Only the best student musicians and vocalists in Europe make up the All-Europe Honor Band and Choir, and this year, more than 10 percent of them come from U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Patch High School.
Seventeen PHS students were selected to join the ensemble, along with 123 other students from Department of Defense Dependents Schools throughout Europe, making PHS the second-most represented DoDDS school in attendance.
The group will perform in concert April 1 at 7 p.m. in the Wiesbaden Kurhaus. The concert is open to the public.
“It’s one of the highlights of my year,” said Drew Penrod, 16, who will play the trumpet in the honor band for the second year in a row. “It’s fun and exciting.”
In order to be considered, the students submitted audition tapes of themselves playing or singing scales and demonstration pieces.
Making the cut is an honor.
“It’s nice to be recognized for being able to play the trumpet,” Penrod said. “I put a lot of effort into it.”
Before the concert, the groups will rehearse for a week at the Oberwesel Youth Hostel, where they meet fellow musicians and singers from other regions and countries.
Penrod is looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
“Last year, my roommate was a percussionist from Naples. There are people from Bahrain, Rota … Azores — it’s cool to see people from all over the place,” he said.
When they’re not practicing, the students have time to do homework or relax in the youth hostel pool and recreation facility.
They don’t expect very much free time, however.
This year’s musical selection is especially challenging, said Gary Kelb, PHS music director. However, he added, being part of the All-Europe ensembles helps students to become better musicians than if they were only in a high school group.
“It provides a level of education beyond what I can give here,” he said.
This year, the choir will learn under the direction of Dr. Craig Jessop, Utah State choir director and former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Choir selections include several Latin pieces, a traditional hymn and the popular spiritual “Wade in de Water.”
The band will perform several international pieces, including “La Belle Helene” by Offenbach/Odom, under the direction of Dr. Anthony Maiello, director of instrumental studies at the George Mason University School of Music in Washington, D.C.
In order to help students prepare for the rehearsal week and concert, Kelb holds after-school practice sessions.
“I take it very seriously,” Kelb said, before helping a group of tenors rehearse March 8. “I’m willing to invest the amount of time necessary.”
Kelb isn’t the only one making a commitment. Practicing at home is time consuming, said Holly Martin, a sophomore returning to the honor choir.
However, learning to sing well during the week of rehearsals is worth the effort, she said.
“This year, I can hold notes longer and reach higher [notes],” she said. “It makes you progress in your [musical] career.”
Martin also enjoys being a part of a group of dedicated musicians.
“Everyone wants to be there; everyone there is focused,” she said.
For more information on the All-Europe Honor Band and Choir and concert, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.