Nevada Union Choir students expand horizons on trip to Balkans (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com
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Nevada Union Choir students expand horizons on trip to Balkans (VIDEO)

Members of the Nevada Union concert choir in Debrovnik, Croatia. The students visited the Balkans from March 27 - April 6.
Submitted Photo |

For Nevada Union High School junior Kellan Lake, one of the most memorable moments of the Nevada Union Choir’s recent trip to Eastern Europe came not long after the group arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia, when he laid eyes on the clear, blue water of the Adriatic Sea from the city’s edge.

“It’s an unreal experience you don’t see every day,” Lake, 17, said. “That really set the tone for my trip.”

Accompanied by their choir director Rod Baggett and a few parent chaperones, Lake and 38 other students from the school’s concert choir traveled to the Balkans during the school’s spring break last week.



The biennial trip to a different country has been a Nevada Union Choir tradition since 1981, Baggett said, giving the students the opportunity to learn about the area’s culture and history, and, of course, to sing.

“It made me realize I want to travel more, and that’s something I want to pursue in life. Just visiting that small palace was really life-changing, and there’s so much more that would be really fun to explore.”Electra Rentzon the NU choir trip to the Balkans

This year, the students performed in four formal concerts in different cities in Bosnia and Croatia.




Josh Hartman, a 16-year-old junior, said several of the choir’s performances were in ornate, historic chapels — a far cry from their classroom at Nevada Union.

“You could sing a note in there, and the sound of one note would resonate for five seconds before it would disappear,” said Hartman.

He said the sound of the choir in those venues just “swelled and filled the room, and it stayed in there, too.”

When they weren’t performing, the students spent time touring the various cities where they stayed. Among other sights, they spent some time in areas of Bosnia and Croatia that still showed signs of the wars fought in the 1990s.

Sophomore Macy Wood said those experiences gave her a different perspective of something she had only learned about in history classes.

“When you read about it, you envision something that’s not as bad and then you get there and you’re like, this is reality, this is really what happened,” Wood, 16, said. “It’s really eye-opening.”

Though the students were surrounded by different cultures and languages, they found that those barriers faded away when they got the chance to perform with two local choirs.

“It was incredible, actually, you don’t realize how similar you are until you get to talk to them or know them or sing with them,” Hartman said.

He added, “Voices sound the same when you’re singing, especially when you all sing together.”

Hartman said that spending time in the Balkans helped to reinforce just how big the world is outside Nevada County.

“When you live in one place for a certain amount of time, you get the mindset that nothing else really matters,” Hartman said. “You go on a tour to another country and you’re like, what happened to my world? It exploded.”

It’s good for the students — each of whom paid about $3,500 to go on the trip — to get that kind of exposure to other cultures, said Baggett, because it makes them aware that those opportunities for growth are available to them as they head off to college.

“It makes them realize that the world is accessible, and it’s not so far-fetched that they can travel,” Baggett said.

That’s exactly how junior Electra Rentz felt upon her return from the trip — despite the fact that she’s still battling jet lag from the 13 1/2-hour flight back to the airport in San Francisco.

“It made me realize I want to travel more, and that’s something I want to pursue in life,” Rentz, 16, said. “Just visiting that small palace was really life-changing, and there’s so much more that would be really fun to explore.”

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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