It was a trip of a lifetime for Naperville area students who participated in the Illinois Ambassadors of Music summer Europe trip.
The 16-day whirlwind tour took the Illinois delegation to England, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany and Italy.
Brandon Estes, associate band director at Naperville Central, was one of 30 adults who chaperoned the nearly 200 high school students from across the state who earned the right be accepted into the program.
Estes said Illinois sends a delegation through Colorado-based Voyagers International every two years. Top choir, orchestra and band students are nominated by their schools with the hopes that roughly 8 percent will be selected, Estes said. It is up to each student to come up with the money for the trip.
Estes said it is an honor to be selected.
“It is recognition for your students for being outstanding students. The nominees are your most trustworthy students,” he said.
Estes said students particularly enjoyed visiting places where music greats once performed or visited. While touring Innsbruck, the group came across a plaque outside the Gastof Hotel that told how Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart had stayed there in 1769.
“The students were in awe. Here they were walking in the footsteps of legends,” he said.
Zach Greenberg, who will be a senior at Naperville North, said if visiting historic places wasn’t amazing enough, getting to experience the mountains, lakes and scenery in Switzerland was the icing on the cake.
His favorite concert spot was in Seefeld, Austria, because the band was able to perform in front of a “decent-sized crowd.”
“I am a little sad the Paris concert was rained out,” he said.
The tuba player said the band performed everything from “Danzas Cubanas,” a song with a definite Afro-Cuban energy, to a medley from the “Wizard of Oz.”
Greenberg plans to continue his passion for music in college, playing with the marching band.
“It’s hard to imagine giving this up. I plan to keep it going as long as I can,” he said.
Naperville Central senior Jackson Satterlee liked the group’s visit to Switzerland the best because of the great views of the mountains.
He said where the group visited in Switzerland was so much less crowded than London and Paris, so students were given a little more autonomy to explore on their own.
Satterlee also said the Switzerland concert was his favorite because he knew the group made a good impression on the audience. A tuba player, Satterlee took French in school, “so I could understand what they were saying,” he said.
He added that the trip was a great opportunity to get a glimpse at a lot of different countries in a short period of time. He likened the tour to a demonstration for future trips he might take. Satterlee said he’d like to go back to London and explore that city more.
Dani Wolfe, a saxophone player from Naperville Central, tasted a crepe for the first time in her life during her visit in Paris. She said she is hooked, at least on crepes filled with Nutella and banana.
Like Greenberg and Satterlee, Wolfe’s favorite country was Switzerland.
“The scenery is so incredible,” she said.
In addition, Wolfe’s favorite concert venue was in a tent in Switzerland.
“We were in a small town, but a lot of people showed up,” she said.
Being with students who are all the same age helped build camaraderie within the group, Wolfe said.
“It’s a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Wolfe said.
Estes said even before students leave on the trip, they go through a rigorous band camp at Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville under the direction of John Bell, professor of music and director of bands at the university.
From there, the group drives to St. Louis to catch flights to Atlanta before heading to England, Estes said. The Illinois Ambassadors stay in London three days before hopping on buses and the ferry to France. After three days in Paris the group heads to Switzerland for three days before embarking to Austria. That’s when the choir takes a day trip to Venice, Italy, to sing in St. Mark’s Basilica.
After Austria, the group moves on to Rothenberg, Germany, for a few days before hopping a plane back to the States at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany.Tags: Illinois Ambassadors of Music, Naperville Central, Naperville North, travel