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A Neligh teen recently returned from a music tour through seven European countries as she traveled with the Nebraska Ambassadors of Music.
Celina Knievel, 15, traveled with the group to England, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and Germany. Knievel sang with the choir and played her flute with the band in several locations throughout the trip.
To qualify for the tour, teens had to be nominated by their choir or band teacher. Selections are based on citizenship and musical ability.
She said Nate Metschke, Neligh-Oakdale band and choir director, sent her a pamphlet about the trip.
"As long as your director sends you the information, you can go," Knievel said. "That means they feel you are good enough to learn the music. And the music was really hard to learn."
"Celina's a great kid," said Nate Metschke, Neligh-Oakdale band and choir director. "She excels on her flute and in singing too."
And Metschke said he knew it would be something she would enjoy from his own personal experience.
"I went on this trip myself when in 1995, when I was 16," he said. It's a great chance to be around and meet other kids who like music. And the chaperones were really cool and made me want to become a music teacher."
Knievel said the Nebraska Ambassadors of Music spent three days in Fremont rehearsing for the concerts in Europe before they left and performed a farewell concert for family and friends. She left for the camp in Fremont on June 6. The group boarded a plane for Europe on June 9 and returned home on June 25.
She said there were about 140 band members playing 12 musical selections and about 115 choir members performing nine songs. Knievel said some students were band or choir members only, and others - like herself - performed with both groups. She said there were more than 200 students total, two choir directors, two band directors, plus a few parents and grandparents.
"It took five charter buses to drive us all over Europe," she said.
Their first stop on the tour was England, where they visited London, Windsor and the English Channel.
"I got to see Big Ben and had fish and chips for the first time - it was amazing," Knievel said. We were in London for three days, and because of the jet lag, we performed on the last day." She said their choir performances were held in churches along the way and the band concerts were outside.
They boarded the buses and headed to France next, staying in Paris for two days.
"We went to the Eiffel Tower, Norte Dame Church and took a boat tour," Knievel said. "We saw the lock bridge too. We bought a lock and four of us put our initials on it and put it on the lock bridge."
Switzerland was the next stop on their journey, which included Crans-Montana and Zermatt.
"We got to go up in the mountains on the ski lifts," she said. "We had a lot more freedom to walk around in Switzerland than in the other cities and had fun visiting shops."
Liechtenstein was the shortest stop of all, as the group stopped for lunch in Vaduz as they traveled to their next destination - Austria.
"We were in Seefeld and Innsbruck," Knievel said. "We swam in an Olympic swimming pool and went down water slides. It was really fun. And, when we were in Austria, they had three of those horn things like in the Ricola commercials and they let us play them."
She said their band and choir performances were well-received during their stays in Switzerland and Austria.
"In England and France, it was like they didn't care for us much, but in Austria and Switzerland, they loved us and there were posters of us everywhere," Knievel said.
But she said her favorite concert was on the next stop - in Venice, Italy.
"Our choir performed in a church and it was the best we performed in because it had rotundas and the sound was awesome," Knievel said. "It sounded beautiful in there."
And, she said the pizza and pasta were "absolutely awesome!"
Germany was the final stop of their European tour.
"We went to the Auschwitz concentration camp on our way to Rothenburg," Knievel said. "We saw the cremation area and gas chamber. My friend McKenna and I cried...it was really sad."
While in Rothenburg, Germany, the choir performed in a church and band played an outdoor concert in the rain.
She said the highlights of her trip were seeing Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Venice and performing in churches.
Knievel, who will be a junior at Neligh-Oakdale this year, said she would highly recommend this tour to others.
"It is a good experience...it is mind-blowing, actuallly," she said. "You get to see Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye. Why wouldn't you want to go? Especially if you love music."