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Norwalk Spear

Norwalk Spear

Harmonies Across Continents

Norwalk music students travel to European countries
Norwalk students stand on the front steps of the Basilica in Paris, France. The Basilica is a Roman-Catholic church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, first opened in 1875.

Select band and choir students from Norwalk High School traveled to five European countries this July to perform with the Iowa Ambassadors of Music, an organization that allows high school musicians to perform for European audiences. 

“It was such a cool experience to see places I’ve always wanted to see,” said senior Taylor Stanley, member of the Norwalk band program. “To be able to see things like the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, and Big Ben, were amazing.”

The group went with an organization called the Ambassadors of Music, who took students from 11 states to Europe this year with Iowa being one of them. On the Iowa trip, 15 Norwalk students within the Norwalk choir and band were selected to travel to England, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. They played classical music from American composers that exposed Europeans to American culture. 

Stanley said she had been playing saxophone for seven years before this trip.

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“I’ve been in band since fifth grade and I’ve been playing alto sax since then,” she said. “I’ve also been playing a little bit of tenor sax as well; So in all I am in jazz band, concert band, and marching band.”

Stanley said she spent some time preparing the music for the trip in the summer. The band and choir each performed a total of ten songs in each country.

“We did a camp from the second through fifth of July just to prepare for Europe,” Stanley said. “It was a fun time learning the new music in preparation, and a cool experience being at Grinnell College. The music wasn’t too challenging but was a change of pace.”

Along with preparing musically for the trip, students had to find ways to fund the trip. For Stanley, this included fundraising within the community. 

“It is all self funded, so it was a lot of work for us to be able to raise that amount of money,” she said. “My friend Riley and I fundraised, we did bake sales and had a booth at the farmers market, and we fundraised at my church as well.” 

Out of the five countries, the third stop of the trip was most memorable for Stanley.

“My favorite performance was definitely Switzerland, it was a smaller area so everyone who lived around the area came and they were very excited,” she said. “What was most memorable for me was also going to Switzerland, it’s very clean, everyone was nice, and it was the perfect temperature.”

Riley Samuelson, senior saxophone player, said the trip is something she wishes to experience again.

“My decision to go was influenced by talking with a few of my friends that decided they were going to go on the trip,” she said. “Also, the realization that I may never get to go to Europe again, so it made sense for me to sign up even if it was just for the travel aspect.” 

Samuelson said that even from the very beginning, the act of traveling was never an issue.

“Switching time zones did not affect me a lot because we just got off the plane and started touring,” she said. “I was tired of course, but jet lag was not a huge problem for me besides tiredness.”

One other aspect that Samuelson said was not a problem for her was the language barrier. 

“The language difference was not much of an issue for me personally because we had interpreters and the locations that were booked for dinner and attractions had guides that were mostly English speakers,” she said. “They did a really good job planning that part of the trip out.”

Samuelson said that one thing she enjoyed on the trip was tasting the cuisine from European countries, with some similarities as well. 

“We ate breakfast and dinner together as a big group normally – and that was provided to us – but we had lunchtime to eat by ourselves,” she said. “The menu was catered to us, so some of the food was more American style, and some was more to fit the culture. I would say one night in one country we ate American, and the other we ate culturally.”

Through the five countries, Samuelson said that she shared a favorite experience with Stanley.

“My favorite country was Switzerland as well because it was right after the big cities, and it was a very small and peaceful town,” she said. “It allowed us more free time to roam and explore, and catch up on rest.”

Stanley said this trip has become a meaningful addition to her life, as she hopes to have the opportunity to travel again.

“This trip allowed me to experience things I would have never been able to do before,” she said. “I feel it has taught me that you are not confined to one place, and opened my eyes to the opportunities and possibilities all over the world.”

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About the Contributor
Keegan Johnson
Keegan Johnson, Staff Writer
Keegan Johnson is a junior at Norwalk High School and Staff Writer for The Spear. This is Keegan's first semester in journalism class, and he joined because of a friend's recommendation who had good experiences in the class the year prior. Keegan says he enjoys playing video games, and participates in jazz band, marching band, and rugby. “Something interesting about me is that the rugby team I play for was started by my brother in his sophomore year of highschool," he said. "It is also a unique and fun experience having my dad as the coach of the team even though it can be challenging at times," he said. Johnson said he is also entertaining the idea of playing in college.
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