May 2 (Beginning)

Today we arrived in Vienna! It took a long time to get here, and I’m currently exhausted, but I am also very excited for the next 3 weeks. Before driving to the airport yesterday afternoon, I realized that I left my debit card in Ann Arbor the night before the flight, so I had to rush to the bank to get a new one just in case I needed it. The group of us flying out of DTW met up at the airport and went through security together. Before the flight took off, I got some McDonalds as a farewell to America (but more so because it was very close to our gate!). Then we had a long flight to layover in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I have a ton of trouble sleeping on planes or vehicles, so I didn’t get a second of sleep on the flight. I did, however, watch several movies I had wanted to see. Amsterdam looked gorgeous even from the plane; I really want to visit the Netherlands too, and was sad I didn’t get to explore while I was there.

The flight from Amsterdam to Vienna started out with a delay where the plane was experiencing “technical issues” and a technician had to come repair it before we took off. I was a bit anxious, to say the least. We eventually made it to Vienna, and took an airport train to the city center and the subway to get back to the hotel. The subways made me experience some deja vu from my past 6-week long trip to Barcelona last summer. We took the subways all the time, and they looked the same. I generally prefered using the busses to get around the city though.

After we got to the hotel, my roommates and I had to go up a tiny elevator to get to our apartment on the 6th floor. Only one person and there luggage could fit in, and the elevator was slow, so it took a while. We didn’t have much time to relax before we had to meet the group downstairs to get a look at the neighborhood, including the grocery store and one of the busy city streets. We went back to the hotel after, had a bit more time to get ready, then went to a really nice dinner, where I had salad, a delicious roast beef and a gorgeous selection of desserts. By the end of the second course, and especially while waiting for the third course to arrive, the exhaustion really hit me, especially with not having any sleep at all before, but it will be worth it to not be jet lagged tomorrow. Now I’m showered and in bed and actually really enjoying writing this blog.

I’m really excited for what the next 3 weeks has in store! I love music and learning more about other cultures, so I’m so excited to see performances by groups like the Vienna Ballet and the Vienna Philharmonic. I think this trip will be incredible, and I can’t wait to see what the next day holds.

May 12 (mid-program)

Today was a busy day! We started of this morning with another lecture, this time spending most of the time talking about Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (and its backstory) with Dr. Putnam. After, we spent less time talking about church music and the Catholic Mass we will be attending tomorrow morning. I thought the history of Beethoven’s 9th was really interesting! I did not realize that piece was so dramatic and crazy to that current world of music. The fact that switching the placement of the 2nd and 3rd movements caused such a ripple is insane! I think it’s kind of funny actually. Like people didn’t have anything else to worry about so they caused a riot over something like playing with traditional sonata form. I really enjoyed learning about how in the 4th movement of the symphony the themes from previous movements returned and failed to overcome the terror theme at first, until the Ode to Joy and other themes overpowered and won at last.
Unfortunately, I thought the discussion about church music wasn’t quite as interesting(and my own opinions about it likely influenced it), except for the one piece that “saved music” I did think was pretty cool to learn about. Although I do understand that church music was fundamental to the evolution of music overall. I’m excited to see the Vienna Boys Choir tomorrow, but honestly the mindless chanting in church services makes me pretty uncomfortable, and I’m really not looking forward to the actual church service at all. However I feel like it will be a really interesting cultural event to see, despite my own issues with church chanting and religion. We also get to see the Vienna Boys Choir, which will be incredible, I think. I’m just not looking forward to the church aspects or the heat/humidity.

Pretty soon after lecture, we attended the Vienna Philharmonic performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Musikverein. Generally, I thought the orchestra sounded amazing! I hadn’t heard the majority of the piece before today, and I really enjoyed it. I also thought it was a little crazy how little the Ode to Joy theme was actually played during the piece! That is the part that almost every person ever probably knows, yet it was only a very tiny portion of the overall symphony. I also think our discussion of the conductor was pretty interesting as well. It’s insane that the Vienna Philharmonic was having such intense tearing problems because of the conductor. I can’t believe it, honestly. And also that people walked out. I wonder what the conductor and the members of the orchestra thought after the performance, because we certainly discussed how the Austrian audience reacted to the issues. Despite the problems, I thought the orchestra sounded pretty incredible generally, and it was a very cool experience to get to see Beethoven’s 9th live by the Vienna Philharmonic! And I suppose we’ll all have a story to tell about that conductor.

Later, I think everyone went to dinner at Schrittesser, a place that serves nudl, I think a traditional Austrian food. I would definitely recommend this place! Everyone loved it, the nudl were so good! I’m so glad I ate there, it was one of my favorite meals I’ve had in Europe. It was so cool to try a traditional dish and love it so much. I have loved the program so far; learning about music in a classroom setting has been amazing, and I’ve really been enjoying the classes. The different cultural aspects of Vienna are interesting, like how long the audience claps after a performance is significantly longer than anything I have experienced in the United States. I also really enjoy all the street food on every corner! I’m having a great time here, and I’m glad I’m making such great friends.

May 24 (After-program reflection)

To reflect on the program, I would first like to say it has been an incredible 3 weeks, and I have greatly enjoyed this trip. I also feel like I got a ton out of it, educationally, culturally, and the memories. I think it made a big difference in this trip for me (as compared to when I was in Spain last year) that I knew some people on the program, and that I knew two of program teachers beforehand too. It made the transition less stressful, and the fact that the students on this trip were generally awesome all the time.

Throughout all 3 weeks, I really enjoyed our class periods. I was able to stay focused through all of them, and I liked doing so. I think I mentioned this earlier, but for me, it was really interesting and cool to learn about music in a classroom setting. Almost all of my musical knowledge before had come from just being band classes and absorbing the information as we went. So I really enjoyed learning about something I am so passionate about in a new way.

We went to so many concerts in 3 weeks! It was pretty amazing (albeit tiring!) to have so many great concert experiences during the time period. Honestly, and this is surprising to me, I think the ballet performance might be my favorite of the trip. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it, considering my previous opinions about dance, but I very much enjoyed it. And I think my other favorite concert was the Bach concert with all the old instruments! Both of these concerts I expected to be boring, and both of them ended up being some of my favorite concerts that I've ever been too. I enjoyed every concert, and I feel as if my musical and artistic knowledge has developed greatly for the course of 3 weeks. I appreciated that we didn't have traditional assignments to do; the weekly quizzes and daily journals I think really allowed me to learn as much as I could and get the most out of the experience.. I honestly feel like I learn so much more from a class when that pressure from huge exams is reduced, and it makes class so much more enjoyable too. I actually wish we had more class time during this program!

I want to say that I am so glad I got the opportunity to go on this trip. Vienna and Austria were never on my top list of places I wanted to visit, but I think that makes the trip very amazing in its abilities to surprise and amaze me from the beginning. Thanks for an awesome program! This most definitely has been a “life-changing” experience that will remain memorable for the rest of my life.