Four students from the Absegami and Oakcrest high school music departments and a William Davies Middle School choral director traveled with 100 high school musicians and staff from across the Middle Atlantic states on a month-long musical tour of six Central European countries.
The Absegami and Oakcrest students who participated were Heather Berchtold, trumpet and vocal soloist; Maggie Madamba, vocalist/soloist; Tommi Lynn Schieder, flute; and Tyler Sarfert, marimba, multi-percussion, and percussion soloist.
Keith Hodgson, instrumental music director at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, served as head director. Hodgson will give a presentation about the 2013 American Music Abroad Gold Tour trip 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 in the Oakcrest auditorium. Any high school student who wants to see a 2012 tour slideshow and learn about the 2013 tour should attend.
Donna Marie Berchtold, a music teacher at Hamilton Township’s William Davies Middle School, was the AMA Choir’s piano accompanist.
The American Music Abroad Gold Tour consisted of a concert band and concert choir.
Approximately 65 band members and 50 choral students performed in nine concerts in five countries during the three-week European tour. They also performed a farewell concert for their parents and family at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.
A tour highlight was the choir’s performance at a Sunday Mass in Westendorf, Austria. The church had an antiquated pipe organ, which Berchtold used during the service.
American honors music students have joined the American Music Abroad program, serving as musical ambassadors for more than 35 years.
Musical directors from 70 schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio selected students to participate in the tour.
The tour assembled at Millersville University in Pennsylvania on July 2 for three days of intense rehearsals, tour preparation and orientation sessions. The students learned everything they needed to know about the tour and allowed them to begin life-long friendships.
They performed in Paris and Strasbourg, France; LakeLucerne and Engelberg, Switzerland; Venice, Italy, and Motogrotto, Terme, Salzburg, Westendorf, Mayrhofen, and Rattenberg in Austria.
They also enjoyed a visit to the top of the glacier at Hintertux, Dinkelsbuhl in Germany. They stopped at the Dachau concentration camp and performed in Munich, Garmisch and Oberamergau in Germany.
The tour concluded in Zurich, Switzerland.
Since the tour program began in 1974, more than 34,000 high school musicians have enjoyed great receptions at concerts, broadened their horizons and created wonderful memories.
Most participants say the experience is one of the most enriching and educational of their lives.
“The students are not only gaining the musical, travel and social experiences of the tour, but also helping to promote and share an American message of peace, unity, tolerance and brotherhood through our music and through our youth,” said Hodgson, instrumental music director at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood.
“The students return with a heightened sense of perspective about their world,” Hodgson said. “Perspective is the most remarkable impact I think one can have on this trip. Cultural and historical perspectives as well as personal, musical, and social perspectives. For me, experiencing the dark depths of Dachau and the exhilarating high of being 10,000 feet in the Alps on back-to-back days gives me an emotional perspective that I never get tired of experiencing.”
“This was a trip for a lifetime,” Berchtold said. “The students were well behaved, and performed with professionalism and poise. The European people loved the American students and their performances. One of the greatest thrills was the performance in Ansbach, Germany. Our students performed for American citizens and military on the U.S. Army base. The colonel told the students to keep in mind the 100 planes that were not on the air strip, as they had been deployed to Afghanistan. This brought to all of us a very strong message. It was the most powerful concert
“Fr. James Betz, formerly of St. Nicholas Parish, Egg Harbor City, has been stationed as chaplain with the Army in Heidelberg, Germany since 2008. He traveled a long distance to Ansbach to see Heather and I perform with the American Music Abroad Gold Tour. It was great to see a familiar face in the crowd,” Berchtold said.
In 2013 the tour will add a concert in Prague in the CzechRepublic.
Applications for the 2013 Gold Tour are being received.
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