Orchestra celebrates 25 years of German exchange program

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Orchestra celebrates 25 years of German exchange program

The Germans and Americans smile at each other as they stand after their last piece. They don the shirts of the opposite school in a show of unity.

The Germans and Americans smile at each other as they stand after their last piece. They don the shirts of the opposite school in a show of unity.

Jessica Opsahl-Ong

The Germans and Americans smile at each other as they stand after their last piece. They don the shirts of the opposite school in a show of unity.

Jessica Opsahl-Ong

Jessica Opsahl-Ong

The Germans and Americans smile at each other as they stand after their last piece. They don the shirts of the opposite school in a show of unity.

Jessica Opsahl-Ong, Opinions Editor

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More than two decades ago, a McLean orchestra teacher was visiting her friends in Detmold, Germany when she had the idea to take her orchestra there. Sure enough, they ended up going up on a field trip and eventually performing with the high school orchestra in Detmold. This began an exchange between Detmold and McLean that has lasted twenty-five years.

This cultural exchange is an important part of the orchestra department

“I think it’s a little bit different than an exchange for a language class or maybe a history class because with a language class you might go to a country and you’re trying to talk to people in the language and you’re learning about the culture,” Orchestra teacher Starlet Smith said. “But I think the added level of music for us is so special because immediately when we meet with the Germans – even if we might not know their name yet or know them at all – we instantly have a connection that we all play music.”

This extra connection allows for the American and German musicians to become good friends.

“[My favorite part of the exchange was] meeting all these amazing people and getting to know them so that I now proudly can call them my friends,” German exchange student Theresa Tadday said.

The German and American students also had plenty of time to bond during the two to five hour daily rehearsals, including the first day.

“We have this kind of funny tradition of always rehearsing the first day no matter how jetlagged they are… And the first rehearsal usually sounds really messy and it’s kind of funny and we’re all tired,” Smith said. “But it’s a cool way to meet each other and the next day we sound amazing.”

The students did get a break on the Saturday before the concert, when they visited DC. They went to Alexandria, Georgetown and Glen Echo Park.

Then after more intensive practicing, they were ready for the concert on Wednesday night.

The concert opened with “Nutcracker Suite” by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, which was the longest piece of the night. It was the first piece that Smith and Florian Wessel, the Detmold Youth Orchestra Conductor, decided on.

“[Wessel] really, really wanted to do the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. At first I was kind of like ‘well it’s a little strange to do it in March’ because it’s so traditionally done in the holiday season here. But it’s really great music – like standalone, not Christmas related,” Smith said.

“Zigeunerweisen ‘Gypsy Airs,’ Op.20” by Pablo de Sarasate was the next piece and it featured an American violinist as a solo. The other featured musicians were two clarinetists from Detmold, who performed a beautiful duet.

The conductors wanted to play something that everyone in the audience would recognize, so the next two pieces were “West Side Story” and “Star Wars Through the Years” which had many people tapping their toes along to the familiar tunes.

Before the second to last piece of the night, “Berliner Luft,” the students and conductors put on the shirts of the other orchestra. As the German students donned grey McLean Orchestra shirts and the Americans put on their white Detmold Youth Orchestra t-shirts, they smiled at one another and began to play.

The last song of the night was an encore performance of an arrangement of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” This high-energy piece was the perfect way to end the night.

The next day, the German students headed out, but not before saying goodbye to all of the friends they’d made along the way.

“I’m sure I’ll never forget this experience and I’m looking forward to coming back in two years,” Tadday said.

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