On any given weekday behind the Lennon Wall, AAU students, doubling as High Point University Chamber Singers, are gathered in a circle, engaged in rehearsal. Intricate harmonies escape and pour down the streets of Malastrana from American students who have left everything familiar at home.
Music has the power to change and transform lives. These performers have soared over oceans and crossed borders to spread this message that has been drilled into their heads from the moment they were accepted into HPU’s music program.
The Chamber Singers consist of citizens from Illinois, Massachusetts, California, Washington D.C., New Jersey, New York and many others. Each have experienced the same plethora of emotions that come with feet just getting to know cobblestone and hearts realizing just how testing a sea barrier can be.
“Having the opportunity to bring a choir from High Point University to Prague for the semester, and to be able to not only study in this magnificent place, but also to perform all over Europe, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event,” says Dr. Marc Foster, the conductor of the HPU Chamber Singers.
“To take voice lessons and have daily choir rehearsals in a facility that was first constructed in the 1100’s and is within sight of the building in which Beethoven stayed during his Prague visits and is underneath the shadow of the same tree under which he sat as he composed his seventh symphony, is truly awe inspiring,” says Foster. “I remarked to a friend that sometimes we study music history and the places and people that have shaped our art, and then other times we find ourselves immersed in it, walking, living, singing, and learning amongst the very sights and sounds that have inspired people for millennia. THIS is what it means to study abroad!”
The students rehearse almost everyday for concerts that will be performed in Prague and, soon, all over Europe in cities such as Budapest and Vienna. Their practice has become far more vigorous and worthwhile after discovering that they may be the last group of students to study abroad from High Point University for quite some time.
“This experience has been so life changing for all of us. Studying abroad, especially in a group like this one, affords us so many opportunities such as being able to travel Europe together and not only visit amazing places but perform in historic venues, most of which are older than our country,” says Amy Minemier, Chamber Singer and current sophomore at High Point University. “A lot of people say your time at University is one between childhood and adulthood, preparing you for the real world. Now, I feel like studying abroad has pushed me that extra bit into the world of adulthood, and I could not be more happy about it.”
Located in the heart of North Carolina, High Point University has made leaps and bounds in the study abroad department. However, setbacks threaten the future of their project. And when setbacks turned into standstills, the President of the University, Nido Qubein, brought the entire program to a halt in the midst of the private school’s Presidential Scholarship weekend.
The essence about the group and what makes them tick is, ironically, that they don’t fit together, not a single one of them. Each of them are on extreme ends of their very own spectrums. Some keep adventures going at all hours of the day or night, smiling at every new face, and optimistically turning down every dark alley. On the opposite end, some will scurry all the way back to their apartments to squeeze in a 45 minute nap, and tense up later that night at the sight of a bill at the end of a meal. Some would pack half their rooms for a weekend excursion, while others will try to travel with only the clothes on their backs, save for a passport, a stamped diary of sunburns and scraped knees.
Each person, with each highly functioning and dually testing idiosyncrasy, has created an individual notch in a spectrum composed by the choir. They may stick out like sore, “USA!” chanting thumbs at AAU, but they have created new, enveloping points of view and lifelong memories, all while maneuvering harmonies.
Cover photo the courtesy of Sabrine Jartouh