350 of Wisconsin’s finest musicians experienced an incredible 16-day “trip of a lifetime” from June 27-July 12, 2018 as part of Wisconsin’s Ambassadors of Music European Tour.
These outstanding vocalists and instrumentalists represented Wisconsin and the United States while presenting musical performances and touring throughout Europe, including London, England; Paris, France; Crans-Montana, Switzerland; Vaduz, Liechtenstein; Seefeld, Austria; Venice, Italy; and Rothenburg, Germany. Each participant was selected through nominations by their high school and college music directors.
The Oconto Falls High School Music Department was proudly represented by student musicians Emma Bliskey (Choir), Catelyn Kramer (Choir), Cedar Olson (Choir), Isabella Rennie (Choir), Haley Schwantes (Choir), Lauryn Slade (Choir), Paige Stapleton (Choir), Grace Williams (Choir), Garrett Wons (Band), and OFHS graduates Allison Luebke (Band) attending UW-Stevens Point and Kaylin Nickels (Choir) attending UW-Green Bay.
Adults attending the tour from the Oconto Falls area included Jennifer Cassel, Bev Schwantes, Nan Williams, Bill Wons, and Diana Radtke. Amy Thiel, Oconto Falls High School Choral Director, served as director of the 2018 WAM Choir.
Highlights of the tour included choir and band performances in Crans-Montana, Switzerland before an international audience, Seefeld, Austria, and a final performance in Rothenburg, Germany. Additional Choir performance highlights included singing in cathedrals in England and France, as well as at St. Oswald’s Church in Seefeld, Austria, and the Basilica of San Marco (St. Mark’s) in Venice, Italy.
The 2018 WAM Choir and Band performed a Pre-Tour Concert at Young Auditiorium on the UW-Whitewater campus before departing for the 16 day tour. Performances included a wide variety of sacred and secular music and choir and band students combined their musicianship for spectacular performances on “America the Beautiful” and “On Wisconsin.”
The WAM Choir performed a special tribute to American composer Irving Berlin, including There’s no business like show business, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Blue Skies, Always, and God Bless America. The choir’s sacred program featured many classics and contemporary pieces, including Ave Verum by W.A. Mozart, Sanctus by Franz Schubert, Lift Thine Eyes by Felix Mendelssohn, Ye Followers of the Lamb arranged by Earle Ferguson, For the Beauty of the Earth by John Rutter, Precious Lord, Take My Hand by Roy Ringwald, Amazing Grace arranged by Ed Lojeski, and the spiritual Every Time I Feel The Spirit arranged by William Dawson.
The WAM Band performed a variety of patriotic and American-themed selections, including Stars and Stripes Forever by John Phillip Sousa, Star Spangled Spectacular arranged by John Cacavas, Big Band Spectacular arranged by John Higgins, Armed Forces Salute arranged by Bob Lowden, American River Songs by Pierre La Plante, Malaguena arranged by Ken Norman, and March of the Belgian Paratroopers by Pierre Leemans.
These fine musicians were able to visit many significant historical and educational sites throughout Europe, including Windsor Castle, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the Theatre District, and the Tower of London (including the famous crown jewels) in London; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and the Louvre (including Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece and the Mona Lisa) in Paris; the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland and the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Montreaux, Switzerland; the site of the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, and the Medieval city of Rothenburg, Germany.
“This was an exceptional group of dedicated, hardworking, and talented musicians. They were outstanding ambassadors for our community, Wisconsin, Northeast Wisconsin, and the entire United States. I am extremely proud of each and every participant,” commented Choral Director Amy Thiel.
Since its inception in 1994, The Wisconsin Ambassador of Music Choir has been directed by Oconto Falls High School choral director Amy Thiel and Alex Sabo, retired band director from Kenosha Bradford High School has served as the director for the Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music Band.
As per a proclamation by the Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music were named the official ambassadors for the state of Wisconsin from June 27-July 12.
The next Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music European Tour is scheduled for June, 2020.
2018 WAM European Tour participants representing Oconto Falls/Abrams area pose in front of Buckingham Palace in London, England –
Row 1 – Haley Schwantes, Cedar Olson, Lauryn Slade, Kaylin Nickels, Isabella Rennie, and Garrett Wons