Area band students to perform in Europe

CONYERS - Four local band students are preparing this week for what will be an exciting Fourth of July holiday outside of the United States.

Two Heritage High School students from Conyers and two Newton High School students from Covington will join about 30 other high school students with the Georgia International Honor Band when they travel to Europe this weekend.

The rising area seniors who will go on the trip include Newton High School's Tiffany Reed and Linda Seraphin and Heritage High School's Lauren Rhodes and Kathleen Goggans.

"I'm excited and I'm ready," Reed said, who has never traveled to Europe before. "I'm looking forward to playing with new people, and I looking forward to going to a new place I've never been before."

Out of about 120 applications, students were chosen for the one-time trip based on their band director's recommendation.

Conyers resident Greg Gajownik, the artist director who retired two years ago as the Heritage High School band director after 26 years, said the students are from large bands and small groups across Georgia.

"That's what is great about this - they are from all different types of programs," Gajownik said.

Aside from taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the students also hope to gain practice from this experience.

"I think I'll get more techniques by playing my clarinet more," Reed said about the trip. "I also think I will become more versatile by playing more music."

After rehearsing for the first time together Saturday, the Georgia students will leave Sunday for Europe.

While on their weeklong trip, the students will perform in places that some students never will even get to visit - Victoria Embankment Gardens in London, Disneyland Paris and the American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France, where they will conduct their final performance on July 4.

"This is a great chance for them to experience international travel that maybe their own band at home can't take," Gajownik said.

When they aren't sightseeing, the students will perform a 30-minute concert program at each of the locations. The pieces in the concert include "Flight of the Bumblebee," featuring an all-star marimba player; George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me," featuring an all-star trombone player; and "Over the Rainbow," featuring an alto saxophone; among others songs and marches featuring a flute section and other individual instruments.

"It's kind of an international program, so no matter where (the audience members) are from, they will find something enjoyable," Gajownik said.

While this is the only time this group of students will travel to Europe to perform together, Gajownik hopes this type of trip will continue for area band students. Next year, the program plans to take a trip to Hawaii.

More information about the program is available on www.HarmonyInternational.com, the organization that the Georgia International Honor Band works through, where band directors can submit student applications in the fall.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.