Making summer count, across the Atlantic


by Graham Davis

Last summer, senior Audrey Vriezlaar and sophomore Graham Davis traveled to Europe with a group
of over 400 kids through an organization called the Iowa Ambassadors of Music. In Europe, the choir performed at each country they visited. Teenagers from across Iowa worked hard in both band and choir to make this the trip of a lifetime. For the kids from PCM, it was unforgettable. To be chosen for the trip, students had to be nominated by their band or choir teachers. Ms. Meredith Blankenheim nominated Davis and Vriezlaar in fall 2013.
“As a choir member in high school and college, I had the opportunity to travel the world, see amazing places and make a lifetime full of memories by going on tour. I wanted to give my  students the chance to experience that as well,” Blankenheim said.
On June 29, Davis and Vriezlaar started their journey in Grinnell, staying in dorms at Grinnell College to learn the music. The choir learned 12 pieces of music, music, including; “When the Stars Fall,” “Alleluia,” “Sing Me To Heaven,” “Arise, Your Light Has Come,” “Lux Aurumque,” “Betelehemu,” “Bound For Jubilee,” “Hold On,” “Prayer of the Children,” “Witness,” “Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” There, they also met with directors from different schools and kids their own ages who were taking the trip.
On July 2, the Iowa Ambassadors of Music embarked on their journey, leaving Grinnell by bus to Chicago and flying from there to London, England. In London, students were given an opportunity to go to a theatre show. There was a variety of shows to choose from, including “Wicked,” “Stomp” and “The Jersey Boys.” Both Davis and Vriezlaar went to see Wicked. The next day they had their first performance in Wesley’s Chapel, a local Catholic church in London.
“London was the most amazing place in the world, with beautiful sites to see and amazing food to eat,” Davis said. “Since I had been there before, I knew what to expect, but it was a whole new experience to do new things I hadn’t done before. I plan on going back one day. Maybe to study abroad or just live there for a couple of months.”
Next, they rode a ferry to visit Paris, where they went to the Eiffel Tower, the Lock Bridge, Notre Dame and St. Severin, where they sang.
After an unforgettable first few days, the group departed for Switzerland. In Switzerland, they stayed in the mountains. They had many adventures in Switzerland, including a Swiss fondue party, a castle tour and a visit to the Matterhorn. They sang in the local tent set up especially for this occasion for the people of a village called Crans-Montana. After an amazing journey in Switzerland, the students went to Austria with a quick stop in Liechtenstein.
After lunch in the tiny country of Liechtenstein, they went on to Austria, where the scene was just as beautiful as Switzerland. In Austria students experienced an old Olympic Winter Games spot, the Wilton Basilica and some amazing food. They then performed in the local church.
“It was great meeting new people. Everyone was so nice and excitable. Singing was the best part because we were all so passionate and dedicated. The sound we put out was really great,” Vriezlaar said.
On one of the last stops of the trip, the Iowa Ambassadors of Music stopped at the memorable site of Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany. The visit might have been short, but the memory will last forever. After Dachau, the group went on to their little village and had their concert at the local church.
On the last night of the trip, everyone came together in a celebration of the phenomal trip they had and the friends they made. They shared skits from each coach, laughed until they cried and made even more memories. All in all, any student on the trip would tell you this trip was unforgettable.