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European Band Tour 2018—A once-in-a-lifetime experience

The+tour+band+students+gather+for+a+group+photo+during+their+tour+of+the+Prague+Castle.
The tour band students gather for a group photo during their tour of the Prague Castle.

The tour band students gather for a group photo during their tour of the Prague Castle.

Robert Wisden

Robert Wisden

The tour band students gather for a group photo during their tour of the Prague Castle.

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Spring break is a time to take a breather from the bustling school year, and while a great way to relax is to stay in town, another way to enjoy the two-weeks off is to travel with your friends. The European Band Tour, a 16-day trip to four countries in Europe from March 16th to April 1st, provided the St. George’s senior band musicians with a truly memorable experience.

The European Band Tour was initiated by Mr. Marko Rnic 30 years ago and occurs every three years and is a tour available to students enrolled in the senior concert band (grades 10-12). Being one of the very few travelling and learning opportunities in the senior school, the European band tour has been running since 1994 and offers students a truly unique experience—exploring Europe’s authentic tradition, religion, culture, and music. Not only have the boys been preparing for this two-week excursion for over three months, their instructors, Mr. Marko Rnic and Dr. Dean Markel, have also put in tremendous effort in organizing this trip.

The tour is designed to give music students a realistic experience of being in a tour band, while also giving them many opportunities to explore the cities—essentially, the trip is a combination of extensive sightseeing and performing.

As this is indeed a music tour, the students had great opportunities to improve on their concert repertoire (consisting of 11 pieces, with one as an encore) and perform in various cities and venues in Germany and Austria. Before leaving for Frankfurt on March 16th, the tour band musicians have already spent three months preparing for their performances with 80-minute rehearsals starting at 7 every Wednesday morning. In fact, their first concert was within the first 24 hours of their arrival in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber! The students received expert feedback from the local professional conductor before their first concert at the Jeunesse Musicale in Weikersheim during their 3-hour rehearsal before the concert.

Robert Wisden

Jack Li, grade 12, performs “Introduction, Theme, and Variations” by Gioachino Rossini.

The itinerary for each day was jam-packed, and students often were busy from 7 in the morning to dinner time, with some free-time in the middle to explore the cities. The 80 students who attended the band tour were split into two buses, which they travelled on for the entire trip. The bus drivers have been driving for the St. George’s tour band since 1994—not your typical bus driver. The boys were grateful and respectful towards the bus drivers, who have spent many hours driving them from border to border.

In addition to the performance portion of the tour, the boys enjoyed fantastic sightseeing opportunities, with guided tours in every city (both on bus and on foot). After guided city tours, students had free time to explore the restaurants, shopping venus, and the cultural landmarks of famous cities like Munich, Prague, Salzburg, Budapest, and Vienna. When driving across borders, the tour band made stops at other great cities like Heidelberg, Nuremberg, and Regensburg. Some students even found the free time to not be enough for exploring all the great places in those big cities. From the night watchmen’s walking tour in Rothenburg ob der Tauber to the Deutsch Museum in Munich, the students enjoyed learning a vast field of knowledge—from the history of the Middle Ages and the prospective scientific breakthroughs in future years.

The Baroque style of architecture and the narrow streets were nothing like what the tour students see every day in Vancouver.

 

Robert Wisden
Jack Li, grade 12, performs a surprise clarinet folk song duet with the local school band. Somehow he managed to keep this a secret from the conductors!

One of the specialties of the European Band Tour is the home-staying opportunities at a little German town named Aichach, a little town just 75 kilometres North of Munich. Since 1994, the St. George’s Music Department has brought band students over to the town, where the boys were paired up and were given a homestay family. Although many students grew reluctant about participating in this trip upon hearing about this opportunity, they returned saying that the best memories of the entire trip was from the homestay experience. Mr. Marko Rnic, the Director of Music, expresses that “you can’t really understand the culture of a country if you’re not staying in a home—all hotels are the same.” Over the years, the St. George’s Music Department has developed a very close relationship with the town and its community, something truly special and heartfelt.

          

“I think that not only did this tour allowed students to grow and develop hugely as a person,” reflects Mr. Rnic,“it also allowed them to grow with their friends,” which is a distinctive feature of this band trip. Visiting Europe by yourself would just not be the same as going with 80 other boys from your senior concert band.

Simon Li
(From left to right) John Kim, Abhinav Agg, Jack Li, Neo Huang, and Allan Zhou

Not only did the friendship and the bond within the tour band make this a special experience, the “exciting and challenging environment” also contributed their personal growth. “Something very simple like sitting in a restaurant and not being able to speak the language to order the food you want” allowed students to think ways to overcome these barriers by themselves, in a foreign country they’ve never been to before. This personal growth would “serve as a really great start for adulthood” for the students. Even if they do not plan on returning to these European countries any time soon, they “now have the ability to go to those four countries— [they’ve] been there before and saw what was going on, and [they] can take it many steps further as [they] grow older. Personal growth may be even more important than musical growth.”

As this will be Mr. Rnic’s last time travelling to Europe with the tour band, he reflected that not only was this “an outstanding tour experience,” it was also “the first tour that [he] was truly able to sit and enjoy every minute of every day—the company of all the students, joking with all the students, and experiencing with the students rather than standing back arranging [the schedules].” It was for the first time he did not have to “worry about the what if’s” and perform all “the heavy-duty [organizational] work,” which has all been taken care of by Dr. Markel.

Being one of the students who went on the tour, I would like to express my gratitude to the teachers and chaperones who put in tremendous effort and dedication to give the best possible experience for the musicians. All this would not be possible without the support and dedication of seven chaperones, who looked after all 80 boys over the period of 16 days, Nurse Li, who took care of all the boys who were not feeling well, and Mr. Rnic and Dr. Markel, who have spent countless hours in organizing the itinerary and the concerts.

Teachers and chaperones pose for a photo during lunch.

This trip was a truly unique and rewarding experience for all the band students, and hopefully, the significance of this trip will continue to be cherished in the school in the years to come!

 

More in-depth daily blog summaries of the band tour can be found here : https://saintsbandtour.blogspot.ca/2018/ 

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