Featured Destination: Avon Orchestra’s Trip to Italy & Austria

The Avon High School Orchestra from Indiana performs for a packed house in Rome at the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita.

Featured Destination: Avon Orchestra’s Trip to Italy & Austria

Avon Orchestra’s trip to Italy and Austria:  Three once-in-a-lifetime performances in Rome, Florence and Salzburg, plus fun in Siena!

Part of the Avon Community School Corporation, in Avon, Indiana, the Avon High School Symphony Orchestra was created in 2007. It has grown rapidly since then, to four full orchestras filled with over 700 students from grades 6 through 12.  Under the guiding baton of its Director, the multi-talented Dean Westman, the Avon Orchestras have consistently earned Gold Medals at Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) Organizational Contests since first performing in 2008, capped with a First Place finish by its top ensemble in 2018!

The mission of the Avon High School Orchestra and its Directors is to create life-changing musical experiences for its members, school, and community. Actively promoting a culture of acceptance, mutual respect, leadership, and integrity, orchestra students are proud to be part of a community that embraces music education. They make a positive impression with every performance.

Now the Avon Orchestra was ready to perform at the international level! Would Avon choose to play in the breathtaking Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita in Rome? Maybe give a concert in Florence, at the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte? Or what about performing at the Mozarteum, in the heart of Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. How about ALL OF THEM!  Dean Westman and the Avon Orchestra were heading to Rome, Florence, Salzburg and Siena for the most exciting 10 days ever!

Avon Orchestra’s trip to Italy and Austria began with its arrival in Rome on a steamy Wednesday in early June. Rome is rich in history and attractions such as Vatican City, headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church, the famous Colosseum, spooky Catacombs, and the Roman Forum. Important churches dot the city, like St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John in Chains, and Santa Maria Maggiore. Marvelous sculptures and art abound, in the Capitoline Museums, at Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, and at Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. No matter where one looks, Rome will delight the viewer! After its long flight, Avon checked into its hotel, had some free time, and took a Guided Walking Tour in the center of the Eternal City, before enjoying a tasty Italian welcome dinner.


Avon Orchestra enjoying a great day in Tuscany.

A great day in Tuscany with the Avon Orchestra!


Thursday morning after breakfast, the Avon Orchestra toured the Colosseum (or Roman Coliseum), an elliptical amphitheater in the center of Rome, considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Sited just east of the Roman Forum, construction began between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian. The colosseum was completed in 80 AD. Seating  up to 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It was home to a wide range of events: mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous land battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era.

Next, Avon turned back history’s clock several thousand years to visit the Eternal City’s most famous ancient site: The Roman Forum.  Circled by the ruins of several prominent, ancient government buildings at the center of the city, for many centuries the Forum was the center of Rome’s daily life.  Site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches and gladiatorial matches, its beautiful classic statues and monuments commemorated the city’s greatest men. The Roman Forum has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, in all of history.

After lunch, the orchestra toured the catacombs of St. Callixtus. The Roman Catacombs originated about the middle of the second century and are part of a cemetery complex. In it were buried numerous martyrs, 16 popes, and many Christians. At the end of a busy day, Avon  had dinner at local restaurant, “La ‘Nduja,” before calling it a night.

Friday morning began with a guided visit of the Vatican, including the Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, with its wonderful frescoes by Michelangelo. A self-contained sovereign state in the middle of Rome, the Vatican is ruled by the Roman Catholic Church with the Pope as its leader. From the first basilica constructed over St. Peter’s tomb in AD 324, the structure has expanded with additions by Renaissance and Baroque artists and architects (Michelangelo designed the huge dome), and it was completed in 1626. It endures as Catholicism’s most holy shrine, and it is filled with art and sculpture. The Vatican Museums house most of the treasures.  The Raphael Rooms display incredible frescoes by Michelangelo’s contemporary, and the Sistine Chapel with its recently restored ceiling is a sight not to be missed.  After its long visit and a little free time, the Avon Orchestra enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Vacanza Romana, in the heart of the city.


The Avon High School Orchestra from Indiana performs for a packed house in Rome at the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita.

Indiana’s Avon High School Symphony Orchestra performs for a packed house in Rome at the Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita.


After that early dinner, Avon warmed up for its first concert. That evening, the Avon High School Symphony Orchestra was joined by the Family Brass Band of Rome in a joint concert at the Oratorio of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita! Avon gave a magnificent performance.

The following day (Saturday), found the Avon Orchestra on its way to Siena. Nestled in the Tuscan hills south of Florence, Italy’s prettiest medieval town is a delight to behold. Especially beautiful is the Piazza del Campo, Siena’s large open square and site of one of Italy’s most exciting annual events: The Palio, a horse race held twice each summer, pitting neighborhood against neighborhood in a thrilling, authentic re-enactment of the historic medieval race. The group had some free time in the city and a guided walking tour before jumping on its motor coaches for the short ride to Florence. After check-in at the hotel and time to freshen up, everyone enjoyed a traditional Italian dinner at Restaurant Lorenzo De Medici before bedtime.

After breakfast Sunday morning, the Avon Orchestra enjoyed a guided walking tour of historic Florence. At the Piazza della Signoria, they learned about da Vinci, Botticelli, Ghiberti and Raphael. Avon visited the Old Palace, strolled over the oldest bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio, and ended its tour at the Piazza Del Duomo, where the striking cathedral and its campanile and baptistery form an admirable group in white, green and pink marble.

Next, it was off to the Accademia. Founded in 1563, the Florence Academy of Fine Arts was the first school in Europe dedicated to teaching the art of drawing. Now home to several of Michelangelo’s works, the centerpiece, David, dominates the collection. This colossal, classical nude marble sculpture depicts the biblical hero who killed the giant, Goliath. Its creation established Michelangelo as the foremost sculptor of his time. The Accademia also contains an important collection of 15th- and 16th-century paintings by Filippino Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, Bronzino, Pontormo, and Botticelli.

Taking some free time for lunch and a break, the Avon Orchestra then headed to Ponte Stefano auditorium for rehearsal.  in the early evening before supper, the Avon High School Symphony Orchestra gave a wonderful concert in Florence for a full house at the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte!


Avon High School Symphony Orchestra performing in concert in Florence at the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte.

Avon High School Symphony Orchestra performs in concert in Florence at the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte.


Now accustomed to eating on European time, the Avon Orchestra enjoyed its post-concert supper at Restaurant Osteria dei Baroncelli, just a few steps across the Ponte Vecchio from its concert site.  After a good meal, Avon called it a night!

Monday morning, Avon packed up and headed north by coach to Salzburg, Austria, a journey through some of the most beautiful countrysides on the planet, including the Italian and Austrian Alps.  The Avon Orchestra took in the vistas, with plenty of rest stops and lunch on the way. After arriving in Salzburg, they were greeted at their hotel before devouring a traditional Austrian dinner at K + K Restaurant am Waagplatz.

Following breakfast the next day, the Avon Orchestra took a guided walking tour through Salzburg, including the locations of some scenes in the movie, The Sound of Music. Along the way, Avon saw the Salzburg Cathedral and Hohensalzburg Fortress on the Festungsberg, high above the Baroque rooftops of the historic district.  Plus, they visited Mozart’s birthplace and viewed the violin he played when he was only 5 years old!

In the afternoon, Avon Orchestra enjoyed the “Sound of Music Tour,” visiting some of the most beautiful sights in Salzburg featured in the film, including Mirabell Gardens, Leopoldskron Palace, Hellbrunn Palace, Nonnberg Convent, the charming village of St. Gilgen and the Mondsee Wedding Church. After a busy day, Avon had a delicious dinner at Restaurant Sternbrau before retiring for the evening.


Avon Orchestra performing in the Mozarteum at the 2018 Salzburg International Festival of Music.

The Avon H.S. Symphony Orchestra, performing in the Mozarteum at the 2018 Salzburg International Festival of Music.


Wednesday was devoted to participation in the prestigious Salzburg International Music Festival. The orchestra arrived at the Mozarteum and set up for its festival workshop with renowned composer, Otto Schwarz! Next, Avon had a short rehearsal on stage to warm up for its afternoon concert. After lunch at Mozarteum, the doors opened for Avon’s concert.  The Avon High School Orchestra performed in the famed Mozarteum as a participant in the Salzburg International Music Festival! After its excellent concert, Avon supported fellow groups and attended their performances.

At the festival’s conclusion, Avon enjoyed a wonderful farewell dinner at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium – Europe’s Oldest Restaurant, founded in 803 AD. They were joined by a descendant of the Sound of Music von Trapp family, Elisabeth von Trapp, who entertained the group. It was truly a perfect ending to a fantastic trip!


Avon Orchestra's Maestro Dean Westman meeting with Elizabeth Von Trapp.

Avon Orchestra’s Maestro, Dean Westman, and wife Adrianna, meeting with Elisabeth von Trapp (at left).


“Throughout my career, I have taken groups to Carnegie Hall, Midwest Clinic, and multiple Bands of America Grand National educational performance trips. Our trips with Music Travel Consultants are, without question, the best organized and most memorable in my years of teaching. Amazing…”

Dean Westman Performing Arts Department Chair and Orchestra Director

The following day (Thursday), Dean Westman, the staff, parents, and the Avon Orchestra headed to the airport to fly to the USA. Everyone on the trip brought home wonderful memories of their once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The Avon students played their hearts out in many beautiful venues, and they acted with the class and graciousness befitting an elite scholastic orchestra.  Music Travel Consultants was honored to be a part of the awesome Avon Orchestra’s trip to Italy and Austria.

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