I have to lead in to this by saying that I am a firm believer in the power of music. I love how music can give you chills, or can make you feel excited or calm, or bring you to tears. It surrounds us even in moments of peace. I feel my biggest spiritual connections through music making and listening to music, and it is a huge part of my life- it always has been, and it always will be.
When I was in high school, I was very, very fortunate to be selected to perform with an elite musical group consisting of high school students from all over the United States. It's called the Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus. I auditioned for and qualified for both the band and the chorus, but chose to do the band, mainly because I had a few friends going who were also involved in the band. Make no mistake - this involved hours upon hours of fundraising, because I had to raise almost $6000. It was a lot of hard work, and the music was no joke.
But it was one of the best experiences of my entire life.
All of these pictures are my property... PLEASE DO NOT STEAL THEM!
Mirabelle Gardens, Salzburg, Austria (featured in "The Sound of Music")
We had several "farewell" concerts at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania before we departed New York for Germany. From Germany we traveled through Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Luxembourg before returning to Germany. It was AWESOME.
I got to eat authentic Italian pizza and swim in Lake Maggiore; see-saw and ice skate in Switzerland; walk a fortified German city (and shorted the electric in our entire hotel there); dance up and down the Austrian stairs made famous in the Sound of Music and see the Von Trapp house; listen to my peers sing in Notre Dame and travel to the top of the Eiffel Tower; and visit General George Patton's grave in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. Among so many other things.
See-sawing in the Swiss Alps
Listening to the chorus in Notre Dame, Paris, France
...Did I mention we got to go to Disneyland Paris?
Most of the reason I am bringing this up today, though, is - despite some ill feelings toward America from various Europeans - I felt so much pride in where I came from and the work that we produced as an ensemble. We didn't meet each other until a week before we departed for Europe, and we came together so quickly to produce excellent music that evoked standing ovations and endless encores from our audiences. It was awe-inspiring and I'll never forget those feelings.
General George Patton's grave in Luxembourg
Some of my fellow students changing the flag in the cemetery
At the end of every concert, we would finish with a rousing rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, directly followed by The Stars and Stripes Forever. For your listening pleasure, I have included a link to my Sound Cloud so you can hear the power of this group that I was so honored to travel with.
I am so grateful to all of the men and women who have fought for peace around the world, so that I was able to go on this trip, and so that I may continue to enjoy my freedoms today.
Have a great week,