MAINZ, Germany — SHAPE junior Traevon Stith knew his voice had power. This week, he learned just how much.
“It feels like I’m behind the wheel of a Mustang, on the autobahn,” Stith said after belting out a line during chorus rehearsal at a youth hostel in Mainz, Germany.
Stith was one of the 145 students from 23 Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe and Bahrain who are gathered in Mainz for the annual DODDS-Europe Music Festival, which will be capped by a student concert Thursday at the historic Wiesbaden Kurhaus.
“I can come around other talented people and just live with them for a week,” said Stith. “I don’t get that in my normal life.”
The instrumentalists in the Honor Band and the voices of the Honor Chorus were selected from 370 young musicians who auditioned, according to DODDS-Europe fine arts coordinator Hope Matthews.
Many students appreciated the chance to play with so many talented peers.
“I love being able to play in a band where everyone knows what they’re doing,” said Incirlik senior Krystal Bowen, who plays French horn.
Guest conductors traveled from the United States to work with the students. Stephen Peterson, who currently conducts the Wind Ensemble at Ithaca College in New York, and Geoffrey Boers, director of Choral Activities at the University of Washington in Seattle, were conductors for the band and chorus, respectively.
“He wants everything to be perfect,” said bassoon player Andrew White, a Kaiserslautern freshman, about Peterson. “He can hear every little thing.”
Peterson, who also works with similar Honors Bands stateside, noted that events like these are an important way to advocate the arts. He also referred to the strenuous schedule of seven-hour rehearsals that this batch of musicians is up against this week.
“You would never ask a professional orchestra to do that; they’d turn around and go on strike,” Peterson quipped.
Don’t tell that to the students, though. Judging by their actions during a visit to rehearsals on Tuesday, you’d think they couldn’t get enough of lyrics, sheet music and instruments. Many chorus members spent their lunch break enjoying the Spring weather while practicing for a talent show later that evening. Other students could be overheard discussing music techniques.
“I never stop singing, that is my life,” said alto Victoria Miller, a Bamberg senior.
In Honors Chorus rehearsal, students used a snapping of the fingers to congratulate fellow singers nailing solos, while Boers was able to use sound and body movements to help the kids understand the nuances of sound.
“I never knew just how three-dimensional music is … a lot more to it than I thought,” said Patch senior and bass singer Teilhard Kendrick.
Brussels junior Lucille Wells, an oboe player, said she hopes events like this will help advocate for well-rounded students and worries the arts are losing with the recent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focus.
“One of the things that makes a society civilized is the arts,” Wells said.
Students had their preferences among the pieces they were working on, but “Colorado Peaks” by Dana Wilson topped the list of many band members.
“I think it will be the audience’s favorite part,” said Naples junior Brittaney Key, a French horn player. “If it’s fun to play, you know the audience is going to love it.”
Other students were anticipating performing on the same stage that has hosted top orchestras and even Elvis Presley.
“It’s a feeling of sensation and awe when you get to perform somewhere like that,” Miller said.
DODDS-Europe Honors Music Band and Chorus Concert Information:
Tickets for Thursday’s 7 p.m. concert at the Friedrich von Thiersch Saal of the Wiesbaden Kurhaus are free and will be available on a first come-first serve basis, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Kurhaus foyer. The event can also be seen online at doddshost.net.