While many students headed south to enjoy the beaches of Florida on spring break, the Bellarmine University Music Department headed to Central Europe for its second international performance tour. It was cold. There was snow. Who complained? No one. We were in Europe.
The group was made up of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. The Schola Choir performed in some of the most architecturally renowned and historically significant churches of Central Europe, and the Jazz Ensemble played in some of the most famous European jazz venues.
The tour included the German cities of Eisenach, Weimar, Leipzig, Passau and Munich; Vienna and Melk in Austria; Prague in the Czech Republic; and Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.
The choir performed at St. Stephen’s in Vienna, the Abbey in Melk, St. Martin’s Cathedral in Bratislava and the Cathedral in Passau. Highlights included a concert at the tomb of Johann Sebastian Bach at St. Thomas church in Leipzig and Mass at St. Salvator in Prague, a Jesuit church where the choir received a standing ovation. In Weimar, the choir sang at City Hall, where the group was officially welcomed by the mayor, followed by a brief reception.
“The experience of performing overseas is more profound than the word ‘awesome’ can express,” said Wes Bain, senior music major and drummer in the Jazz Ensemble. “Everyone on the trip became family. I’ll remember and cherish this experience for the rest of my life.”
International travel and cultural immersion for student enrichment has become a hallmark of the Bellarmine Music Department, said department chair Tim Glasscock. “Millennium-old churches, celebrated works of art and traditional foods enjoyed for centuries are part and parcel of the backdrop for learning for each of our young travelers,” he said. “Nothing can duplicate what our Bellarmine students learn from these performance adventures, and I believe them to be one of the most important things we can do for a young mind.”
Betsy Lindsay, a retired principal with the Jefferson County Public Schools and one of the tour guests, said such opportunities are what make small private institutions like Bellarmine unique. “I saw teachers and students who had a high level of respect and trust for each other but were comfortable in having a good time while learning and performing.”
One of the highlights of traveling abroad is the food. And on this tour, there was lots of it! We enjoyed a number of group meals featuring traditional cuisine, including Bavarian sausages, pork, sauerkraut, spätzle and roasted Schweinshaxen, a succulent pork knuckle that is boiled, then roasted, with frequent basting to form a crispy and juicy exterior: a mouthwatering delight.
Hannah Piechowski, a Bellarmine alumna (music and psychology) and current assistant director of housing and residence life, also traveled with us.
“I truly believe that the international experience the Music Department provides for our undergraduate musicians is incredible,” she said. “They are able to play for foreign notables, navigate through unfamiliar countries, and build incredible relationships with each other as they depend on one another in travel and performance. Every time we’ve gone abroad with students, I see them learn more about themselves and their capabilities as performers. They break out of their shells and embrace the international stage.”
By Richard Burchard