By Zoe Stone
The plane shudders as it makes its way down the runway, touching down halfway around the world from everything the young passengers have ever known. They exchange glances, expressions ranging from excited to nervous. Matching blue backpacks are swung onto matching blue shoulders as the music students make their way out of the plane and set foot in this new place.
The Blue Lake International Program allowed musical teens (both singers and instrument players) to perform in European countries (such as Germany and France), which, in the opinions of the students, made them all better musicians, better people, and allowed them to come home with a whole new outlook on the world.
For one, Blue Lake offers technique classes, with both one-on-one and group teaching. This is extremely helpful according to the students. Additionally, being surrounded by music enthusiasts aids them in becoming better musicians.
“Just being around people who are 100 percent serious about music and just being in that atmosphere changes you as a musician and makes you so much better,” said freshman singer Emily Tratar.
Now picture a room filled with awkward, clumsy teenagers (with the occasional coordinated one thrown in) all trying to dance to the three-four time of the metronome, many struggling at first to keep to the beat; this being a problem they never encounter with their instruments. As people stumble, those around them laugh good-naturedly and help everyone back up.
Freshman trumpet player Jeffrey Trux knows the benefits of a similarly fun and easygoing environment created by his peers at the camp.
“I enjoyed Blue Lake primarily for the social aspect,” said Trux. “Our band had 60 people in it, and by the end of the experience, I had some sort of story and/or connection with every one of them.”
He recalls how all the band members would bond while playing games such as capture the flag, and roasting marshmallows together at night.
It’s not hard to believe that these kinds of activities would bring people together; consider the warm and comfortable atmosphere created around a blazing campfire, with everyone in a tight circle around it to keep warm, likely singing songs and joking around together.
Trux and Tratar both said that these people and the international experience made them into better people and changed their views on the world. They both met many people throughout their travels, including fellow American musicians, European musicians, and regular European families who hosted the travelers in their houses for the duration of their stay.
Tratar had a lot to say about the positive effect her host family had on her. She described how one of her host dads pushed her to try new things, citing a time when the family went to the grocery store together to run some errands and he urged her to pick something new out to try.
The experience also showed her how close she could get to people in a short amount of time.
“I stayed with my Itzehoe host family for a week, and I cried when I had to leave,” confessed Tratar. “I’m still in touch with my host sister from there.”
She also explained how amazing it was to learn “what people are like outside of your world.” She used Germany as her example:
“Everyone is so nice in Germany; a woman in a bakery had to deal with my friends and I and she let us try things for free and taught us some German.”
She went on to describe how her experience challenged the American teenager stereotype that Germany is a harsh place.
“So many people ask me, ‘Oh my god, how do you like Germany?’ [because of the] Holocaust et cetera because that’s all they teach us in school, and it showed me how amazing these people are.”
Tratar said that the trip made her more aware of the world and humbled her. She still keeps in touch with her foreign friends, and thus has a constant reminder of her amazing time. Trux also said the experience changed him and went into a little more detail.
“The time I spent overseas and working hard with respectable individuals and role models made me a better person in every way,” said Trux. “The way I see the world has changed, and the respect I have for other people and other cultures are incredibly important in my opinion. I think that it is an opportunity that few people can enjoy, and that the few people who have enjoyed it will always remember it, and will always cherish the change they experience for the better as a result.”
From the moment the young musicians stepped out of the airplane and onto the foreign land, everything they had ever known began to change. They came back to the United States with their heads crammed with new knowledge, their eyes replaying image after image of unparalleled splendor, and their hearts bursting with love for people and things they’d never heard of before the trip.
“I…feel that I improved significantly as a person and as a musician,” said Trux. “I made friends that I hope to keep forever from the single month long experience, and the experience will last forever in how I act, think, and feel about the world I live in and how I intend on living from the moment I received the acceptance letter on.”