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East High School Orchestra Students Prepare for Nine-Day Tour in Austria and Czech Republic

October 1, 2019 


East High School orchestra students


Orchestra students from Wauwatosa East High School will set out on a nine-day learning and performance tour in Austria and the Czech Republic on October 11th.


The trip will include three performances by Wauwatosa students including at the notable Orchestra Haus at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Vienna, and the Czech Museum of Music in Prague, Czech Republic. Both venues have hosted classical music performances for 300 years.


"Although I've played the music of various Czech and Austrian composers before, there's just something really special about performing their works in the place in which they were originally composed," said East High School Senior Sophia Eckdale-Dudley, a cellist. "It's one thing to be able to play a piece technically well, but it's quite another to really understand the context behind the music that we're performing." 


Orchestra Teacher Michael Hayden selected Austria and the Czech Republic for the annual trip - which alternates between domestic and international destinations - because of their rich musical traditions and the connection to the music and composers studied in class.  It's a trip he took 20 years ago as an orchestra student himself.


“That experience plays a major role in my life. I look forward to being able to bring those experiences to my own students, just as previous teachers did for me.”


East High School Senior Brenna Powers is one of those students, and she's looking forward to experiencing her first trip overseas.


"I have never gone a trip of this magnitude and going on this trip with some of my closet friends is quite exciting," said Powers. "I can say for a fact that I would not be going on a trip like this if it wasn't through the school. Having this opportunity has really been amazing and life-changing. Music is deeply rooted in the cultures that produce it and I feel that going on this trip will help me gain a greater appreciation of music."


Powers has played the violin for eight years, taking it up in fourth grade through the District's music program. For her, the trip is a full-circle moment as a musician. 


"The fact that we are performing in such well-known concert halls is still shocking to me," said Powers. "I started as a little 4th-grader barely able to hold up my instrument and now I am a senior playing in some of the most well-known venues in Western Europe. It's still crazy to think about, but it makes me feel very accomplished."


Classmate Sophia Eckdale-Dudley shares that sentiment, looking forward to living, albeit briefly, first-hand what she's studied in class.


"To be able to play in these venues after reading and hearing about their stories and people and music for so many years...that must be a pretty powerful feeling," said the senior, reflecting on the inspiration she anticipates the trip will bring. "As young people on the brink of our adult lives, now is the time to become inspired and to have these experiences that connect us to the rest of the world, which is part of the reason why I am so excited about this trip."


In between their performances, students will walk the streets of Vienna, Munich, and Salzburg, learning about the history and culture of each city and the music that has long been part of their stories around the world. Students will also get a taste of the local culture through the cuisine. And, they’ll cruise the famed Danube, Europe’s second-longest river. 


“It is important to learn as much as we can from other cultures and celebrate the similarities between students around the world. Music that we play in Wauwatosa is very much the same music being studied and performed in other counties,” explained Hayden, speaking on the importance of such opportunities.


"It (music) can be our unifier, our common language. And while we may not be able to communicate through traditional language we can sit next to a person from another country and make music together.”


Students will also be participating in a school exchange outside of Prague in Sedlcany, CZ. During their visit, East students will perform for Sedlcany students, be treated to a traditional Czech folk performance, and get some time to trade stories about music and their experiences as Wisconsin high school students. 


“When possible, I want students to be able to interact with other young people their age from other counties. The school exchange is a way for Wauwatosa and Sedlcany students to learn about music, each other's town, country, and interact socially,” said Hayden.