More than music
The band tour and CFE have partnered to create an unforgettable journey abroad
by Dominique Hlavac, Talon staff writer
The front gate towers menacingly across the horizon, cries of pain can be heard echoing through the dark history that these towers, walls and ramshackle buildings have contained. Inside the cold stone walls of Mauthausen concentration camp, reminders of anguish and suffering still remain for all to witness. The stories that lie within are as dark and as old as the bricks in the towers themselves. You can almost hear the deafening shots of the guns of the stoic faced firing squad as you pass by the wall riddled with bullet holes, and hear the panting of exhaustion and cries of torture as you climb the 186 steps that prisoners were made to walk with large stone blocks on their back until they collapsed
This camp, located about two-and-a-half miles outside of Linz, Austria, was established on Aug. 8, 1938 by Adolf Hitler to supply slave labor for the Wiener Graben stone quarry. The camp housed political opponents of the Nazis, common criminals and religious objectors. It stands today as an important and shocking reminder of the horror that befell its innocent victims and is one of the focal points that students on this year’s band tour will experience along with visiting Prague, Bratislava, Vienna and Salzburg.
The band tour is becoming part of the Minnehaha CFE (Cultural field experience) program this year in order to take advantage of cultural learning experiences for students that are already present on the trip. Some changes will be made including home-stays and more cultural integration activities.
“Our goal is going to be that we can integrate things that have already involved opportunities for cultural immersion into the program.” said Minnehaha cultural immersion director Amy Swanson.
Since the band tour has always had the potential for experiencing and interacting with different cultures, planning for it to become part of CFE has been in the works for a long time.
“We started talking and planning right around Christmas time or around second semester last year.” Swanson said, “Its been almost a year in the works of brainstorming, making contacts and hoping.”
Changing the nature of a trip will change the focus of the activities present on the trip itself. In the past, the band tour’s primary focus has been on the music and the performances, but not so much on experiencing the locations they visit. In integrating CFE goals this year, that is going to change.
“The CFE compound is just helping us to focus. Especially the educational part of it.” Upper school band and orchestra director Diane Hallberg said. “So we’re being a lot more intentional about preparing for the trip before we leave.”
In order to experience the culture, students must first learn and appreciate the history of these magnificent places. In one effort to accomplish this goal, they will be reading a book called Light from the yellow star by Robert Fisch regarding his experiences in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
The students going on the trip are not disgruntled about having to do extra work by reading the book,
“I think (reading) it will add good background for when we’re actually at the concentration camp.” said sophomore Olivia Benson.
Aside from visiting historical sites, students on the trip will be visiting the C.S. Lewis school in Bratislava, Slovakia and participating in home-stays with the students there.
“Students from the middle school and the high school at the C.S. Lewis school will be hosting us,” Hallberg said, “and we’ll be sending probably two to three students per home.
The band tour this year will be unique in that students who aren’t in band are able to go along and experience European culture as well as help the band with their performances.
“Those students are going to be involved in a lot of the logistical background like the setup, the take down, handing out programs, things like that.” Swanson said.
The requirements of students on the trip are mostly the same as those of students participating in other CFE sites; there will be reading, discussions and writing in journals.
However, there is a special theme for students on this trip specifically: teamwork and cooperation between students.
“One of the things that we have to learn to do is to really cooperate and work efficiently as we set up our venues, take down our equipment,” Hallberg said, “there’s a lot of teamwork involved in that kind of thing.”
As we count down the approaching weeks before CFE, the band and orchestra students attending the trip have a lot to be excited for.
“It’s a great opportunity to travel,” senior Kelly Brush said, “I’m really looking forward to bonding with everyone!”