International tour opportunities should not become barriers

Elyse Grothaus, A&E Editor

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Participating in music ensembles at Luther has been one of my favorite college experiences. I, along with many fellow music majors and non-majors, have grown as a musician, leader, and person during my time in the Luther College Concert Band and Luther College Symphony Orchestra. When deciding on a college, the opportunity to tour both nationally and internationally with an ensemble was a major selling point. During my sophomore year, I specifically chose to audition for Concert Band so that I would have the opportunity to travel to Spain for their international tour, and I must say that it was a fantastic and unique experience. Many people choose an ensemble based on its tour schedule. However, I quickly came to realize that at least as many people are deterred by the costs or scheduling conflicts that came with a tour as there are people who join an ensemble in order to experience a trip abroad.

“Many people choose an ensemble based on its tour schedule. However, I quickly came to realize that at least as many people are deterred by the costs or scheduling conflicts that came with a tour as there are people who join an ensemble in order to experience a trip abroad.”

    -Elyse Grothaus (‘19)

This also happened to me. Due to a practicum requirement for my education major, I was not able to travel to Vienna, Austria, during J-term abroad with the Symphony Orchestra, and because of this, I cannot play in the ensemble at all this year. Although I was sad not to attend the month-long residency in Vienna, I have found that it has been much harder to spend the other eight months of the academic year without an opportunity to play in the ensemble. I know that I am not the only person who missed out on a year in an ensemble because of a two or three week tour.

Conflicts and financial barriers will remain, but perhaps there is a way for people to still be a part of a top ensemble during the year they tour internationally — even if just for a semester. For example, during the year that an ensemble tours internationally, there could be two auditions, one at the beginning of each semester. Symphony needed to have its tour group set during fall semester when they learned their pieces, but now that they are back, that is no longer imperative. I would have loved the opportunity to play with this fantastic group of musicians during my last semester.

There are some other benefits to semester auditions. First, the amount of growth that a musician makes over four months — or the lack thereof — is significant. I am sure that seating placement would mix up after a semester if a director allowed it. Also, there are often transfer students at the semester mark who should be given a fair opportunity to play in a top ensemble. Of course, there are just as many negative aspects to semester auditions, most notably that it would change the makeup of an ensemble and therefore the existing chemistry. However, I think that when a supposed opportunity like international touring turns into a barrier for some, those in charge should take a step back and think about simple ways that they can work to remove that barrier.

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.

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