Making Music and Memories Along the Danube

March 31, 2004

 

Boris Nikolic '07

 Conducting in the Mozartsall of the Vienna Konzeithaus in 1975. Photo: Daniel C. Bradley

 
 

An autumn weekend was the perfect setting for a reunion of former students who spent a semester in Vienna learning and playing music with the Duke University Wind Symphony (DUWS) decades ago. More than fifty participants from the 1975 and 1978 fall semester-abroad groups returned to campus in October to reminisce and celebrate their musical study and performance sojourns in Europe. The DUWS's Vienna programs were the realization of director Paul R. Bryan's dream to expose student musicians to the experience of living and performing abroad.

Reunion roundup:

 Reunion roundup: "P.B." and the gang

 

Bryan's first Vienna trip was in 1973; he would lead two more groups in 1984 and 1987, for a total of five before he retired in 1989. Members from that first trip in 1973 held a reunion early last summer to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. Given the overlapping tenure of so many members from the 1975 and 1978 programs, it was an opportunity to swap stories of shared musical moments and innumerable cultural encounters. And it was also a perfect occasion to honor Bryan, the man responsible for the creation of a program that made such a seminal impact upon undergraduates.

While the majority of participants were from Duke, students from other schools had joined the programs: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Greensboro, North Carolina State, Appalachian State, Iowa State, and West Virginia Wesleyan College. Several of these Vienna DUWS alumni came for the reunion weekend festivities.

The 1975 and 1978 groups studied under the auspices of the Vienna International Music Center (VIMC). Class offerings included art history, history of opera, choral conducting, music education, musicology, German, and Austrian history and culture. (The German classes certainly came in very handy for everyday survival.) Private instrumental lessons were arranged with faculty members from the Musikhochschule. Rehearsal spaces were acquired for the fifty-plus-member ensembles, and, only a month after they had arrived, the groups began touring, giving concerts in the Austrian cities of Vienna, Stadt Haag, Graz, Judenburg, and Salzburg, as well as performances in Prague, Budapest, and Venice.

The dedication and skill of the VIMC faculty members ensured a remarkable academic experience, but it was perhaps the challenge and opportunity of living in a foreign culture that made the educational experience so rich and rewarding. The high quality of musicianship was significant and a feat not easily accomplished when one considers that only a few of the players were music majors. They came from every imaginable discipline and shared one element--a love of music and performing.

During the 1978 semester, the VIMC faced imminent closure, but Duke stepped in to assist its students financially and to ensure that the program would be completed successfully. Critical to the group's ability to finish that semester was Aranca "Ushi" Riha, the VIMC's business manager, who single-handedly took on the task of making certain that her family of young, itinerant American musicians received the experience they deserved. Joyfully, the group welcomed Riha to the reunion, and, for many, it was the first chance to thank her for her tireless efforts on their behalf. Another celebrated guest was Hannes Eichmann, who served as the memorable tour director for both groups and was a musicology instructor during the 1978 program.

David Lipps '79 and Audrey Wing Lipps '79 were instrumental in organizing the reunion weekend. Barb Springer Edwards B.S.N. '81 and Audrey Lipps produced a Vienna memory book that captured the Vienna group's favorite moments from the trip and filled in life events from the past twenty-five years. Members from both groups were surprised with CD recordings of performances they had given during their European tours. Eichmann unearthed an archived recording made in the ORF studio in Salzburg in 1975, and Bryan discovered recordings he had made from two concerts performed by the 1978 group in Vienna and Judenburg. What a gift--to be able to hear and relive those musical moments more than twenty-five years later.

The Vienna experience made possible by the love Paul Bryan had for music and for his students ranked high on everyone's lists. The reunion weekend not only enabled everyone to relive those shared musical moments, but it also provided the occasion to say, "Thank you, P.B., for the difference you made in all our lives."