Orchestra and band students headed to Europe this summer

May 22, 2022 — by Shannon Ma
Photo by Isabelle Gecils
SSO performers at the year-end concert on May 19th, after performing tour piece “Slavonic Dance” by Antonín Dvořák
The tour was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, the music department made frequent trips to different U.S. cities for festivals and competitions, such as the 2019 Midwest Clinic in Chicago.  For the first time in over 10 years, they had also planned a summer 2020 Europe tour — a once-in-a-lifetime experience for orchestra, band and choir students.

However, when the COVID-19 lockdown hit on March 13, 2020, music students saw their hopes deflated. The tour was instead postponed to the summer of 2021, but was again called off due to rising COVID-19 cases, rehearsal restrictions and trouble with payment.

In the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, it was announced that the Europe tour was confirmed for 2022. After a year of hard work rehearsing and performing pieces for tour, the outlook for the 2022 tour has been hopeful, with students receiving exciting updates one after another. 

As of now, the tour has 438 total travelers. There will be 280 students, 14 parent chaperones and 11 faculty/staff members; the remaining are part of the shadow tour, which consists of accompanying parents or family members. To cover the trip’s expenses, the cost for students was $4958 and the shadow tour cost summed up to $5238.

The music tour will cover Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Germany from July 8-21. The tour first goes to Vienna, where SSO (Saratoga Symphony Orchestra) will perform at the acclaimed Musikverein, or the “Golden Hall.” For many students, the opportunity to perform in Musikverein is one of the most highly anticipated portions of the entire tour. 

“I’m really excited to perform in a place with such a legacy,” said sophomore Tejas Tirthapura, who is the principal violist of SSO. “It’s amazing that we get to perform in one of the most famous halls in the world where some of the best artists performed.”

After Vienna, the tour will travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia; Schladming, Austria; Prague in the Czech Republic and finally Dresden, Germany. Aside from performing in numerous festivals and in renowned venues such as Musikverein, Congress Schladming and Smetana Hall, students will visit historic sites and attractions in every city. To name a few: Ceský Krumlov Castle and even a Dinner-Dance cruise on Prague’s Vltava River.

“Our tour is unfolding better than we could possibly have hoped for… our group was contacted that we may reserve the famous Slovenian Pletna Boats while we are on our adventure to Lake Bled in Slovenia en route to Schladming, Austria,” music program director Michael Boitz said in a recent tour update email. 

The music program is also well-prepared and well-equipped for any COVID concerns along the trip. Abiding by the U.S. government’s policy, all travelers will get tested 24 hours prior to boarding a plane. At the Farewell Dinner-Dance party on the day before flying back to San Francisco, a company will come do COVID testing for all travelers with 8-hour results. 

“On all tours, including in years past, we always plan for if somebody will get sick or even if somebody is going to trip and fall. We always have at least one extra hotel room,” Boitz said.

There are three quarantine hotel rooms planned in each place that the tour will stay, with a rotating schedule of chaperones and staff to oversee isolated students. In every city that the tour will visit, the music program has planned contact to the closest emergency room, the closest 24-hour pharmacy and on-call doctors.

The tour is an extremely anticipated event of the music program and an accumulation of students’ work throughout the school year.

“It doesn’t feel real that we will get to play in Europe,” senior Maddie Jin, cellist and lead manager in SSO, said. “It’s really nice to know that I’ll still get to be with the Saratoga orchestra for a fun trip even after I graduate.” 

Boitz said, “When the kids walk onstage to the performing venues in each of our locations, and the moment they play their first note of rehearsal… that’s the moment I look forward to most of all.”

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