School of Music returns from Europe tour

March 22, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Planning an overseas trip is never easy. Add to the normal plans the logistics of shipping musical instruments and coordinating flights, lodging and transportation for 94 people and the task becomes a major undertaking.

Nevertheless, Wayland Baptist University’s School of Music completed such a trip during spring break, taking 94 students, faculty and other individuals on a tour of Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria, and performing in numerous concert halls and cathedrals along the way. The Wayland Symphonic Winds and the International Choir, joined by several members of the Wayland Singers, performed seven concerts in seven days in Leipzig, Prague and Vienna.

“It was extremely hectic,” said Timothy Kelley, director of instrumental studies at Wayland. Kelley was responsible for planning much of the trip in order to make sure all the instruments needed for concerts would be available. Many of the instruments were shipped, but some of the larger pieces were rented.

“This is something we started working on early last year and was over a year in the making,” Kelley said.

The idea behind the tour was to give students the opportunity to experience the birthplace of classical music and to perform in the same venues as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and other renowned classical composers.

“They hear about the music and take music appreciation classes and music history classes,” Kelley said. “They study all of these major composers. Basically, where we went was the cradle of music as we know it. Pretty much all classical music as we recognize it developed in these specific areas.”

Michelle Ritter, a senior from Tucson, Ariz., performed with both the band and the choir throughout the trip. She said touring the venues and seeing the homes of composers such as Bach was amazing and increased her interest in their lives.

“It was neat to see where all these people came from,” she said, “and it would have meant even more if I knew everything there is to know about them.”

The group toured the homes of Bach and even Martin Luther, as well as touring several palaces and famous concert halls and churches where major composers had their beginnings.

“This is the Mecca of the world as far as music is concerned,” Kelley said. “The Prague Philharmonic is on one side of the street and the Prague Symphony performs across the street and both are world renowned. Every major cathedral is recognized as a famous concert hall. The ones we performed in were all along that recognized list.”

The band’s concluding concert took place in the Orangerie, a wing of the Shonbrunn palace in Vienna, where Mozart and Antonio Salieri worked. Kelley said they even featured Joe Vandiver, assistant professor of instrumental studies, on a major trumpet concerto in the venue.

Ritter said performing in the venues was an incredible experience as the acoustics in the concert halls and cathedrals were amazing, adding another dimension to the concerts.

“One of my favorites was when we got to sing in Vienna,” Ritter said. “There was so much energy, and you could hear us echo throughout the whole place. The church was beautiful. Then we ended up getting a standing ovation and that just made it better.”

Kelley said the trip provided a tremendous opportunity for the students and faculty. He is anxious to hear more feedback from the students following the trip, but so far the experience has proven to be a positive one.

“Even those who went in a little skeptical have had nothing but praise for the trip,” he said. “Several have even said Vienna is their new favorite city.”