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BHSU choir will tour Italy this spring

Black Hills State University choir and band students will enjoy touring and performing in Italian cathedrals this spring.

There will be 22 students participating in this year's concert tour in May. Students will be lodging in a variety of interesting places including a converted monastery which is run by nuns. The monastery is now set up as a hotel.

The group will hold concerts in Spoleto, Sienna, Florence, and Venice, where they will perform African-American spirituals, folk songs, patriotic songs, and of course, Italian madrigals. Their itinerary also includes tours of the Roman Forum, Coliseum, and the Pantheon; museums such as St. Peter's Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel, as well as other sites including the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

According to Stephen Parker, BHSU choral director, there will be 18 other people including faculty members, traveling with the students. Parker regrets that all the students in his choral group cannot participate, but understands their reasons, stating “students just have a hard time coming up with their money.” The university is able to contribute some of the money, but most of it must be earned through raffles, rummage sales, and selling candy.

Parker said fund-raising efforts have not been as successful as in previous years. He has noticed there is a lot of competition with other groups who are on fund-raising missions, and it is very difficult to compete against other worthy fund-raising efforts in the community. However, students do benefit a great deal by participating in these tours, and many simply cannot afford to pay their own expenses for this kind of opportunity.

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Parker noted the trips are being cut shorter due to costs and intense competition for dollars. The tour, which in the past has been 15 days, is now only 12.

For these same reasons, he is unsure as to whether students will continue to have the opportunity to tour and perform in Europe.

The BH choral director finds this unfortunate in more ways than one, as the university uses these tours as a recruiting tool for Black Hills State. Parker also believes that these tours are a “phenomenal education” – it helps the students to actually experience the places where the great composers lived and worked.

BHSU students participating in the tour through Italy are: Micki O'Dell, Spearfish; Jodi Boese, Geddes; Sonja Olson, Colton; Stacey Smith, Rapid City; Rebecca Garvin, Spearfish; Lynette Daum, Newcastle, Wyo.; Carol Armbrust, Sturgis; Cindy Tschetter, Spearfish; Fred Strasser, Spearfish; Tony Speiser, Watertown; Toby Sprague, Spearfish; Guy Bruha, Baker, Mont.; Lang Termes, Spearfish; Adam Lawson, Rapid City; Jim Gerdes, Spearfish; and April Lutheran of Rapid City. The rest of the group of 40 will include faculty, faculty spouses, and other people from the area.

Students are currently preparing to hold a spaghetti dinner to raise some money, and will be raffling a Black Hills gold watch in April. Private donations are welcome, and anyone wishing more information may contact Parker at his e-mail address <steveparker@bhsu.edu>.