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Trip of a lifetime

3 WCHS band students heading to Europe this summer

-Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Kelby Wingert Webster City High School band students Jayce Abens, Rori Snethen and Päsha Kirk will tour Europe as part of the Iowa Ambassadors of Music ensemble this summer. The WCHS students will join about 300 other Iowa high school band students for the trip.

Three Webster City High School band students will take a trip of a lifetime this summer to tour Europe for more than two weeks, along with nearly 300 other Iowa high school band and choir students.

Sophomore Jayce Abens, and freshmen Päsha Kirk and Rori Snethen were nominated by WCHS Band Director Rachel Daum to perform in the Iowa Ambassadors of Music band and tour Europe during Summer 2020.

“I nominated these students because they’re really hardworking kids with a lot of musical talent and ability, and I felt that they were great candidates to represent the band and represent Iowa in Europe,” Daum said.

Abens, who plays percussion; Kirk, who plays saxophone; and Snethen, who plays trumpet, will join approximately 180 other Iowa high school band students for the trip. There will also be about 100 Iowa high school choir students going, as well as dozens of chaperones and advisors. The Iowa Ambassadors of Music program does a Europe tour every two years. During the last cycle, three WCHS choir students were selected for the IAM choir in 2018.

After a three-day camp full of learning new music and rehearsing together as one group, the ensembles will have a farewell concert at 8 p.m. on July 1 at Grinnell College. Following that, they will head to Chicago, where they will depart for Europe and return July 18.

The tour will take the students to London and Windsor in the United Kingdom, Paris in France, as well as Switzerland, Austria and Germany, with stops in Lichtenstein and Italy as well.

This will be Snethen’s first time traveling outside the United States.

“I’m excited for Switzerland, personally,” she said.

Abens, who has never been to Europe, is looking forward to visiting Paris, while Kirk is excited for the whole trip.

“Getting to see what the other countries are like, how different they are from here,” Kirk explained.

The travel part of the trip is what the students are most anxious about.

“I don’t want to check my instrument on the plane,” Snethen said. “I’m worried about it getting damaged, with all the horror stories you hear about airlines. I just don’t want my instrument to be broken.”

Abens said it will be a challenge carrying a percussion instrument like a bass drum around Europe for two weeks.

Kirk said she’s a bit nervous about getting lost in the crowd while over in Europe.

“That would be bad,” she said.

Abens noted that traveling from place to place in Europe is “an interesting concept.”

“Here, we drive a few hours and go to a different state,” he explained. “There, we’re going to drive a few hours and go to a different country.”

While the band students are on the trip, their tour director and IAM Band director will be Dr. William Carson, the director of bands at Coe College.

Carson said that three students being selected for IAM from a smaller school like WCHS is “pretty impressive.”

“It is such an opportunity for them to play with musicians from all over the state that were nominated by their high school directors as being outstanding,” he said.

Daum said that those students’ accomplishments say a lot about the band program at WCHS.

“That we’ve got a lot of talent here,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of hard workers that are very competitive and ready for these kinds of experiences.”

The students will also work with band directors from all over the state, including Carson and possibly other college band directors.

When the students aren’t rehearsing for or performing at their five concerts during the tour, they’ll be exploring their surroundings and going sightseeing.

“It’s a pretty fantastic experience for them,” Carson said. “Lots of cultural enlightenment as we travel.”

Some of the students hope to use things they’ve learned in other classes while they’re on the trip.

“I’m taking French and I’m looking forward to trying it out and getting to converse with people who actually speak it,” Snethen said.

Kirk said she hopes this experience will help her gain more knowledge of music.

Abens added that they’ll also gain more knowledge of the world.

“It’s not very often you’re 15 and 16 and get to go all over Europe,” he said.

During the European tour, the IAM band will be representing the United States of America with the music it performs.

Carson said the band will be playing marches, including the famous “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Souza. It will also represent Iowa by performing “76 Trombones” by Mason City-native Meredith Willson.

“And then we have some serious concert music and that music is provided by Barnhosue Publishers of Oskaloosa, Iowa, so then again we’re representing the state of Iowa with that,” he said.

Carson said this trip is something the high schoolers aren’t going to forget.

“I think it’s going to be a life-changing experience for these students,” he said. “One of my favorite things to do is to run into students who were on the trip, 10 years later, 15 years later, and have them talk about how their life is different having traveled abroad.”

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