Australian band leaves big impression on Douglas County residents
The snow and the towering Sierra Nevada were impressive and exciting to the Australian Woolooware High School traveling concert band, jazz band and dance troupe that had left 80-degree weather in Sydney.
The students are traveling and performing around California and Nevada. They landed in San Francisco, then traveled to Fairfield, Calif.
They spent four days with Douglas High School music department students, before moving onto Las Vegas.
The group arrived in Carson Valley much later than planned Dec. 3, due to the snowstorm in the mountains. They had anticipated reaching Douglas High School at 3 p.m. from Fairfield, but rolled in about three hours late.
But the Aussies didn’t mind the delay because they were so enthralled with the snow. They were in for another surprise when they woke up the next morning to see the Carson range.
Lauren Hadenham, an 8th grade Australian student who dances in the troupe, said, “When we heard about the mountains last night we thought, ‘Yea, yea, they’re probably not that big.’ But when we got up this morning we said, ‘Wow!'”
The students especially liked the snow, because it rarely snows even in Australia’s highest elevations.
“When it started to snow Saturday night, one girl ran outside in her pajamas,” Marla Whitaker said, “and then she came in, surprised and said, ‘It’s cold!’ I said, ‘Yea.'”
Whitaker is a volunteer band mother who housed six Aussies, four girls and two boys. She thought the language differences were really funny.
When she asked one boy if he had enough clothes on for the cold weather he replied, “Oh yes, I have two skivvies and a jumper.” Which to Americans means two long-sleeved turtlenecks and a sweatshirt.
Both Whitaker and DHS music director Bill Zabelsky were impressed with the Aussies’ good manners.
“I learned that they speak the same language we do musically, and that they’re very friendly people,” Zabelsky said, “They well-represented their country.”
Whitaker said, “They were real sweet. They ate everything, and were not particular.”
Of the whole experience, Zabelsky said, “It was great. I thought it was very interesting and rewarding.”
The Australians were so kind as to invite Douglas High to visit Sydney during their “holiday,” and perform in the famous Sydney opera house.
Zabelsky felt that it would would be a great experience for all the kids in the music department, but it might be financially difficult.
The Aussies had to fund-raise for two years before their trip, which was the first one of this kind in Woolooware’s history. One of their projects was a “market day” (a craft fair).
Zabelsky said the trip cost the group about 60,000 Australian dollars, and the ratio of Australian to American money is 62 cents to $1.
The group was very generous, and each student gave his or her “billet” (host family) a gift.
Woolooware’s “Deputy Principal” (Vice Principal) B. W. Lucas presented Zabelsky with a book on South Wales, which is the state the Australians are from, and a crystal kangaroo.
In return, Zabelsky gave them a Pride of the Carson Valley jacket and T-shirts.
Woolooware High School is made up of grades 7-12 and is smaller than the 10th-12th grade DHS, Whitaker said.
Lucas was the man who spear-headed the trip, and is really pushing to increase Woolooware’s music program.
The DHS Madrigal Singers performed for the Australians Dec. 4, and the students and faculty were impressed. Lucas said that the Madrigals were their inspiration, and that the Australians should try to emulate them.
Woolooware’s choir is only a year old.
The jazz band and dancers performed at Gardnerville Elementary School, and the concert band and dancers performed at C.C. Meneley Elementary School Dec. 4.
Zabelsky was very impressed with the jazz band and compared the style of the dancers to that of DHS’s Danceline.
“I thought it was quite interesting that they incorporated the dancers with the jazz band,” Zabelsky said.
Dec. 5 was the Parade of Lights, and the Australians were very nervous about marching, for it was only the fourth time in the history of the school that they had marched, Zabelsky said.
Whitaker saw them march and thought they sounded and looked really good.
“It was fun to see them march and the girls dance,” she said.
He also found it interesting that the band director was the drum major.
Whitaker mentioned that the Australians don’t have “pageantry,” which what Americans call a flag team.
Overall, the Americans were impressed with the well-behaved Australians and the excitement they exhibited over things Nevadans take for granted.
DHS drum major Jennifer Zabelsky had a lot of fun with the Aussies, who called her “Jenny.”
“They are just like Americans,” she said. “They even have the same sense of humor.”
Of housing the students again, Whitaker said, “I would have taken all of them if I could find a way!”
The Australian group left Carson Valley Dec. 6 and went to Las Vegas. After that they were headed towards California, specifically Disneyland and Universal Studios, and then home. The whole trip was about two and a half weeks.
“The only bad thing was that we couldn’t spend more time with them,” Zabelsky said.
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