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Jazz Band takes tour to Czech Republic


The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”Saint Augustine


Mikaela LaFave (left) and Ryan Johnson rehearse for trip to the Czech Republic.
Mikaela LaFave (left) and Ryan Johnson rehearse for trip to the Czech Republic.

A group of 14 Georgia College students will embark on a journey to expand the pages of their own personal book as they travel to Central Europe to study abroad.

With their suitcases packed with necessities for their two-week trip to the Czech Republic, these students also have an extra carry on— their instruments.

“I saw this trip as the perfect opportunity to travel to a different country and experience a culture that is new and different while being able to spread my passion for jazz music,”’ said Parker Davis, outdoor education major. “I have never been overseas to Europe so this is just the perfect trip for me.”

The group consists of student performers with the Georgia College Jazz Band. As they leave for Prague May 14, they’ll tune their instruments to make several performances in Dvůr Králové, Týniště and Prague.

“The jazz band will be performing in multiple concerts and workshops while over in the Czech Republic, so not only am I super excited to experience the local flavor and sights, but also to perform in front of people that are foreign to me yet share the same passion,” said Davis, who plays the trombone. “Everyone I’ve talked to about study abroad says it will change my life. That alone has me unbelievably eager to experience what the trip has to offer.”

Saxophone player Ryan Johnson has been preparing for this trip for months.

“I personally have been attempting to learn some simple phrases of Czech, and have done my fair share of research into the history of the Czech Republic to help prepare myself for the trip,” said the junior, music education major.

Like other students, Johnson’s goal for the experience is to broaden his musical horizons as well as his world view.

“I wanted to go on this study abroad trip to experience the diverse culture that the Czech Republic has to offer due to the country's rich history,” said Johnson. “I am most looking forward to spending time with my fellow jazz band members, because we have become a very tight knit group of friends.”

Beside their performance, the group will experience the culture and history of the country as they visit cathedrals, museums, art galleries and even the former Nazi concentration camp Terezin.

“I absolutely love learning about the historical and cultural aspects,” said junior English major Mikaela LaFave. “This is a great opportunity for that and to perform jazz for a different type of audience than we are accustomed to here in the states.”

GC Director of Bands Dr. Clifford Towner will lead the group as they perform and explore their way through the central European nation.

“I know this experience will bring different learning opportunities for each student,” said Towner. “One of the things I’m most excited about for this trip is that we will visit several different places, different size cities and towns. I want students to see and learn the different cultural dynamics of all of these places to gain a deeper understanding of the Czech people.”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The inside of the Philip Morris Office Building. This was a former church and monastery that was later converted into offices. The walls were painted in the 18th century style, with massive depictions of saints and their stories. 


The view over the city of Kutna Hora.                  View of the cathedral from the history museum. 



Sunday, May 17, 2015

On day three of our Czech adventure, we went to the much anticipated Sedlec Ossuary. An ossuary is a place where bones are stored when they run out of room to bury them. The bones would be dug up and placed in smaller boxes that go in an ossuary. What makes Sedlec's ossuary so unique then? Instead of simply placing the bones in a room, they arranged them in beautiful ways as can be seen by the chandelier in the photo. The ossuary itself contains the bones of 40,000 people.






We also went to the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady and of St John the Baptist. This was founded as an abbey in 1142, burned by the Hussites in 1421, and renovated in the baroque gothic style in 1699-1709. This was originally part of the same Cistercian monastery as the ossuary. 






We also had the impromptu opportunity to go to the GASK Gallery in Kutna Hora, a gallery of modern art. This is Drew Naber, junior psychology major, posing with one of the pieces.  





Of course, every vacation isn't complete without a dash of lightheartedness. During our free time, our Jazz band director, Dr. Cliff Towner, found the Kutna Hora alpine slide which a couple band members decided to use. The photo is of Parker Davis, junior outdoor education major, riding the alpine slide. 




Monday, May 18, 2015

The group embarked on a tour of the former silver mines for which Kutna Hora is known. The silver was used and mined in the 15th century and became the region's main export. We got to experience a sliver of the miner's experience as we went into the mine with the white coats worn by miners. We walked the mine passageways, avoided getting stuck at the skinniest point of 40cm, and experienced the near complete darkness in which they would often work.




Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Our main activity was a tour of the Kuks Hospital, a part of the former property of Count Sporck, its founder. The hospital acted as a spa until the 1740s when the land on the other bank flooded. It then served as a hospital until the early 1900s, then a juvenile correction center, elderly care facility and was restored to a museum in the 1990s. One of the most fascinating things about the hospital is the series of statues done by Matthias Braun that are located outside the hospital. They depict the virtues going down one side of the front of the hospital and the vices down the other. The ones located outside the hospital are actually replicas of the originals. The originals are now being held in the former lapidary. The originals were constructed out of sandstone. There was also three other statues - religion, which serves as the connection between vice and virtue, Angel of Blessed Death, introducing the virtues, and Angel of Grievous Death, introducing the vices.The hospital also had a small chapel designed for the hospital patients and the nurses. Beside the chapel is the Church of the Holy Trinity. The attached photo is of the altar which shows the Resurrection of Lazarus as well as two Apostles. The Apothecary for the hospital shows a beautiful example of an apothecary of the time.









Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We traveled to the Adrspach Rocks, a natural sandstone formation and national park near the border with Poland. The rocks are made of natural sandstone and have been given a series of names that have been adopted by the park.  The photos show the park from around the entrance, including the lake in the center. Another photo is of a formation that looks like it's about to fall at any second. The tradition in the park is to place a twig to "prop" the rock up so it doesn't fall over. One of the most well known formations in the park is the Lovers. This particular formation is fascinating because of its history. As the Russians invaded Czech in 1968, Czech climbers scaled the rock and painted "Russians go home" on the side for them to see. When asked to take it down, none of the climbers wanted to, so the sign stayed there until he 80s. While these were all a bit of a climb on stairs to get to, they were well worth it.









Thursday, May 21, 2015

Today was the first performance the jazz band had in the Czech Republic. We played in Dvur Králové. We played for an energetic crowd after a great opening from a youth big band from Czech. The picture is of the photo of a page that all the band members, as well as members of the youth band signed. After the concert, we were invited to dinner by a businessman who actually has his plant in Milledgeville. We were able to eat dinner with the Czech musicians as well and had a great time talking with them about topics from music to education. 







Friday, May 22, 2015

We traveled from Kuks to our next town of Hradec Kralove. During our travels, we stopped at a fortress that had been converted into a art space. We toured two galleries of art including copper engravings, paintings, and sculptures. Later that evening, we met up with two of the Czech students who studied in Milledgeville during Fall 2014 - Adela and Lucy. They showed us across the town to the Drak Theatre for a tour of the puppet museum and a show. The show was called "O Prekrásné Vasilise - Tane" and was the Russian version of Cinderella. After the show, we went out to eat with Adela and Lucy to get dinner and had a great time asking them what we should do in the city on our free day the next day.








Saturday, May 23, 2015

We had a free day in the town of Hradec Kralove. We all went our separate ways to explore the town, but ended up meeting up at the White Tower, a dominant part of the Hradec Kralove landscape. Construction began in 1574, but renovations were not entirely complete until recently.  It houses the the St. Augustine Bell, the second largest bell In the Czech Republic and the largest in Bohemia. It was forged in 1509.







Sunday, May 24, 2015

Our second performance in the Czech Republic was at the Swing Festival J. Marčíka, 20th ed. We played to a really great crowd that was so excited to have us play that we ended up with two encores.

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