So far, he’s found aspects of a desert city to be vastly different from the cool, mountainous, small-town environment he knew as a Mountaineer. Walking out of Cairo’s airport for the first time, for example, the 106-degree heat bowled him over. So did the city’s high-density population, more than 20 million people – many of whom do not speak English.
“It was jarring to be around so many people,” Peck said. “It was also very frustrating to be unable to communicate. Suddenly, asking someone where the bank is, or telling a manager that the sink broke off the wall, became an awkward game of charades.”
He has coped by studying Arabic. He also has immersed himself in Egyptian life, photographing a variety of urban and rural scenes, including camels, pyramids and Luxor farmers for whom donkeys are a principal mode of transport.
Peck has also developed what he called unshakeable patience. He now embraces the chaos of Cairo. Though his ability to communicate with Egyptians is limited, he greets the merchants in his neighborhood each morning with a smile and a handshake.
“The people here are generous and hospitable,” he said. “They like you before they even know you. You can’t help but be happy with them.”