Monday, August 25, 2008

Germany Concerts to Air on DGTV This Week!

DGTV-6 will be airing compilation footage of the District 99 Honors Band concerts in Europe from this past June. The next scheduled time is:

Wed. Aug 27th at 6pm and 9pm.

The broadcast will run additional times on Channel 6 for the next several weeks.

For any interested viewers who live outside the broadcast area, DGTV streams on the Internet.

Log onto the Village web site:

From here, click in multimedia. On the next page click on the words "DGTV webcast"
which are printed in brown. This will launch the live feed from DGTV.

Hope you enjoy the your concert!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Help yourself to BT's pictures

A number of folks have contacted me asking if it's okay to download pictures that I posted to the Blog. Thanks for asking. The answer is YES! That's why I posted an album here.

To those who may not have noticed, on the right side of the page is a link to a BT's Photo album. I have tried to include some of my pictures here of events where students may not have had their cameras available. I also included section pictures that were taken at the Musikschule lunch. Enjoy, and help yourself.


Monday, June 23, 2008


Bags a mess. Laundry.
Family. Baseball. Meetings.
I miss Germany.

Final Thoughts And Pictures

So here I am sitting at home, listening to some football music my host family gave me, and reflecting on my time abroad and my first trip overseas. As the trip came to a close, I caught myself wishing for more time to spend in Germany. I couldn't believe it, as much as I missed my home, the thought of leaving such a beautiful country was almost unbearable. The air was clean and the land was green and beautiful.

(Berlin from the airplane, taken shortly after takeoff)

(The fields in Bietigheim-Bissingen behind my house)

I have learned so much and met so many different people, German, Czech and even new people from DGS. People from different walks of life, all brought together through music. Music truly is the universal language, and I am glad I was able to be a part of this exchange. I would really like to thank my wonderful host family for taking great care of me and making me feel more like a member of the family instead of just another tourist visiting their house.

(My host family)

There is so much about Germany that I will miss.I think that I will miss all of the excitement of the football games in the Euro Cup tournament a whole lot. It was so much fun to be caught up in the noise and excitement of the public viewings. I will definitely miss Bionade (a cross between lemonade and soda that is all natural) and all the bakeries along the streets in Germany (mmmm.... Fresh bread every morning!). I really loved all the historical sites that we visited, I think the one that had the most impact on me was the Teresienstaldt Memorial for some of the Jewish victims of WWII. It was shocking to see all the gravestones in a line and to think that it was all the idea of a single person that set this tragedy in motion.

(Teresienstaldt Memorial)

Well I guess this is probably a final goodbye from me unless I find something else I think is worth sharing. I would like to again thank the directors and chaperones for everything they did from setting up the trip to helping students get from place to place on time (shout out to Mrs. Williams for always being on time) and to all the drivers and tour guides for being excellent and always getting us to where we needed to be. Peace to all and thank you for reading.

Ben Tullis

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Home at last

Well, as we have now been home for a day, I thought I'd post my last blog (and first blog in a while, as it turns out) as a reflection on the trip as a whole. One word sums up my feelings on the tour: epic. Epic music was performed in our concerts. Epic experiences were shared among friends as we saw the historic sights of Germany and the Czech Republic. Epic perspectives were gained, through learning what it was like to live in communist housing during the Russian occupation of East Berlin and the Czech Republic. Epic food was most certainly ingested, as Mr. Williams will enthusiastically attest to. I myself, had an overall epic cultural experience. The knowledge I gained of Germany, magnified by my love of Germany and the German language, is priceless. The friendships we made and fostered were most definetely epic. The constant feeling of brotherhood and selflessness towards those who need a little help to get by was astoundingly epic. As many may know, without these epic qualities, I would not have been able to finish a successful trip. Sure, we had our rough patches, as all trips and tours do, but we got there and oh, what a ride it was. We all miss Europe very much, I'm sure. We miss our epic host families, or "German parents," as I and other students have dubbed them. But we also are happy to be home with our real families, and a nice summer to share with friends and family before we embark into future years. For many of us this means college. Some others are continuing their high school careers. Whatever the case may be, we are better people because of the epic experiences we shared together on this most epic tour to Europe. I want to extend a personal thanks to everyone for all your help and caring, and I wish everyone this best in their future endeavors. As we say in German, "Gesundheit, schoenheit, und viel Gluck!" (To good health, beauty, and lots of luck!), auf wiedersehen...CP

Wittenburg Concert in the Press

I had this message in my email inbox this morning, from the person who organized our concert in Wittenburg:


Dear Brayer,

This was in todays online version of the MITTELDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG WITTENBERG a raving article on page 1!!!!



All These Places Feel Like Home

As good as it is to be home, I can't help but look back on the last two weeks and feel more than a little sorry that it's all over. Though the second week of touring was a lot of fun, I know that the first week spent in Bietigheim is what will really stay with me forever.
Saying goodbye to my host family was more difficult than I could have imagined. What could I say? "Thank you for sharing your beautiful home with me?" "Thank you for making sure I saw and experienced the things that make your lives special?" "Thank you for keeping me so well-fed and being so understanding about my preference of water (no bubbles!)?" "Thank you for talking to me, for asking me questions, for caring about what I had to say, for making me feel appreciated and loved?" I tried to sort through these endless sentiments, trying to find one that would really express my gratitude for each and every thing my host family had done to make me feel at home. I finally decided on a simple but heartfelt, "Thank you for... everything."
I have no idea how or why or when it happened, but every last one of us connected with the people of Bietigheim in a way that can't really be explained in words. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we were all aware that we were a part of something greater than a music exchange. We all fell in love with Bietigheim, with the people, the music, the city. It's an emotion that I think we're all a little afraid to feel, because we know it will never be exactly the same as it was at this point in time. At the same time, though, it's worth it. Because we will forever look back on this time as a time when we were part of something that brought together strangers and made us into lifelong friends. We have all learned lessons in musicianship, friendship, and acceptance. We have all changed for the better.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Arrival @ DGN estimated 1 - 1:15 PM

B. Teague

Sweet Home Chicago

Tochdown: 11:27 AM.

Made our connection ...

... with seconds to spare!

Berlin Airport

We are checked in, and waiting to board our flight to Munich.

Estimated Arrival @ DGN

Good evening (or morning!) from Berlin. It's 1:00 AM here, and in just two hours we will load the buses for our journey home. It's raining hard outside (the first time in over a week we've had any rain). Our guide said tonight, as we returned from the Berlin Symphony Orchestra concert, "Berlin is crying because you are leaving."

If all connections are smooth, and flights are on schedule, we arrive at O'Hare at 11:40 AM. We anticipate it will be 1 PM before we clear US Customs and load our buses. My best guess is that we'll arrive at North High (Prince St.) between 1:30 and 2:00 PM.

I trust families can track our flight status from the Blog. If we are late landing, tack on that extra time to our 1:30 expected arrival.

A request: Mrs. DePeder and several helpful volunteers will be in the lobby of the Prince St. Circle with two large posters of the Wittenberg concert poster. We would like every band member to sign BOTH posters before they depart the North campus. The posters will ultimately be framed, with one hung at North and one hung at South. In all the excitement of arriving home, students could easily forget to walk into the building and sign the posters. Would you please remind them?! This will be the only opportunity for signing the posters. Many thanks for your help.

Your students have been tremendous ambassadors over the past two weeks. Our faculty is very proud of them, and you should be as well.

See you soon,

Brayer Teague

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Final Thoughts

Hello! Or rather goodbye...

It is our last night in Germany and while all of us will be sad to go, we are at the same time ready to leave. As tiredness has started to kick in, our minds have drifted more and more to the things and people we miss. The top of the list right now is torn between family, friends, home-cooked meals and shower heads that are actually mounted on the wall.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that these two weeks have been one amazing and unforgettable experience after another. The people, the music, and the rich history have combined to give all of us memories and friends we will have for the rest of our lives. Thank you to all parents, band directors, and others that made this trip a reality. We all owe you so much that my words cannot be adequate. Thank you from the bottom of my heart - your hard work is appreciated.

Much love from Deutschland and congrats to the futball team for making it into the semifinals! We will see you tomorrow!

The Times They Are A Changin'

Ok... Here's a confession for all of you... In high school, I was not the best Social Studies/History student in the world. I was OK. I did my homework, did well on tests and such, but was much more interested in my music classes.

Go figure.

So now, here I am a music teacher with the opportunity to share these incredible international experiences with students. I've made music and worked with our students in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, and France. And each and everytime, as cliche as it may sound, those old high school history books come to life. The bus and walking tours are taking us through all those imporant places that we've read about and learned about in school, that for me at least are kind of still in my brain but the details are a bit foggy.

I remember taking those history courses and thinking, "wow, this stuff happened SO long ago." Now, a bit older and a bit wiser (hopefully?) I'm figuring out that things like the Second World War and the Cold War happened pretty recently, all things considered. What's more, I grew up during some really important events in our world history.

To see Dresden coming back to life so gracefully and beautfully - Using the most modern of technology to reconstruct some of the oldest and most ornate buildings I've ever seen. Conciously constructing new buildings in an old style to maintain the integrity of thier historic community. And most of this work has happened in the last 10 years!

To drive through Berlin and see only remenants of the Berlin wall, and again seeing renewal and growth everywhere we go. And in Berlin, just as in Dresden, modern architecture and art is married to the past with incredible results.

The last World War did not simply end and get put away in the history books. We are ALL still living with the results of that tragic and often horrific conflict. The good news is that there are incredible stories of rebirth to be shared world wide! And we can all still be a part of it. Being a part of something like the re-opening of a theater in Wittenberg or encouraging the development of an arts program at the English School in Prague seem small and insignificant right now, but where will those two programs be in five, ten, twenty years and beyond? How many lives will be touched by the simple gesture of sharing our love of music?

I have the pleasure of teaching a popular music history course at North. I've found myself teaching them that the most important thing to learn is not all the specific song titles, artists, dates, and so on. What's much more important is what does it all mean? How does this all connect? How does this affect our music today? And then I realize that I missed the main idea back in those history classes!

Our tour experiences have encouraged me to go back to the library to fill in the gaps in my mental "history" file cabinet. I want all these things to make more sense to me the next time I come back, so I can continue to offer some more insights to our students... and because I'm simply facinated by the the wonderful people and places we've experienced on this journey!

To our families and our students' teachers and North and South - Our students "get it". They asked the right kinds of questions, paid attention to what was around them and always conducted themselves with class and pride in representing themselves, the District 99 community, our state and our nation. Thanks for sharing them with us the last two weeks!

My first post for the blog was sent five minutes before midnight on the day we left. We're getting up in two hours now for our journey home. At least I'm consistent!

Thanks for keeping up with the blog. Looking forward to seeing many of you upon our return in not-too-many hours...

Oh yeah... more pics and video when we get home... and I take a nap. :)

Last day in Berlin

Today is our last day in Berlin before the group travels back home. Many people are sad to leave and want to stay longer while others are ready for the comforts of home. I (Katharine) am very lucky to be able to stay in Europe for another week and a half as I go to France and meet my family there.
The past few days we have been in Berlin. It is an incredible city, full of culture and history. We took a bus tour and drove past the largest part of the Berlin wall that is still standing. It was very powerful.
Last night we traveled to Wittenberg for our last concert. We played in a small local theater that had once been a Nazi headquarters. The theater is now privately owned and is in the process of trying to regain popularity. It runs solely on donations. Today Mr. Teague told us that District 99 is now going to donate to this theater, which the people were thrilled to hear about. Some women who work at the theater had tears in their eyes when they heard about the donation. It was very touching. The people of Wittenberg were incredibly generous and welcoming. They were very happy to have us there.
Today has been very relaxing. We have free time in Berlin. It´s a very nice way to end the tour. We will see you soon!!

REACHING OUT (The European way)

There are many things I absolutely adore about Europe. I have mentioned the food in a previous blog. The people are amazing. The food. The historical sights are breathtaking. Did I mention that the food is really, really good? The German way to say this (and I am not making this up) is lecker, lecker. This is prounced “licka, likca.” Again, I am not making this up.

There are also many things about Europe that confuse me. First, the whole bathroom experience here is quite new and unusual. You have to pay for public toilets. Sometimes, there is a machine to take your money, sometimes there is a person to take your money. At the truck stops, you get a bathroom rebate coupon for money off your food purchase. Sort of a “poopon coupon” if you will. Very nice. The lights are on the outside of the bathroom door. Several times during this trip I have entered the bathroom, shut the door, and began to look for the light. No matter how hard I look, the light switch is not there. To illuminate your business, you must first open the door and probe the outer wall with your hand. Fascinating experience, to say the least. Europeans also generally only flush after #2, an environmental notion of which I am really in favor. The flushing mechanisms are different, usually a very, very, very large button on the wall above the toilet. Again, confusing at first, but now I am beginning to “see the light.”

Computer keyboards are a unique experience. While this is being created from an American keyboard, I have sent my children several e-mails that looked like a font titled “caveman.” I have spent at least 45 minutes during the past week searching for the “y” key and for the “@” key. These 45 minutes have been nothing short of pure bliss……

Currently, the EURO CUP is occurring. Games are broadcast every night. Entire cities are stopping to watch TV or listen to the radio to keep track of their national team. People singing songs, loudly and in what resembles a unison pitch, that promote the athletic fervor. This is almost like the Super Bowl happening every other night – it is really pretty cool!

Finally, the money here is really confusing. I have decided that it is all just play money, and that I’ll reconcile with my bank when I return to Downers Grove. In the Czech Republic, the currency is the Cronin. About 1,245.327 Cronins equal one dollar. In Germany, the currency is the Euro. About 2.75 Euros equal one dollar. Don’t even try to get me to go from Cronin to Euro – sort of like transposing alto sax to French horn for me. There have been several times on this trip I have just held out a handful of change and asked the person at the counter to take the proper money. I am on my third wallet since being here, but people seem quite happy when I leave places. Anyway, I have to go to the bathroom right now, so this blog must end. I am looking for my .30 Euros to help meet my needs. In any case, I’ll wash my hand when I am done. I am planning on proposing a new band fund raiser upon our return – with nearly 5,500 kids at in District 99, that is a lot of bathroom money each day……………

Music - a gift in so many ways

It’s hard to know where to start. I guess I’ll begin by saying I’m totally exhausted tonight. (In a totally ‘wunderbar’ kind of way.) The tired feeling I’m experiencing is not solely tied to the sheer physical exertion of travel/sight-seeing/performance. Rather, as I compose this (speeding down the autobahn on a charter bus from Wittenberg back to Berlin) I think my body is responding to a wonderfully exhilarating performance at the Phoenix Theater of Wittenberg (and related events detailed in this post). Add to this that it was our final performance of the tour, and that it was the final “high school” music performance for many on this tour, and we’re all feeling a bit sentimental tonight.

Aside from our time in Bietigheim with host families, I think today has been my favorite of the tour. So, this will also likely be my longest post of the journey (just skip it now if you like). I also suspect this will be my last post prior to our arrival back in DG. (I’m sure a few concluding posts will trickle in from our Blogging team in the days following our return, so I encourage families to check back – especially for the chance to hear more from students who had little access to blogging technology in the second week.

We began with a visit to the Reichstag (Germany Parliament), which is the equivalent of a stop at the U.S. Capitol Building. Normally, a student tour such as ours would be limited to the standard public tour of the reconstructed dome (which was indeed cool). Here’s a shot of it …

But because of the special exchange relationship we have with the Bietigheim Musikschule, our group experienced a very special meeting with a member of the German Parliament, Herr Harald Leibrecht. Mr. Leibrecht is a representative from Bietigheim, and actually played in their Musikschule’s band when the first exchange to the United States was forged many years ago. It was very exciting to meet him. What a charismatic man. Our meeting at 8:30 AM began with his Chief of Staff, as he was on a plane early this morning from southern Germany back to Berlin. He got off his plane, and was driven quickly back to the Reichstag to meet with us. Mr. Leibrecht, if you are reading this: THANK YOU AGAIN for meeting with our students, and again reinforcing the importance of this international exchange. Following the meeting with Mr. Leibrecht the official photographer “made picture” of the group, and I asked Ben S. if he would please present our official tour polo shirt to Mr. Leibrecht as a thank-you. Ben did a great job. Both pictures follow …

Our tour of Berlin today included the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. Both are destinations that I have looked forward to visiting for many years (especially since ’89 when The Wall fell). The visit again confirmed for me that you cannot truly appreciate history by only reading about it in books. In the upper left hand corner of this picture you might be able to make out some writing that several of the students took note of during the tour. It read: "Maybe someday we will be together." I think that one thought, frozen in time, was meaningful for our students who have really appreciated the connections forged these past two weeks in Germany.

After a quick stop for lunch our buses proceeded to Wittenberg, where we visited the church where Martin Luther is buried. Our local guide – an English teacher originally from Iowa – was very easy to understand! Yet again, another incredible encounter with history. Here’s a shot of the church where Luther preached and is buried. The bell tower is inscribed with the phrase “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (but of course in German).

Our students played so musically and with such passion and energy tonight. The theater was very special. Having been constructed in the 1920s, the building was acquired by the Third Reich during Hitler’s rule, and was converted to the headquarters of the Nazi party. Later the German Democratic Republic took control of the building, and it became a state-run theater, producing opera and classical music for the area. In the 80s, the funding stream for the arts was depleted, and the theater fell on very hard times. Just recently (about three years ago) an American couple bought the theater at auction, and has opened it up as a private theater with hopes of improving cultural offerings in the city. This is a proud city, but one that is dealing with hard economic times (10-12% unemployment currently). There’s not a lot of money for the arts, but it is so exciting to see this beautiful old theater being reinvented with an eye to the future. The owners, and many from the town, came out to hear our concert tonight. It was a ticked event, and was a sell-out. I think our students felt like musical super-stars tonight. Loud applause greeted both the concert band and the jazz band, and they cheered for multiple encores. Cory P. did a great job introducing each piece in German, and they really appreciated his smooth use of the language. In fact, near the end of the concert, the coordinator of the event asked Cory to return to the stage where the audience again applauded his efforts to connect our students with the German audience. Here are some shots of the concert …

While the concert band was doing a sound-check on stage tonight, Mr. Williams pointed out to me a wall of the theater lobby that recognized patrons who have supported the ongoing renovation of the theater through financial contributions. We jointly agreed that it seemed very appropriate – given the warm reception we felt today from Wittenberg (and those associated with the theater) – that we as a Fine Arts program make a contribution. So, as we invited the owner of the theater, and her colleague who had coordinated the concert onto the stage for the sharing of our tour shirt, we surprised the audience by announcing that the District 99 Honors Band would pledge a 500 Euro contribution toward the restoration of the theater. I have to tell you, I will NEVER forget the reaction of the audience. Mr. Williams and I were sure they would be appreciative, but we could not have anticipated the way in which this announcement seemed to literally “take the breath away” from the audience, and the concert coordinator in particular. There was an audible gasp as we offered our financial pledge, and both women had tears in their eyes.

You know, there have been several moments on this tour where I have been acutely reminded how fortunate I am to be an American. How fortunate I am to live within the District 99 community. How many opportunities our children/students have that get taken for granted. (Our hotel in Prague was no ‘Holiday Inn’ … but I’m actually really grateful that our students had the opportunity to live in a hotel that was once a communist house … and realize how fortunate they are to be free.) Tonight, as we shared our music with our final European audience – an audience that is yearning for the arts to return in a more prominent way to their small corner of the world – it felt really, really good to give.

One final word tonight: we had the good fortune to meet a DGN Band Alumnus today in Berlin. Karla Gutzke, a 2006 North High graduate, is studying this year in Berlin as a part of an exchange in consort with the University of Illinois. Karla traveled on the tour to Germany/Austria with us in the summer of 2005, and it was so much fun to see her today. Before we left for Europe, Karla helped Mr. Miller with many of the translations we needed to coordinate for the trip (concert announcements, etc.). Thanks Karla, and enjoy the rest of your stay in Berlin! Thanks for coming to our concert in Wittenberg.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Guten morgen:

We are back in Germany - it almost feels like home! We are visiting places that I've only read about in books or seen in photos. Reading about Terazin is one thing - experiencing Terazin first-hand is an entirely different experience. The two photos above provide only a minimal representation of the effect of visiting this haunting place.

My father flew in the Berlin Airlift. I am standing in Berlin right now wondering where he landed, where he walked. I have never had history effect me on a personal level prior to this experience. Yesterday, we visited the door in Wittenburg where the Reformation began. I was walking in the dust of Martin Luther, one of the greatest theological thinkers ever. Begin amist historically relevant places that are personally striking is moving me in ways that mere words are unable to convey.

Thanks for reading -

Glenn Williams