Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

June 22, 2008

All Star band going to Europe

On Monday, director Gerald Knipfel and the 49 student musicians who make up the Indiana All Star Band will be boarding a plane for Europe. For two weeks they will be traveling and playing concerts in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France.

Among the musicians are four Northridge High School students, Ethan Merrick, Ladd Mercer, Taylor Wogoman and Nick Kovalenko. Goshen High School students Marshal Stutsman, Tana Birky, Michael Swihart and Erica Badowski are also touring with the band.

Of the Northridge students, Merrick and Kovalenko have never traveled outside of the United States. Besides visiting the Camen Islands, Wogoman hasn’t, either.

Director Knipfel, on the other hand, has toured Europe 19 times prior to this trip. In 1974, when he was Elkhart Central’s band director, the high school band was invited to the Vienna Music Festival. The band attended that year, as well as in 1977 and 1980. But when Elkhart Memorial High School was built, “they wouldn’t let us go anymore,” Knipfel said.

And so in order to continue the touring tradition, in 1982 Knipfel created the Indiana All Star Band. This will be his 20th tour.

The band, Knipfel said, is mostly made up of high schoolers, as well as two college students. Besides Goshen and Northridge high schools, Penn, Elkhart Central, Elkhart Memorial, Jimtown and Concord high schools all have representatives in the group.

Knipfel has confidence in his young musicians. They rehearsed for the first time on Thursday, played again Friday, had a dress rehearsal on Saturday, and are performing at the Elkhart Jazz Festival today. On Monday they jump the pond.

“They played very well today,” Knipfel said Friday. “They’re all very outstanding.”

Because they’re playing in so many locations, Knipfel tried to find music that the diverse audiences will appreciate.

“We have to do a polka, because Germany, Austria and Switzerland, they actually polka. In Germany last year ... seven or eight couples were dancing to the polka,” he said.

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