Local teens take music overseas

After being nominated, intense practices and a 7 plus hour long flight, four local students spent 16 incredible days in Europe.


Posted August 5, 2013

Christian Johnson, Andria Hart, Justin Cheatley and Seth Skjervheim spent July 10-25 in Europe as part of the Northern Ambassador band and choir tour.

The tour took 360 Montana and North Dakota students, high school freshman to college sophomore, on a choir and band tour throughout Europe.

The four were nominated to take part in the trip by their high school band and choir teacher, Curt Kram. After being nominated, each of them had to pay their own way on the trip, an expense of over $5,000.

They were required to attend meetings and stay up to date on the trip via email. They had to drive to Bismarck for a one day practice, and before they ventured on to Europe spent three days at an intense training camp.

Skjervheim said the three days of practicing almost non-stop prepared them for their busy schedule once they reached Europe.

After the three day camp, a farewell concert was performed in Fargo, and then they loaded up in buses for a four hour drive to Minneapolis, Minn. where they would board a plane that would eventually get them to Europe.

The plane from Minneapolis sent them to Atlanta, Ga. where a 10 hour layover was part of the trip itinerary. The group was able to explore the airport, catch up on sleep and develop friendships.

A seven-hour flight brought them to London, England. Once there, the group’s adventure began with sight-seeing and performances. The group would spend three days in each country.

Each stop had the group learning about the culture, history and people of the area as well as the performances.

Hart and Skjervheim were part of the choir and performed in chapels, cathedrals and churches throughout Europe. They would sing a mixture of songs including religious, love songs, songs found around the world and spirituals. Each performance consisted of around 14 songs.

Cheatley and Johnson were part of the band, Cheatley on the trumpet and Johnson on the trombone. They both were also part of the jazz band, an opportunity that required them to audition and be selected before going on the trip. Cheatley also had three solo parts during the performances.

While the choir performed in religious settings, the band mostly performed outside in gardens or town squares. They played a variety of music, playing 13 pieces at each performance site. The music they performed was a mix of classical, jazz, contemporary and marches with a grand finale of, “America the Beautiful,” followed by “Stars and Stripes.”

When not performing, the group was given guided tours of landmarks along with the freedom to explore the towns, villages and cities where they were staying. Some of the places the students saw were, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Globe Theater, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Eiffel Tower (where Skjervheim was able to go to the top), Louvre, Notre Dame (a place Cheatley considers one of the most beautiful buildings he has seen in his life), Matterhorn (where a two mile hike by Johnson and Cheatley was a highlight), Lietchinstien Castle, a glass making factory in Venice, Dachau Concentration Camp.

The ability to sight see and explore the culture of these countries made this trip an exceptional educational experience.

Skjervheim commented that he learned a lot about the history of Europe, and Hart said that throughout her trip she realized music is appreciated wherever you go and is a universal language that brings people together.

When asked about their time in London and Paris, Hart, Cheatley and Skjervheim were quick to point out the larger cities were harder to adjust to, too large, too much traffic and people, but the smaller villages of Rothenberg, Germany and Krans-Montana, Switzerland were more homelike.

In Krans-Montana, the village of 5,000 threw the group a party including native dress and food. They even had a Swiss fondue meal with the tradition that if one were to lose a piece of fondue they would have to go and kiss every member of the opposite sex at their table.

“It felt as if we were not one more thing, but we were the thing going on in the town,” Skjervheim said.

Hart and Cheatley agreed, adding the people of Krans-Montana were extremely friendly and welcoming.

The villages in Austria and Germany were just as nice, and allowed the students the chance to walk around seeing the sites, taking in the shops and experiencing local culture.

Hart said the trip was eye-opening as she realized that although the countries she visited were different, they were also very similar because of the close proximity to each other.

They were so close to each other that Northern Ambassadors bused the group from one country to the next, and was even able to take a side trip into Lietchinstien and a day trip to Venice.

Skjervheim and Hart said after the trip, the world seems smaller, with Cheatley adding that, “while that may be, there is still so much more out there for exploration.”

All four will be seniors at Langdon Area High School.

Johnson is the son of Jay and Delane Johnson; Hart is the daughter of Brian and Darby Hart; Skjervheim is the son of Don and Kathy Skjervheim and Cheatley is the son of Mark and Val.