Music, Mozzarella, and Gemütlichkeit: the Blue Jay Band Visits Italy and Germany
This past month the Blue Jay Band returned to Europe as part of its biennial exchange program with the Big Band of Clavius Gymnasium in Bamberg, Germany. “There is no other high school in the area, or the state for that matter, that has a program remotely like this,” says band director Joe Caluda ’79, who co-founded the exchange that since 2000 has given at least a thousand band members at Jesuit and Clavius the opportunity to live in each other’s homes and to perform music together. “Our band members experience another culture in a way that is not possible for the typical traveler,” Caluda adds, “and in Bamberg we are treated like family.” The 151 students, alumni, Jayettes, and family members who recently visited the charming town of Bamberg – as well as the hundreds who have participated in the program throughout its eighteen-year history – have certainly come to sense what the Germans call “Gemütlichkeit,” a feeling of coziness and being at home among good friends.
In Bamberg, Jesuit students spent a week with their hosts families and touring the surrounding area together. The group visited the medieval walled town of Rothenburg, the Nazi Party rally grounds in Nuremberg, and Mödlareuth, a village along the former border between East and West Germany that like Berlin was divided by a wall during the Cold War. Along with learning about history, they also got to enjoy nature in Franconia, the historic and cultural region in northern Bavaria where Bamberg is located. The group took a leisurely raft ride along the River Main, explored the Devil’s Cave, and walked along the “Tree Top Path” in the Steigerwald Nature Park. Students also had the opportunity to design chocolates at the Lauenstein Chocolate Factory and to test instruments at Thomann, Europe’s largest music store. Back in Bamberg Jesuit and Clavius students performed concerts together in Clavius’s assembly hall as part of the school’s “Summer Serenade”, in the more casual atmosphere of the Bamberg Swimming Club, and at the Wilde Rose Keller Biergarten, which has always hosted the trip’s farewell concert.
Since 2008 the Blue Jay Band has visited other areas of Europe in addition to Germany and this summer the group spent a week traveling through Italy before arriving in Bamberg. Highlights included boat tours around scenic Lake Como and the island of Capri, a walking tour of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, and a visit to a farm that produces mozzarella from the milk of water buffalo. The centerpiece of the group’s time in Italy was Rome, where everyone toured the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and celebrated Mass at the international headquarters of the Jesuits before getting to explore the Eternal City on their own.
In September, about 40 members of the Clavius Big Band will arrive in New Orleans, stay with host families, tour the area, and perform concerts at Jesuit and other locations in the city. In 2020 the Blue Jay Band will then return to Bamberg and celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this unique exchange program that continues to grow and to develop Gemütlichkeit between the Jesuit and Clavius band families.
The above article was written by Wade Trosclair ’07, who teaches Western Civilization at Jesuit and accompanied the group on the European exchange trip. Trosclair also attended the trip as a student at Jesuit and continues to support the exchange because of the profound impact it had on the course of his life.