KU music students see the world — and play for it — in Germany summer program
- Sep. 12, 2012
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Some School of Music students recently returned from a nine-week program in Lawrence’s sister city, Eutin, Germany. Now, more music students will prepare for a commissioned concert in New York this spring.
Members of the University wind ensemble will perform Mohammed Fairouz’s “In the Shadow of No Towers,” a concert that explores life post-9/11, in the Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall on March 26. They will return to Lawrence to play the concert at the Lied Center on April 2.
The school is also working with organizers in Germany to plan another trip to Eutin in summer 2013.
“I think it will be great for the students to do this every summer,” said David Neely, director of orchestral activities for the school. “It’s a great experience for them, and it’s a great gain for KU.”
For the past two summers, students performed at a music festival in Eutin. In 2011, more than 70 students — a whole student orchestra and opera cast — traveled to Eutin. This past summer, 33 students were selected to go. These 33 students performed alongside professionals and other students from Germany and other countries.
Madison Mikenna, a graduate student from Birmingham, Mich., performed in the chorus at the performances in Eutin.
“In the opera chorus there were about 65 people, and 14 of them were American singers,” Mikenna said. “The rest were a mixture of people from Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Korea.”
The festival spanned from June 15 to Aug. 20. Students rehearsed in Eutin for two weeks before the concerts and operas – “Nabucco,” “L’Elisir d’amore” and “Die Blume von Hawaii” – began. Mikenna and the rest of the chorus rehearsed nine hours each day, but the instrumentalists, like French horn player Stephen Meiller, had time to travel.
Meiller, a junior from Normin, Okla., had a free day at least once a week. He travelled to Berlin and small cities and beaches near Eutin.
“I auditioned because I wanted to have the music experience of playing in a different country and getting to meet other musicians from around the world,” Meiller said. “It was the first time I’ve been in Europe. I enjoyed getting to travel around and explore the different cities.”
Neely explained the importance of music students playing in festivals and concerts, either in the U.S. or abroad, during the summer months. He said that in Eutin, students were able to learn the differences between European and American instruments. They also learned how to act professionally during a performance and were exposed to new perspectives on music.
“It’s unwise to stop playing,” he said. “They need to stay active and network with new teachers, get different points of view and have new experiences.
Unlike other programs where students have to compete with kids from other schools, KU students have dibs on this. It’s a KU operation.”
Neely went to Eutin for the last week of the festival. He conducted a concert alongside the German organizer to show the cooperation between the sister cities. Neely also invited the conductor to travel to Lawrence this spring and participate in a concert.
“I thought it would be nice to invite him over to conduct,” Neely said. “This is a pretty rare thing. It’s pretty special.”