European trip inspires Northwoods music student
A music standout from Three Lakes High School recently had the trip of a lifetime as she toured Europe for 16 days with the Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music, gaining newfound confidence and interest in music along the way.
Megan Rheaume-Brand, 18, a 2012 graduate of Three Lakes High School, was invited to join the tour for her singing abilities. The Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music is a group of music education professionals that sends about 300 students from around the state on a European tour every two years.
Rheaume-Brand, who has been singing ever since she started school, said that after the tour, she began to think seriously about how to incorporate music into her life as a lifelong hobby.
“Doing this trip really showed me that music is something that, while I may not be able to do as a career, I’ll be able to do in some form for the rest of my life. Every student on the trip had so much passion for music…it was fun to be a part of that.”
Rheaume-Brand was nominated for the prestigious trip by music instructors at her school. She said it was an honor to be considered amongst some of the finest student musicians in the state.
“All the students on the trip were near the top musicians in their schools,” said Rheaume-Brand. “I was really honored and humbled to have the opportunity.”
The next obstacle for Rheaume-Brand was coming up with the funds to go. She earned most of the money she needed-$5,000-the old fashioned way, fundraising and part time jobs.
“We did several brat sales at Trig’s and Walmart to raise money,” she said. “I also worked part time at a laundromat in Eagle River. My family helped too, but they felt it was important that I pay my way as much as I could.”
Students were notified of their nomination in early 2011, and attended a three-day camp in April 2012 at Carroll University in Waukesha to prepare for the tour and audition for solos before embarking on the seven-nation trip June 27 to July 12. While Rheaume-Brand can sing a full range, she was chosen specifically for her soprano skills.
“We pretty much learned all our music in three days, and memorized every word,” she said. “We went from not knowing each other to singing as a full choir. It was really intense.”
It was a whirlwind tour for Rheaume-Brand and her musical counterparts, and the group spent time in England, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. She said that one big highlight of the trip was being in London as the city prepared to host the Summer Olympics.
“It was so busy; people were running around all over the place,” she said. “There were security people and construction workers wherever we went.”
She also said that spending time in France, where the group was warned to beware of pick-pockets, was a harrowing experience.
“Our group actually got approached by a few pick-pockets,” she said. “I grabbed everything I had and ran away. In Sugar Camp, we are used to leaving our doors unlocked, so that was really different.”
There were highlights, too, including the opportunity to perform at the Notre Dame Cathedral and an ancient church in Austria. She said she got homesick a little during the trip, but also made a lot of new friends that she’s excited to stay in touch with. “It was a great time, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to go,” she said.
Rheaume-Brand, who had never travelled outside the country before, said the trip helped her realize she wants go abroad again after high school. “There was so much that we didn’t have time to see,” she said. “I’d love to go back.”
Rheaume-Brand plans to enroll at Nicolet College this fall, with the goal of transferring to UW-Parkside after her first two years. She’s undecided what to major in, but knows that whatever career she ultimately chooses, music will always be there to enjoy.
“I love music more than anything,” she said. “I know I’ll always do it in some way. This trip drove that home for me.”