U.S.-European Youth Exchange

Prof. Diethard Wucher, the director in Bonn of a major institutional member of the Verband deutscher Musikschulen (VdM) (Association of German Music Schools) was in America as an invitee to the November 1987 Golden Jubilee Celebration in New York of the 50th Anniversary of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts (NGCSA).

Also on the cards were discussions on cultural and educational collaboration between members of the two non-profit national organizations the following year as part of an ongoing cultural exchange.

It may be noted that this was prior to the reunification of West and East Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany that took place in 1990. Hence, Prof. Wucher’s Music School Chamber Orchestra from Bonn was the first to kick off the freshly formed International Youth Exchange Program by performing in Washington, DC, and was hosted there by the Levine School of Music.

That was followed in early 1988 in fairly short order by the following West German groups:

  • Osnabrück Conservatory’s 60-piece Brass Ensemble to perform in Boston, MA, hosted there by the New England Conservatory Music Extension Division
  • Karlsruhe Badisches Konservatorium Ensemble to perform in Winnetka, IL, hosted there by the Music Center of the North Shore
  • Ibbenbüren Municipal Music School Chamber Orchestra to perform in Wausau, WI, hosted there by the Wausau Conservatory of Music

Also in 1988, in order to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the first Permanent Swedish Settlement in the Delaware River Valley, I arranged for the Swedish Munkedal Community Music School 40-piece Youth Orchestra to perform in Wilmington, DE, hosted there by the Wilmington Music School.

PS: In March 1988, as reported by me to the Guild Board – in my new role as Managing Director of NGCSA – I was fulfilling my newly articulated contractual duties to:

  • network internationally with other national associations and thereby develop international programs for the Guild
  • help national arts groups in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, to develop organizations such as ours

Since then – and by hindsight – Australia turned out to be a bit of a stretch despite the best will in the world, and my dream of community schools of music and/or the arts crafted in the Guild mold and stretching from, in my own words, “Walla Walla in Washington State (USA) to Wagga Wagga in New South Wales (Australia)” never came to pass by a long shot.

On April 21, 1988, after my whirlwind trip to Iceland (mentioned in my earlier blog entitled Iceland Interlude) I caught  the 5 am IcelandAir flight to Luxembourg, Europe, that flew over South Iceland’s lunar landscape and deep-freeze scenery below. All I remember now is that after partaking of a chocolate snack at the airport counter the travel on terra firma by me aboard a comfortable bus through lush green countryside was a welcome change as it headed to West Germany.

Three hours later we were at Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof (after a brief stop at Köln.) I found out there that I could catch the 5:30 pm train to Braunschweig. Aboard the train, I enjoyed a good dinner at which I was joined by a Bengali engineer for coffee. We swapped memories of Calcutta in a mix of English and Bengali with some hilarious results, but time passed quickly.

On arrival, sleuthing around got me to Atrium Hotel, where I dined with Wucher and Theo Geissler. (The latter, by the way, was the director of a music school in Regensburg that had been successful in creating a teaching aid named Tonkinder for youngsters, which when he introduced it into the USA via the Guild was recast as Kindermusic.) Thereafter, I took my leave and had my first good sleep in days…. Then off to the Stadthalle (Town Hall) with Theo after a less than satisfactory breakfast – I mixed up onion-flavored sauce for yogurt!!

Hugh Langridge was my interpreter for the two days I was in Braunschweig. An Englishman, he’d been in the Hanover area for 20 years and taught English at the University. Hugh was a lovable man – all grey beard and full of bonhomie!

Long sessions on the busy schedule included a lunch with Diethard and Theo on Kindermusik’s future that was followed by a Town Hall meeting with the Deputy Mayor. That evening was a 50th Anniversary Concert given by the Braunschweig School Orchestra at the Grossehalle – truly a succes fou, but followed by an overlong post-concert reception and tiresome speeches by the Mayor and other dignitaries.

Up early next morning (Saturday, April the 23rd) at 6.45 am for my 9.00 am presentation on NGCSA to VdM members from around West Germany. The half-hour lecture was well-received and I was asked to send the organization a copy of the text of it along with transparencies of the maps and diagrams I’d used to illustrate the length and breadth of the Guild’s institutional membership.

Next stop, the Schimmel Piano Factory: Its director took me and a handful of English-speaking visitors around on a very interesting tour followed by a fulsome lunch with him.
As a concert pianist I was interested to learn from him that Schimmel Pianos was founded in 1885 by Wilhelm Schimmel in Leipzig, moving to Braunschweig in the 1930’s. Schimmel – originally both a furniture and instrument maker – constructed his instruments from scratch, starting with upright pianos, moving later onto making concert grands.

Back to the hotel, then off by the Schnellzug at 6.44 pm for Düsseldorf via Hanover-Bielefeld. Dinner with wine aboard – 30 DM! Put up at Holiday Inn for the night. Then, despite an early rise on the 24th morning, I missed the bus to Luxembourg from the main station. So I jumped into a taxi, headed to the airport and boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. Then, a LuxAir low-level flying plane over the Moselle Valley – stunning tapestry below! – to its home base of Luxembourg.

Caught the 2:45 pm IcelandAir flight to New York City via Reykjavik during which time I was served by an astonishingly beautiful air-hostess. Still found time for an absorbing discussion on the latest tech news with an IBM rep. for Iceland on the final leg of my flight. Lolita was awaiting me at JFK International Airport when we touched down at 7.00 pm.

References: My 1988 Diary; Wikipedia

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