MILTON, Ga. — Eighteen Milton High School orchestra members recently enjoyed a musical tour of Europe.
Traveling with Orchestra Director Richard Bomba, the students visited Mozart’s birthplace and a master instructional class at the Musikum in Salzburg, Austria; a tour of Central Cemetery in Vienna to visit the grave sites of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss and Mozart; and a performance in front of Vienna’s magnificent Schonbrunn Palace, where Mozart once performed as a young child for the Empress Maria Theresa. Also included on their seven-day trip were the German cities of Dachau, Munich and Garmisch.
“The program has grown for the past eight years, and we keep trying to push it up as far as where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do,” Bomba said. “We’ve done two Carnival cruises, and that got us out into the international audience. We thought, ‘what else can we do?’”
Years of planning and fundraising went into the European tour.
“The trip took more than three years to organize,” said Bob Cookson, MHS orchestra booster club president. “It turned out to be a super trip and a fantastic experience for everyone who was able to go.”
The group began the trip with some touring and sightseeing in Germany. They took in Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for the Disney Castle in Orlando) and visited the top of the Zugspitz, Germany’s tallest peak, where they played in the snow and saw the glacier. They then performed in the oldest beer house in Germany.
The trip was not all fun and games, though, said Cookson.
“After arriving in Munich, we went to visit Dachau,” he said. “It was a sobering morning. We visited the facilities of the camp and were stunned at how close things were to the town that had been there for hundreds of years.”
In neighboring Austria, the group toured Salzburg, learning about the salt economy and touring the big castle in town. Salzburg was the birthplace of Mozart.
“We saw original artifacts, learned a lot more about his life and walked the streets of his youth,” Cookson said.
While in Salzburg, the group had a day of master classes at one of the elite music universities in town. The students were skeptical of spending five hours in class, Bomba said.
“Once he got up there and started working with them, with his expertise playing Mozart, it went by like five minutes,” he said. “The students were thrilled by the time it was over, saying they learned so much in five hours.”
From there, they went to Vienna where they toured the old city, visited the amusement park in the city center and performed at Schonbrunn Palace in front of hundreds of tourists.
“That one kind of blew everyone’s mind,” Bomba said. “It’s built almost as a copy of Versailles. It’s kind of overwhelming. Walking into the main courtyard, through the doors and then out the back, there’s like 50 acres of gardens and fountains three-stories high. And then there’s the fact that they got to play at this palace on top of it. That was just amazing for these kids.”
Bomba said the trip was a stepping stone toward their next goal, playing at Carnegie Hall. He said the experience taught the students a great lesson about continuing to practice and improve.
“You would hear other groups play, talk to other groups that were traveling and say to yourself, ‘Okay, let’s keep upping the bar,” he said.