By Dr. Laura Lynch, PH.D., Director of Bands
Thirty-five band students and seventeen community and family members packed their bags and instruments in May. After a day of performing at Baccalaureate and Commencement, the group gathered at 5:00am on Sunday, May 8 to begin their journey. “I never imagined that participating in band would give me an opportunity like this,” said senior nursing student Danette Larson. After a bus ride to Minneapolis, we hopped on a few planes and finally arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on the morning of May 9. We met our wonderful courier, Annie, a kind woman of Swedish decent, and boarded another bus to Edinburgh. Stephen was our bus driver and he had come up from Northern England.
Penny Briese, a professor in UJ’s nursing department was the first to suffer a small injury, “The irony of me as the nurse being one of the first ones to need medical assistance...priceless! Loved getting to know the students better and sharing wonderful musical memories!” Despite a few bumps and sprains, we started with an entire day off in Edinburgh. Many travelers enjoyed a beautiful day touring castle, walking the Royal Mile, and several even hiked the somewhat treacherous Arthur’s Seat which provided a 360 degree view of the city and the water surrounding it to the East. President and Mrs. Badal joined us and made the trip to St. Andrews with the group. Our first concert on May 11 was in a small theatre in the town. The crew were helpful and the audience was appreciative. We enjoyed a few hours to walk around the town. Many visited the the famous St. Andrews golf course. There were castle and cathedral ruins, some fantastic ice cream and sweet shops, and some even saw the café where Prince William and Catherine had their first date in college.
With our first drops of rain, we said goodbye to the Badal’s and headed West to the Scottish coast. We drove through idyllic small towns and had some great views of the Irish Sea as we rode along the coast for an hour. We were blessed with a clearing of the sky as we drove our bus onto a huge ferry boat for the ride to Ireland. It was fun to watch Ireland approach as we headed into the harbor at Belfast!
The bus tour of Belfast was interesting yet sobering. Our stop at the Wall of Peace was particularly powerful; messages of peace had been left for years in the wake of the long history of violence in the city. The Titanic Museum was a highlight for many as was the film studio nearby where the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” is filmed. Our second concert of the trip was in a small town in the country called Fivemiletown. There was a lovely hotel on the main street and we set-up in a ballroom for the performance. After we performed, a popular brass band performed several pieces. The Murley Silver Band played in hunter green suit coats and their selections ranged from traditional brass music to jazz and pop. Their performance was a highlight of the trip for us: inspired by their music there was a lot of dancing and singing along.
Excitement was high in the group as we left the friendly and hospitable County Tyronne and traveled south to Dublin! Our hostel was deep in the heart of Temple Bar, a small neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment! We were there just after the 100-year anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 when the Irish were trying to become an independent nation. Following some time for exploring, we gathered for our final concert on the outskirts of town. We were lucky enough to perform with a band of local musicians (the large group was made up of three smaller bands of community members) under the direction of, apparently, a prominent music educator in Dublin. A community choir and an Irish dance group also performed. It was a wonderful afternoon of music making. At the end of the concert we performed two works together: a famous arrangement of the Irish tune, “O Danny Boy” and an ABBA medley!
As much as we enjoyed seeing the sights and talking with local people, it really came down to the musical experiences for our students. Senior music education major Reid Halvorson said, “My favorite part of the trip was having the opportunity to travel with so many unique people all for the same purpose: to spread our love of music to others. Also, forming a connection with the many people overseas that we performed for and with.” 2016 elementary education graduate Emma Bellmore added, “Surrounded by people who love music and love to explore was so joyous. There is something about traveling the world that opens the eyes and the heart. When you get to do it with people who love to travel as well, a special bond is created.” Travel offers students participating in band, choir, and so many other organizations an opportunity to not only grow in that skill, but to grow in mind and heart. Senior exercise science major McKaela Larson summed up the experience this way: “International tours have a tendency to lay on our hearts a special mark and this mark will remain long after our memories grow fuzzy. This mark holds the proof we’ve learned and shared the universal language of music with those we have come in contact with. This mark has no equal and bonds each of the members of our ensemble together until the end of time. It is one of my most cherished possessions for now and always.”