BSHS grad headed to Eutin
A sister city of Lawrence — Eutin, Germany — is doing what David Neely calls “reinventing the wheel.” And a number of Kansas University students, including one from Bonner Springs, will get to be a part of that process.
On Friday, more than 60 KU students, as well as a few recent KU graduates, will travel to Eutin for seven weeks to participate in the historic Eutin Festival, an open-air opera and music festival that has been staged the past 60 years. They are expected to arrive July 4.
The festival this year is being called the New Eutin Festival, because this is the first year students will be featured. Neely, who is KU’s director of orchestral activities, said formerly only professional musicians were involved in the festival that spans about two months every summer. But the festival had fallen on hard times economically, and something had to be done to save it, Neely said.
That’s where the KU students came in. Neely said he had been involved in the process of organizing such a venture since last December, when he first heard the festival was in trouble.
“I received (the news) through a chain of some people; I found myself within a day talking to a banker in Eutin about the possibility of KU helping keep the festival going,” said Neely, who formerly worked for 10 years as a conductor in Germany. “And within a week I was meeting with a delegation from Eutin and we were putting together plans to bring orchestra musicians and opera singers over to basically be a large component of the festival.”
Seeing that sponsoring students for seven weeks would be less expensive than hiring all professional musicians for the large festival, Neely says the Eutin City Council voted to approve the idea. The students’ expenses, including airfare and living accommodations, will be completely paid for by the city of Eutin, some of its neighboring cities, the state in which Eutin is located— Schleswig-Holstein — and through a few private donations. During the festival, the students will experience rehearsing and performing with professional musicians and German conductors.
“It’s really exciting,” Neely said of the trip that will constitute a summer residency program for the students. “It’s an enormous project.”
One student getting to take part in the adventure is Michael Cooper, from Bonner Springs. Cooper, 20, graduated from Bonner Springs High School in 2008 and will be entering his senior year in the fall of 2011 as a double voice and French horn performance major. Cooper says he has been taking German classes in preparation to study abroad in Germany for a semester in his fifth year. The study abroad plan had been in the works even before Cooper heard about the Eutin trip, which makes it all the more serendipitous, he says.
“This is just a really good opportunity for me and I’ll get to meet the professor I’ll be studying with (when I study abroad) … and it’ll give me more German speaking experience,” Cooper said. “Yeah, it’s a dream, especially since it’s free. It’s a free trip to Europe, which doesn’t happen every day. And it’s, like, perfect for me since I am most likely going to be staying there and it’s right up my alley with what I want to do.”
Though the students will get some down time to explore the region, Neely said it would be a challenging seven weeks. The students will perform in two operas, “Hansel and Gretel” and “Don Giovanni,” both of which will include six consecutive nights of performances. The students will also perform in two symphony concerts, as well as a number of smaller musical ensembles.
That’s why, Neely said, KU students had to audition in January to be a part of the experience, so that a selection could be made of those students who could play or sing extremely well and also handle the pressure of working with unfamiliar conductors and putting on so many performances back to back.
“The rigors of playing a program like this, it can be very intense playing that many operas that many nights in a row and all that,” Neely said.
But that’s not to say more students won’t get to be a part of such an experience in the future. Neely said this is only the beginning — or, at least, that is the hope.
“We’re basically hoping to create a summer institute for students and this would be the first time,” he said. “We’re also hoping to do this again next year and create what would be kind of an institute, an orchestral and opera institute, that would also maybe cooperate with the local conservatory there.”
And there is no better place to do it, Neely said. Eutin is the birthplace of well-known German composer Carl Maria von Weber, and Germany itself has been home to what many would think of as the classical music trifecta: Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Neely says Germany is to classical music as New York is to jazz.
“For American musicians, American students going to Germany, that’s kind of home to mama … There’s no other country in the world that does more classical music or opera music than Germany,” Neely said. “I think it could be life-changing for some of the musicians.”
Cooper said he was looking forward to the warm welcome he and his fellow students would receive — he says the city of Eutin is planning a Fourth of July celebration for the students to make them feel more at home. Mostly though, he says he’s looking forward to learning about the country and having the chance to navigate it … without the aid of a tour guide.
“You have days off, so it’s just a really good opportunity to be put in the European lifestyle,” he said. “’Cause you don’t have a tour guide taking you everywhere, you know, you’re just on your own.”