I’ve been neglecting my blog for a while, but I have a good excuse for at least part of that time: I spent ten days on a trip to Germany.
This trip was one of several opportunities I’ve had over the past few years to accompany my wife on her working trips. She is program manager for the music department at Christopher Newport University, so she organizes tours for various ensembles the department puts together, and she sometimes goes along with them. One year, she accompanied the marching band on a trip to London, and I tagged along. Another year, she accompanied the wind ensemble on a tour of the Baltics, and I was able to join that expedition. This year the trip was with the wind ensemble again, but to Germany. It’s not a “free” vacation, but it is a very economical one. I pay the student rate, and that rate is very reasonable for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is, of course, my wife’s organizational skills. She loves to travel, and she loves to plan trips. She is very good at it, and she leverages our numbers to get great group rates on our expenses. A second reason is that the CNU Friends of Music chip in to subsidize portions of the trip. For instance, on this tour, one donor covered the cost of a really nice dinner in Munich. The third reason, at least where the wind ensemble is concerned, is that the director of that ensemble, Dr. Mark Reimer, has built a tremendous network of friends and colleagues with whom he reciprocates the hosting role–Their bands visit the US, and his bands visit them in their home countries. This way, the students spend at least part of the time with host families, again cutting costs. Such was the case with the Baltics tour and with the most recent tour in Germany.
Our first four days were spent in Sembach, where the hosts all belonged to the local music club. The community music club/band is an outstanding German tradition that, unfortunately, is in decline. The most cited reason I heard is that German schools have all lengthened their hours to accommodate the dual-income family model. In other words, they are becoming more like American schools. I’d rather see the American schools go the European route, personally, but it doesn’t appear likely to happen.
My two roles on these trips are: 1) Roadie, and 2) Photographer. As roadie, I haul a lot of music stands and other equipment around and help with setup and teardown. As photographer, I take as many photographs as I can of the performances to try to ensure each of the students will be featured in one or two decent ones. Taking so many shots makes for quite a lot of sorting and culling once we get home. I finished posting the first batch last night. The first batch shows our first, long, jet-lagged day of arrival. The students were all troopers about it, finishing up the day with a three-hour rehearsal before going home with their host families and collapsing. So if you see any yawning or droopy eyelids, don’t hold it against them. Here then is the first batch of photos, with more to come. We start with a few refreshments at the gymnasium/auditorium where we will later play, then lunch at the adjoining restaurant (“The Wooden Spoon”), then a tour of a neat little museum of musical instruments in the nearby town of Mackenbach, and finally the rehearsal (click on the photo to see the whole album):