“There is no ice water, or mochas, in Europe!” This was one of the cultural differences that Majestik DeLuz, a junior at Seaside High School, discovered on her trip to Europe last summer. Besides learning to order ice water particularly with still water, or ditch the mocha for a new kind of coffee drink, Majestik got to experience the vast European culture in many other ways while participating with the Oregon Ambassadors of Music program on July 3-18, 2017.
Majestik, along with several hundred other students from Oregon schools, traveled to seven different countries, including many large cities and small villages. They visited places such as the world-famous castle, Windsor, in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They got to shop, taste local food, admire many historical buildings and views of the Alps, and see the famous canals of Venice, Italy. While traveling through Europe by a coach bus they could do more sightseeing, but also find moments of resting between destinations. The schedule for this 16-day trip was very packed and filled with many types of activities.
The Oregon Ambassadors of Music program celebrates its 47th year of these well-planned tours where the students get to visit many culturally rich countries, and have an opportunity either perform, or attend some of the local concerts. The participants need to be nominated by their choir or band directors to be able to attend to the trip. The nomination is based on the student’s character and musicianship.
Majestik says she feels honored being nominated by her former choir teacher. Being accidentally placed in a choir class, instead of an art class during her 8th grade year, turned out to be fortunate mistake. Majestik says that since that moment she has loved choir, and always has wanted to give it her best. Her hard work was recognized when she received an “Alto of the Year Award” her freshman year.
Majestik worked in two jobs to be able to cover the travel expenses, and she also received some help from family and friends. She was overly excited to be able to participate in the trip and share her passion for music. She made new friends, and gained unforgettable memories.
“One of the most incredible experiences was when our choir got to sing at the historical St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The weight I felt as we sang, as the overtones rang through the building, was a moment I will never forget,” Majestik says.
These are the kind of special moments that the participants got to experience, while becoming more aware of the world around them. The purpose of the Ambassadors of Music program is to bring people together with music. Even though language barriers can make the communication difficult, the music is the language that everyone understands.
There were 353 students representing nearly 100 Oregon schools on this year’s tour. Altogether eleven students participated from Clatsop County; four of them choir members, and the rest, band members. The 150-voice choir was conducted by Dr. Steven Zielke, Director of Choral Activities at Oregon State University. The 250-piece band was conducted by Todd Zimbelman, Director of Bands at West Salem High School. Many of the staff members participating on the trip were some of the Oregon’s finest music educators and their spouses.
David and Kathy Becker, of Manzanita, have been leading the Oregon Ambassadors of Music tours to Europe since 1995. David is a retired Director of Bands of Lewis and Clark College, and he is a very respected member in music community. Leading the European tours has always been a passion for the couple. They have both enjoyed of seeing how these tours have helped the high school students to get a new understanding of the world.
“Kathy and I have loved seeing the transformation and growth in the student’s perspective of the world. We have also witnessed wonderful teamwork and focused intensity in preparing hour-long concerts in such a short time frame,” David says.
The students received their music at a rehearsal day in late April. At the end of June, three days before traveling to overseas, all the participants gathered at Lewis and Clark College in Portland to rehearse and prepare for their performances in Europe. David and Kathy Becker acknowledge how these hard working and talented participants became real ambassadors to represent Oregon while abroad.
Next tour in 2019
Nearly 3,000 students and staff members have participated in the program since Voyageurs International, Ltd., a Colorado-based company, started organizing these musical tours in 1970. Beside the Oregon group, there are 36 other states who have similar ambassadors of music groups.
Preparations for the Oregon Ambassadors of Music tour 2019 have already began. All high school choir and band directors will be nominating their most outstanding students in January and there will be multiple information meetings around Oregon in April and May. The tour schedule and locations are very similar each time, and the new participants will have a very similar experience than the students attending in previous years.