The Music Education study abroad trips are something that I strongly encourage younger music education majors to take part in when they become seniors (either in hours or by years). I was lucky enough to be able to participate in both the trip to Austria in 2012 and Hungary in 2013and I can honestly say these trips have changed me as a music educator and as a person in general for the better.
Every other year, the trips alternate between Austria and Hungary and both trips have extremely different curriculum covered beforehand as well as overall experience and feel. The Austria trip is called “Orff in Context”. As you may be able to imagine from the title of the course, the purpose of the class is to study the Orff Method of music education in the country of its origin. In the weeks before the trip we were required to learn some basic German phrases, study art pieces that we would see in Austria while visiting some amazing museums, learn the History of Austria (at least as much as you can in 7 weeks), the life and work of Carl Orff, and studied in depth music that we would see performed live while visiting. All of these parts were essential to being able to truly appreciate and understand the country we were going to visit and the Educator whose methods we were trying to learn and understand. When we arrived in Austria, we first stayed in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and the location of the Orff Institute. We had a few full days of workshops with instructors at the Orff Institute. The experience was more participating and seeing firsthand how the Orff method worked rather than observing them teaching children; it was exhausting but worthwhile. While in Salzburg we attended a mass at one of the oldest cathedrals in the city, went on the Sound of Music tour, and went to the top of a mountain overlooking Salzburg. We had lots of free time on the trip to explore the city and see things such as Mozart’s birthplace and where he lived and died. After a few days we left Salzburg to go to Vienna. It was truly incredible. While there we attended the State Opera and saw Mozart’s requiem in a cathedral on period instruments. One of the neat aspects of the trip is each student on the trip was expected to research and give a presentation on all the famous buildings, places, monuments, and other things that we toured. This gave each student an opportunity to become an expert on something and being able to teach their peers. Austria overall was very scenic, and serene and flawless. Hungary, although equally amazing was the complete opposite.
Hungary suffered until very recently under communist rule and you can tell through the faces and the attitudes of the people as well as how the cities and country looks. However, this almost makes the trip more fascinating. This trip is called “Kodaly in Context” and the course structure is very similar to “Orff in Context”. You learn basic Hungarian phrases (and in Hungary it is essential due to the fact that English is not as commonly spoken), the history of Hungary (which intertwines nicely with Austrian history), the life and work of Zoltan Kodaly, Sight singing, and the in depth study of music that we would see performed while there. We started off our trip in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. We started out with general tours of the city and getting a better grasp of the history we had learned. Again, each student was assigned a “tour stop” to research and present. After a day or two, we went to Kecskemet, a small town about an hour and a half south of Budapest where Kodaly was born. This is where the Kodaly institute was located. The Kodaly institute is similar to a college. It is most commonly famous for their master’s program training students how to masterfully teach Kodaly. We went to many workshops while there, but most of our time was spent observing amazing teachers at work with actual students in Hungarian schools. Everything was in Hungarian, but with basic music knowledge you could tell what was going on. It was awe inspiring that such amazing music and perfection could come from children at such a young age. We were lucky enough to see a rehearsal and a performance of a choir made up of middle school aged girls, and it was by far the best choir I have ever heard in my life. After a couple days, we returned to Budapest and were lucky enough to be able to see Hary Janos, an opera by Kodaly in the newly renovated Erkel Theater and see the Budapest Festival Orchestra play some amazing works. This was the trip that spoke the most to me and in December I will be applying to attend the Kodaly Institute.
Again, I cannot emphasize enough how important these trips are and the difference they can make in your professional and personal life. Do not miss out on this opportunity of a life time!