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Honors Music Festival Culminates in Kurhaus Concert

 OBERWESEL, Germany — Students from 21 DODDS schools in Europe and Bahrain have been tuning their instruments and their voices this week at an annual music festival, preparing for a study-capping concert Thursday at the historic Wiesbaden Kurhaus, where celebrated orchestras and even Elvis Presley have performed.

A total of 160 high school students from Department of Defense Dependents Schools are taking part in the annual DODDS-Europe Honors Music Festival.

"With the love of music that we all have, it just meshes us all more together and it makes us feel sort of like one big family for five days; it's really an amazing feeling," said Incirlik junior Krystal Bowen, who plays French horn.

The voices of the Honor Chorus and the instrumentalists making up the Honor Band were chosen from the more than 400 recorded applications submitted this year, the most ever, according to the festival's project officer, Hope Matthews.

Guest conductors also travel from the United States to help instruct and inspire the musicians. This year, Edith Copley, professor of music and director of choral studies at Northern Arizona University, and Thomas Fraschillo from the University of Southern Mississippi, were the guest conductors for the chorus and band, respectively.

"I know it says brass band, but it needs to be soft," Fraschillo advised the band members during Tuesday rehearsals of Pierre La Plante's "American River Songs."

Despite the seriousness and demand for perfection, conductors also used touches of humor to get their point across.

"I don't need nuclear oboe," Fraschillo quipped to Ramstein freshman Sam Ervin when his C note wasn't coming out clean.

At Chorus rehearsals, Copley's light-hearted approach had the students laughing as much as singing.

The chorus rehearsed a variety of pieces, including "Dixit Maria" by Hans Leo Hassler and the whimsical "Animal Crackers, vol. II" by Eric Whitacre.

Ramstein senior Spencer Coakwell, who sings tenor in the chorus and plans to attend Brigham Young University to study film, said the variety of songs keeps things interesting.

"Events like this really teach you how to feel the music, which takes it to the next level," Coakwell said.

Brussels senior Claire Rumery, an alto singer with the chorus, who will be attending the University of Northern Colorado where she hopes to study musical theater, can relate, citing her favorite piece the choir is performing this year, the World War I-inspired "Flanders Fields."

"I get into music a lot," Rumery said. "Whenever I'm on stage, I just kind of imagine if that were me and imagine if I was in those shoes of the people who had to go through all the suffering" in the war.

The kid's love for music was evident everywhere, even during breaks, when students continued to sing and practice.

"After rehearsal, the music's just still in your head, so you can't help but to hum it or sing it," said Coakwell.

After days filled with rehearsals, the musicians kept their groove going in the evening, participating in talent shows and dances. They were also treated to performances from military bands.

"A lot of the people I hang out with are sports people, so when I say 'Oh, I can't go to this, I have rehearsal or I have practice,' they don't understand that, in my life, music comes first," Rumery said.