Thursday, December 13, 2012

DVDs are here!!!

Eurotour 2012 DVDs are ready for pick-up in the Westwood Collegiate band room!

For those of you that were involved in our Europe tour this past July, we are pleased to give you your Christmas present starting tomorrow, Friday December 14.  Stop by the band room and you can pick up your Europe double DVD.  Disc 1's full of information for you - copy of the blog text, 1000's of photos and all of the blog videos [designed to go in your computer] and Disc 2 is an actual DVD for your viewing pleasure from our last performance in Auerbach.  Each student and chaperone that went will receive a copy.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Our final day in Europe. It was full of excitement, but at the end of the day, it is difficult to think about the fact that it is all over. In some ways it feels like yesterday that we said goodbye to family and friends at the airport. In other ways, thinking about our first day in Heidelberg feels like so long ago.

Today we began with a performance at the school in Auerbach. The German students were so full of energy and excitement! Especially once the tatoos, key chains, and frisbees were handed out. All three groups performed a short set, and by now, most of the people of Auerbach have figured out how our gigs work. The crowd oo'ed and aw'ed when the band finished with Robin Hood, rode their pretend horses when the choir sang the William Tell Overture, and grooved to the beat of Soul Vaccination once funk band hit the stage. It was a great morning for the band, but also a very emotional one. For some of them, it was the last time they would play together. This is a hard thing when you have invested so much time and effort into something you love so much. Not only is it about what they have accomplished, but who they accomplished it with.

After the concert, students were given some free time in the afternoon. Some chose to go shopping in Auerbach, while others went to the water park. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day, so even the cold water couldn't keep us from enjoying ourselves no matter where we were.

The evening was spent in the town of Amberg at a final concert to celebrate the International Youth Music Festival. Students from Canada (our choir), China, and Brazil performed, and put on an incredible show that showcased the talent for their generation. The small towns have been so good to us, and are so incredible excited about the music they are hearing. It is an incredible feeling to bring so much joy to people who do not even speak the same language as you. The theme of the day revolved around the fact that music is an international language. No matter what you speak, even young people can come together and share an experience and understand eachother through music.

It is so sad to think that we depart tomorrow, but also exciting to be coming home to share our stories with all of you. We thank you for following us along on our adventures, and we hope you enjoyed the pieces that you were able to see. There was much more that happened, but we'll fill you in once we arrive in Winnipeg, not too long from now. Until then, vielen dank, and see you soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Just like last week, this Sunday began at church. This time is was in a small village outside of Auerbach, where an outdoor service was held, and our choir sang. It was a very special event as the Archbishop of northern Germany was in attendance. He spoke with the choir and was very kind and excited to hear from all of us.

Following the service, the students of Westwood boarded the bus en route for another town nearby. Here, there were a number of groups participating in the internation youth music festival. Groups from Germany, China, and Brazil performed throughout the day, which remained sunny for the most part. The Brazilian group in particular caught out attention as they brought an orchestra with strings and wind instruments. Most of the band members went without sheet music! There were multiple food stands set up around the festival, with schniztel, pizza, desserts, and much more. The sun made for fun times, as students played frisbee, soccer and hackey sac, sat at the tables, spoke with locals, or just enjoyed the music.

All three of our groups performed today, and each did a great job impressing the crowd. Wind emsemble was up first, and kicked the performances into high gear. After a few other groups, our choir stepped in and set the mood with another great rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day". The funk band wrapped up the day's event with a killer set of hits. The musicians powered through some fatigue, but pleased the crowd when they came back for their encour to perform "Baby Popcorn" (yes...the combination of "Popcorn" and Justin Bieber's "Baby").

After the concerts, students attended dinner and "disco" at the school in Auerbach. A great time was had by all, and everbody is looking forward to another great day tomorrow with the new friends we have all made. It was so interesting to see how the trip has shifted dynamics. Everything in the first part of the trip was about seeing the destination, and now it has become about the people we are with. What a pleasure! Thank you, Auerbach!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Another eventful day began by hopping on the bus. Westwoodians made their way to another small town, Pottenstein, outside of Auerbach to have some fun at the rodelbahn tracks. This time, we had lots of time, so many rides and lots of fun was had by all! There was also a Euro Bungee section (see photos to get an idea of what that might be), where students could jump until they had to ask to be brought down...unlike at the Ex where you pay $20 for 5 minutes. Basically, attach a bungee cord to each of your hips and jump on a trampoline. It makes double back flips a lot easier, and a lot more fun!

After a lot of fun and a little rain, we headed to a nearby cave for some spelunking. Inside the cave were many chambers and pathways, but most impressive was the fossilized bear that had been there for tens of thousands of years (since the last ice age)! It was quite chilly inside as well, as the cave has a constant year round temperature of 8 degrees celcius. This was many students' first time in a cave, so it was quite the experience. Outside the cave was a trout farm. The students had a blast buying the fish food and watching the swarms of trout fight over the food. Some even attempted to catch the fish with their hands, but few were successful.

In the evening, students and locals gathered in the school in Auerbach for a BBQ and musical event. Each group performed a short set, and the support for each other was incredible! Clapping, dancing, and singing filled the gym as the hosts and visitors took turns impressing one another on the stage.

The night ended late, and everyone was pretty tired after the eventful day. Tomorrow is an early morning, so we will now try to get some rest before we revisit the lovely town of Auerbach tomorrow for the music festival!

Friday, July 20, 2012


We said good bye to Hohenschwangau this morning, and departed on our final leg of the tour. On our journey, we stopped at a small town to visit Wieskirche (Weis Church). Standing in what looks like the middle of nowhere, this miraculous church is built in rococo style, which is another way of saying extremely, extremely detailed. Click on the link to see the Wikipedia page on Wieskirche and find out just why this church is so special. Many people from all over the world come to this incredibly small village, just to see the interior of the humongous church, with it's ornate carvings and incredible painted ceiling.

A lunch stop was had at an old medieval village further down the road. We only had an hour or so, so most people only had time to grab a bite to eat. Some were adventurous and made the climb up the bell tower of the church for a view of the walled city. It was drizzling a bit, so it kept us inside for the most part.

After a few more hours on the bus, we came to our final destination...Auerbach, Germany! What a welcome! We arrived at the school to the Knabenkapelle band playing in full force, dressed in their uniforms of royal blue vests and stalkings (see photos). They were so incredibly excited to welcome us to their town that you can't help but be overwhelmed and emotional. Following the greeting, the students were shown to their home-stay families and headed off. The rest of the night was spent with their family, and thus begins the adventure in Auerbach that will surely change their lives. Lifelong friends will be made here, and it will be very difficult to say good bye in a few short days!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The dance with weather continued on this day in Bavaria. We started the day with a lovely walk to the top of the hill to visit the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein–the template for Cinderella's castle. It was bright and sunny, and made for beautiful pictures in front of the castle before our tour. Only 1/3 of the castle's interior was completed, so the guided tour is shorter than you would expect, but it more than impresses the visitors in the rooms that are displayed. Every inch of the interior is painted, carved, or covered in mosaic tiles. There is really no way to describe it. Your child will likely try, but it's one of those "you need to see it to believe it" type of things. 

The coolest part was at the end of the tour, in the singing room. King Ludwig II had an entire hall constructed for performances, and they still have singers there performing today! In fact, with a little help form our tour guides, they allowed our choir members to sing a short while in the hall, and it was a truly breathtaking experience. Check out the video to see a clip of this.

The tour ends at the gift shop, and once you leave the shop, you pass through the castle's kitchen, down an unfinished hall, and into...a SECOND gift shop, where the same items are sold for about 5-10% less!!!!!!! What marketing. Click this link for images of the castle. They don't allow photos on the guided tour, so you can find some incredible pictures on Google, both of the outside, and interior.

Following the tour, we climbed to the suspension bridge that looks over the castle. It is definitely the best way to see the castle, as it offers an unobstructed view of both the castle, and the incredible valleys and farms in the distance. It was incredible congested on the bridge, but everyone took their turn getting the perfect shot before making their way back down the mountain for lunch. After lunch, the students had the opportunity to ride the Tegelberg Cable Cars up Tegelberg Mountain for a 1700m view over Hohenshwangau. It is truly a magical view, and the kids loved sitting on the edge of the hill, because if you looked straight ahead, it appeared as though you were on the very edge (don't let the pictures scare you too much...there are ledges below). It was quite chilly at the top of Tegelberg, so many of us opted for a cup of coco or a cappuccino inside the restaurant. But of course, there were also many that couldn't resist the gelati.

At the bottom of the mountain is an incredibly cool summer luge course, on which you use small carts to descend. It is called rodelbahn, and after you try it once, you're hooked! We were able to squeeze everybody through once, so the students had the chance to ride before the rain came. They had an absolute blast, as you'll see from the photos and video.

We decided to head back to the town of Fussen to spend some time wandering the gorgeous cobblestone streets and pick up some last minute souvenirs. Some watched the Germany U18 practise at the new arena, and some visited the curling rink that played host to the past season of the Amazing Race. There was even an Olympic curler there who spoke with us about the fact that Fussen is sort of the winter Olympic training centre for athletes.

The evening was left to the students to pack up and relax before heading to Auerbach. It's hard to believe that we are about to reach our final stop on this 2012 Eurotour! Thank you so much for supporting us along the way and keeping in touch, or watching our videos. We can't wait to get to Auerbach and meet some new friends and play some more music! Talk to you again soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Today was a day of ups and downs for the team. The day started extremely early, and had us out of the hotel by 8:00 and on our way out of Austria. Once back in Germany, we headed to the town of Dachau; site of the first known Nazi concentration camp. It was an emotional morning as the students were able to explore the grounds. It chills you to the bone to walk into a once working crematorium, and know what it was used for. As rough an experience as it was, it was good for all of us to see the memorial, and to appreciate what the area has done to say, "Never again!" You will only see a few images from Dachau (the main gate, and the maintenance building with the sculpture in front) as students were encouraged to leave cameras on the bus, and take in all they could.

After getting back on the bus, we continued to drive through the Bavarian region of Germany until we reached the town of Hohenschwangau–home of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (after which the Cinderella Castle at Disney was modelled). Once outside the bus and given some free time, the mood picked up, and the students were again excited to be in a new territory! The city is beautiful, with quaint cafes, multiple castles on surrounding hills, and a lake at the bottom over which they look.

Following dinner, the girls (and some of the boys) loaded onto the bus and travelled to nearby Fussen, where they were able to scurry about town in search of some souvenirs, or just sit and enjoy an ice cream or cappuccino. Some of us were able to get to the newly developed BLZ Ice Hockey Rink, where the local under-19 team was playing. Fussen is known to be the hockey Mecca of Germany, and produces many of their famous players. The local pro team, EV Fussen Leopards, have won 16 championships, and the new arena had a special display to commemorate these victories. We spoke with the coach of the team, who ended up being from Ottawa. It was great to have a conversation with another Canadian who has lived here for almost 20 years. You'll notice in the photo album that the team got changed quite quickly to come outside and take a photo with the ladies.

We are now split up into 3 different hotels around town, so things are relatively quiet. It was also our bus drivers' last day with us, so we were sad to say good bye this evening. They sure did an incredible job! For now we get to rest and sleep in a little bit (8:00am), and tomorrow, we visit King Ludwig II's castle!!! We may even have some great rodelbahn photos in the near future as well. Check back again soon!


Our day in Salzburg, Austria began at an old folks' home, near the Mirabell Gardens. The choir sang for a jubilant group of senior citizens, who were so overjoyed to see the excitement that our young people were bringing to them. One lady in particular was very excited about the singing, and was clapping and smiling the whole time. It's amazing to see how much joy a group of high school students can bring to people who don't even speak your language.

The remainder of the day was spend in the city of Salzburg. Students were set free on their own for 6 hours! There are things for everyone in Salzburg, from shopping, to lunch at a cafe, a castle at the top of the hill, or listening to the locals play on the streets. It was a perfect day for us, since we've been stuck in either extreme heat or rain for the past while. It was overcast, but the rain held off, so we were quite comfortable throughout the day.

To get to the castle, a funicular takes you up the side of the mountain for a spectacular view over the city of Salzburg. The Dom (biggest church in Salzburg) dominates the city, but there are a handful of large churches whose spires stand out in the skyline. Within the castle walls, there is a museum that tells the story of the area, which was in fact captured by Napoleon during his reign in France.

The students did lots of shopping, and of course, picked up a bag of the famous Mozart Balls! The moment you enter the city, your eyes become bombarded by Mozart paraphernalia. You can even go and visit the house in which he was born! 

At the end of the day, the students all met in the Mirabell Gardens at the rose hill; a site from the infamous Sound of Music film. Some of the students had chosen to go on a guided city tour during the day, which highlighted many of the famous scenes from the movie.

After a long day on our feet, the Westwood crew spent the rest of the night at the hotel, either relaxing in the lobby, or going for walks around the neighbourhood. Tomorrow is a very early morning, as we will be leaving the lovely country of Austria, and be heading back to Germany. It has sure been a whirlwind tour, and it hard to believe that we are about to enter some of our final destinations. Missing you all, and hoping that you don't miss us too much!

Our new friend Patricia (the helpful young woman at the front desk) shared this Austrian saying with us this evening, and felt that we should share it with all of you at home as well..."Fledermais singen leis, bis keman die Mais." (something to do with bats and mice...doesn't make sense, but they think it's funny because it rhymes)

Monday, July 16, 2012


Another transition day! Today we woke up nice and early to board the bus and leave Italy behind. After a few pit stops and an 8hr drive, we arrived in the village of Hallein (Hal-eye-n) where we were able to frolic in the alpine grass and see how difficult it must be for people to live at such an altitude, the walk up to the town site was at an extreme angle, and to think of people walking around there in the winter is mind boggling! Following out descent to the buses, we made our way a hotel just outside of Salzburg, Austria. After another fantastic dinner, the kids were extremely excited to have some free time. Some went for a walk around town, while others had a blast in the hotel's bowling lanes. For a travel day, the scenery was incredible, and we can't wait to see the great city of Salzburg in what will be another new country for us. Love from all of us in Austria...hard to believe we're over halfway through this incredible journey! We're sure not ready to come home just yet, so keep checking out our day-to-day activities.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Wow...we thought the last few days were jam packed! Today was an absolutely unforgettable day, with all three touring groups putting on a performance. The day began early, with the choir performing in an authentic Italian church at mass. The acoustics were breath taking, and there were surely some tears in the audience. During their performance, the sound of thunder echoed through the cathedral, and the pitter-patter of the rain hitting the roof was quite spectacular. Following the service, the choir continued their performance on the steps outside. Even in the pouring rain, they put on an incredible show, and the rest of the students were able to watch and listen from various covered locations around the piazza. 

In the afternoon, some students stayed back at the hotel to do some laundry or catch up on rest, while others hopped on the bus and travelled to a nearby mall where they could get some retail therapy. It's hard to compare the mall to the markets of Florence or Venice, but they seemed happy to be shopping nonetheless. Lunch was eaten around the town of Bassano, or in the mall food court (which served...drum roll

Since the band concert was cut short yesterday, Mr. Edwards and Ms. Russell were able to get us time on the stage in the afternoon! The performance was set for 5:00, and at exactly 5:00, the rain came down again. We ducked under the canopies around the town square, and amazingly, after a short delay, the sum emerged and lit up the town for us to perform. The audience was great, and the weather was fantastic! Families with dogs and children were there to listen, and were very excited to catch our frisbees and receive a pin. It's been incredible how many people are interested in our story. They all want to know what brought us to Bassano del Grappa, where we come from, what we do...they are very humbled to have 115 Canadians come to town.

Following our last great Italian dinner, we headed back into town for the Funk Band performance. The choir opened for them with Beautiful Day, and I think this pleased Mother Nature, as she refrained from dumping any sort of moisture on us! As soon as the set began, the Westwood students in the audience became the greatest fans on the planet. They were cheering and dancing, getting the locals excited and involved, and turned it into an all out party in the piazza. It is difficult to describe what happened, but with all three groups performing today, each group supported one another, and by the end of the evening, everyone had come together to celebrate what they'd all accomplished, and they did it with a huge exclamation point. With some smoking solos, wicked vocals, and tight shots, the Funk Band turned up the heat in Bassano del Grappa, and won over an audience in the same town the Josh Redman (famous sax player) was performing in, just down the street form us! Not only was the performance great, but the students and locals were able to come together and laugh and talk too. Lots of new Facebook friends were added tonight, and that's pretty neat.

Because all of the groups performed today, there is a huge number of pictures available from the day. Don't forget that you can click on the slideshow and it will take you to a new window with the full album. Click on the album title "10-Bassano2", and you will see all of the thumbnails (little pictures). From there, you can easily go to the group of pictures you'd like to see (choir at the beginning, concert band in the middle, funk band at the end).

Tomorrow we depart very, very early for the city of Salzburg, Austria. We are sat to leave Italy behind, but are excited to be entering some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Can't wait to tell you more about it! Keep on keepin' on!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Saturday in Italy is even better than a Saturday morning with cartoons in Winnipeg! 

The students wandered down to the town square where there was a huge market set up. Everything from shoes, to electronics, to fresh fruit, was being sold right there within the walls of the old city.  The girls seemed a little more interested than the boys, but those guys sure made great bag carriers! We've also come to love the Italian dogs that join their owners everywhere. Tons of dogs calmly strolled through the market as seasoned veterans. From yorkies to huskies to pit bulls, it seems that everyone has a well behaved dog to take wherever they go.

After our morning in the market, we hopped on the buses and took a trip to the village of Marostica, Italy. The town is surrounded by a stone wall that dates back centuries! Within the walls, some students chose to grab some food and relax at the base of the hill, while others ventured to the switch backs in hopes of getting a view from the top, looking over the area. The students did an incredible job motivating each other and ensuring that their friends made it. It was a very difficult climb, and a commemorative photo was taken for the top 5 finishers, who were in heavy competition for the rights to be #1. After what seemed like walking at an 80º angle to the top, they were able to climb onto the lookout and see for hundreds of miles. Check out today's photo album for some pictures form the top. The climb town was no easy task either, and actually took much longer. Following some down time in the town square with snacks, hacky sack, Frisbee, and naps, we all packed up in order to make it back to Bassano del Grappa for the band performance.

With a loaded bus, the gang began travelling into town to set up for their first concert! But alas, the moment a shoe touched the sidewalk to head out, the rain came crashing down. Following a brief rain delay, they did make their way to the cloister within the walls of Bassano del Grappa. After a quick set up, the band was able to crank out a few notes, but then mother nature decided that it was time to take her anger out on the performance. As the rain began to fall, the Westwood Collegiate Eurotour Concert Band disassembled the performance site faster than any of us had ever seen!!! Unfortunately, the rain was there to stay, and we had to wait under the overhang until the rain was light enough to talk back to the hotel. Hopefully Auerbach will bring us the weather we need for the students to let their performance do the talking.

Another amazing dinner followed the storm, and once the skies had cleared, students were able to wander back into town and take part in the Saturday evening activities of the town. They truly enjoy emersing themselves in the local culture, sharing stories and trying to talk to locals, and spreading the Canadian kindness that is so important in our country. We are continually told how magnificent your children are, and how kind and curteous they have been in each and every city we've visitied. You should all be very proud! Tomorrow we shall try to perform again, and hopefully this time, mother nature will respect the fact that we have brought all of the instruments many, many miles. Check back tomorrow to find out what happens...same bat channel, same bat time!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012


What an incredible day! Many conversations today included the topic that Venice has been the favourite stop so far.


Another early morning had the troops up and out by 8:00am, and into Florence nice and early. There was a small breeze and just enough cloud to keep us from overheating, and by mid afternoon we were sitting at about 34ºC. The bottled water companies were licking their lips as we walked through the city!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


What a feast for the eyes today was. It began as a very early morning, with the bus rolling out before 7:00am! As sleepy as they were, the students couldn't help but to be in awe of the incredible scenery as the sun rose over the tallest peak in the region, Jungfrau. It dominates the scene in many of the pictures that you'll see from the hotel.

Monday, July 09, 2012


What an amazing day on the eyes! Even though it was a struggle to roll out of bed and be on the bus for 8:00am, it was worth it all once we reached Switzerland. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012


After spending the last of our energy on the steps up to the Heidelberg Castle yesterday, we all got a great sleep at our hotel in Bad Wimpfen. We woke up to the sound of rain outside our windows, and this unfortunately ruled out the day's performances at the Musikschule Festival. Thanks to the efforts of the people involved in the tour, this did not ruin our day! 


Following a relatively short drive from Frankfurt, the first stop of our tour was in the baroque style city of Heidelberg, Germany. It lies along the River Neckar, and is home to Heidelberg Castle...the first stop of the tour! 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

TORONTO – FRANKFURT last we write to you with news of our arrival in Frankfurt! After a delay cost us a few hours back in Toronto, we finally made our way onto the plane for our lengthy flight to Germany. 


Here are the photos and video from our extended stay in the beautiful Pearson International airport! A day full of Tim Hortons, card games, singing Adele in the black echo-y thing, and being a little anxious to get to our final destination!

Friday, July 06, 2012


Hello all! We are on our merry way and thought you would enjoy a little teaser before we take off for Frankfurt, Germany. Here are some pictures from the day so far...

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Hello ladies and gentlemen!!!! This post will showcase the Farewell Concert that was put on by the Westwood students. Please use this as an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the format of the blog, see how the photos/video will work, and make sure you are ready to join us on our upcoming adventure!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Info on how to use this blog can now be found under the "BLOG HOW-TO" tab at the top of this webpage.
If a new feature is added, instructions for use will first be mentioned here on the homepage, and then moved to the "Blog How-To" page with the other information.