By Stephanie Doheny
On Jan. 4, the Sacred Heart University Band Program began their trip to Vienna and Prague.
Although they got off to a rocky start, being delayed by the huge snow storm, which was referred to as the “Bomb Cyclone,” spirits mostly remained high. Mostly, it was the beginning to what students called an amazing journey.
“I think we first learned that our flight was canceled, we were super worried,” said senior James Solari.
“Our directors made the comment at one point that they took an entire year to plan this trip, which, in a matter of minutes, went down the drain and then did an awesome job of re-planning everything within the afternoon,” said senior Jennifer McMahon.
Having to spend the night on the cold floor of the John F. Kennedy International Airport was an experience everyone agreed they never wanted to have again.
The directors were finally able to come to a decision, with the help of the travel agency that half of the band would drive back to Sacred Heart and fly out of JFK Monday morning.
The other half was bussed down to Washington, D.C. and flew to Vienna Sunday morning.
With everything settled, everyone was re-united in Vienna by Tuesday night.
However, this meant that the band had to miss three out of four of their planned performances.
“We missed the first concert because of the snow storm that delayed our trip. We then missed the second and third concerts because not all of us were in Vienna, so only half the band would have been able to performance,” said McMahon.
Even though they missed the performances, the band still got to explore the city before traveling to Prague, Czech Republic.
“Vienna and Prague were two cities that I have wanted to go to for a very long time. The reason I wanted to go there is because of the culture, the music connection. Vienna is home to Mozart and is the home to the Vienna Philharmonic, one of the most amazing orchestras on the planet,” said Band Director Keith Johnston.
When they finally arrived in Prague, the band performed along with a local children’s choir in a smaller church.
The band members said they like to have this experience, so that they can interact with the people in the towns and experience new cultures.
“Rather than finding a big concert hall somewhere and we show up, the curtain goes up, there’s a big audience, we play a couple pieces, the audience applauds, the curtain goes down, everybody leaves. What we like to do is we like to pair up with local community groups and so we give a concert after the local group performs,” said Johnston.
The band performed a few pieces, including “A Festival Prelude,” “Ascension,” “Paradiso,” and “Pie in the Face Polka.”
When asked what “Pie in the Face Polka” was, McMahon said, “It’s a really good piece that features the clarinet section of the band. They are the main focus of it and they did such a good job with it. It’s not an easy piece for them, being that they play the entire song and the rest of the band just backs them up.”
After performing in the church, the band was able to go to Památník Terezín on Friday.
“It’s one of those things that you read about these experiences in a history book, you see it on TV., Then you go there and you’re walking around these grounds and all of a sudden the experience becomes very real,” said Johnston.
“It was an experience I will never forget. It was so surreal being there and it was a very somber trip. Everyone in the band was quiet as we received a tour of the camp, both inside the concentration camp and in the surrounding town,” said junior Hannah Wood.
Despite the travel issues, many of the students on the trip were thankful that they were still about to go on the trip to experience these historical landmarks.
“Not only were we able to see the camp, which was left in pretty much the same condition as it was in the 1940s, but we were also able to watch some propaganda film which was taken in that town. That whole experience really opened our eyes to the horror that was the Holocaust and I know none of us will ever forget it,” said Wood.