Seven countries, 23 days, 21 performances and a lifetime of memories-that’s what Clintonville High School seniors Jake Schertz, Robert Wespetal and Liz Aceto did this summer.
The three seniors, along with Grace Pingel, who graduated in May, made the trip to Europe in July through the Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music program along with about 350 other musicians and vocalists after being nominated by their respective directors. Pingel, an alto, and Schertz, a tenor, traveled with the choir, while Wespetal and Aceto were members of the band, playing the alto saxophone and flute, respectively.
The students each received $100 scholarships from the Clintonville Music Boosters and did brat fries and bake sales to help raise the $5,000 needed to make the trip.
“We got to travel all around Europe playing concerts,” Aceto explained. “It was really neat to see how our fellow travelers reacted to being overseas, and it was an honor to represent our country.”
“The whole purpose of the trip is to give students musical experience,” said Wespetal. “It’s designed to help students experience Europe’s culture and allows us to compare it to our culture here in America. We also made many new friends with the students we traveled with.”
“I really enjoyed experiencing the different foods in Europe that we’re not used to here in America,” Schertz said. “The wiener schnitzel was pretty interesting!’
“Switzerland and Italy were my favorite places,” Aceto said. “France was interesting too-there are lots of gypsies. I had heard about them, but seeing them really altered my perspective. Visiting the Alps was amazing, and the Matterhorn was really incredible as well.”
In addition to the cultural experiences, the musicians were immersed in musical study and performance, which created memories and allowed the students to learn techniques that they have brought back to the classroom.
“I learned that music really is the universal language,” Schertz said. “This trip helped me appreciate music more.”
“Playing in such a large ensemble was so different,” Wespetal said. “You have to play different, and you really have to play well.”
“It seems that other cultures appreciate music more than we do,” Aceto said. “We were playing songs and people were dancing all around-and these weren’t young people! Here in America, it seems like people just take it in. Americans clap, but Europeans express their reactions a lot more.”
The students also were reminded of the importance of following the director, as musicians had to literally memorize five of their 13 songs. “If the director suspected that one of us didn’t have it memorized, he threatened to have each person play the song alone until each person had it memorized,” Aceto and Wespetal explained. “Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but we all knew the director meant business!”
The band and choir traveled together, but the choir had 16 performances while the band had five-usually in different locations. “We had to check all of our band equipment at every border crossing,” Aceto explained. “It was also pretty difficult having to set up and tear down all the band equipment for each performance.”
Despite the rigors of travel and the intensity of the performances, each student said the trip was truly full of memories that will last forever.
“We got to see the countries of England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Germany, and Austria,” Wespetal said. “We saw famous sites like Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Millenium Bridge. It was a great deal for all we got to see and do-it was definitely worth it.”