Touring the country is the dream of any musician. For the Knox College Choir, this is an annual reality. This tradition has taken the members to a plethora of countries and states and continues to expand their musical boundaries. This year, the group went on a bus tour of the Midwest, including cities such as St. Louis and Kansas City. Senior Tommy Hintz, choir president, was amongst the members this year and found the tour to be an emotionally connecting experience.
“It’s not just a connection that happens for one week and it’s done,” said Hintz. “Singing with a group of people that are truly so supportive and giving gave me a well rounded experience of letting the music hit me at my innermost soul and letting the people get to me, too. This tour helped me connect with myself and with the people on an emotional level. It helped me understand that the music could do things that I never knew it could do to you.”
Choir Director Laura Lane also found this tour to be especially emotional. Having been a part of this choir for over 30 years now, she expressed how each year, the members find a way to bring each other together.
“Everyone in the group wants each person to feel not only 100 percent welcomed, but loved,” said Lane. “They want every person in the group to feel affection and to feel like part of a family. If someone feels like opening up, the group listens and gives them support. At the end of the tour, we do what we call our awards banquet. This year, a freshman member stood up and said ‘I want to say thank you to all of the upperclassmen for making this group one of the most inclusive and accepting groups that I’ve ever experienced.’ That was so great to hear.”
A major factor in the bonding process is the unique experience of the homestay lodging. Instead of booking a few hotel rooms a night, the choir sleeps and lives with a volunteer family for a night. From random good samaritans to Knox alumni, there are many different people who offer to let the members stay for the evening.
“We had alumni offer to take us in that had graduated over 25 years ago,” continued Lane. “It helps spread the good feelings out into the world, into someone’s home. They discuss with the members about the happenings at Knox and the homestay, people love that. Normally, there is a person who is hosting the church, someone who is providing dinner, and someone who is setting up the homestays. If there is a person we know well, I will call on that person, but a lot of time we rely on the kindness of strangers. The students raved about their homestay experiences. They simply didn’t want to say goodbye.”
Freshman David Petrak found his homestay experience to be a smooth process and the members of the homes to be more than generous.
“They were really pleasant,” said Petrak. “They were all into the choir and into having people be there. I did not have a bad experience with it. They would make us breakfast and give us a bed to sleep on. I had the nicest older couple who genuinely wanted to talk to us. It was cool to see how all of these different people lived and how they set up their homes.”
After being on the road for a week, the final show of the tour at Knox proves to be one filled with feelings and much anticipation. Junior Caitlyn Morgan talked about how this show can be hard for some members.
“The home tour concert is the one we all look toward the most, because it is very welcoming and the seats are always filled up,” said Morgan. “I just want to do so well. I’m very focused and less emotional. I’m involved deeply in the details of the music. It’s sad to get rid of the tour music, because we will never play it again as a group. It’s a once in a lifetime thing and then the music’s gone.”
Hintz also had much to say about the home tour concert. Being a senior, this was his last chance to experience the grand finale.
“This home tour concert felt like a big accomplishment for us. It felt like a big year for the choir. Even our director said, ‘This is a bus tour I won’t forget.’ Even though tour is over, we keep going,” continued Hintz. “This concert, for me, was the best home tour concert we have given. Usually, there is a concert during tour that is the one, the best. Each concert this tour had its strengths and weaknesses, but none of them stood out as the one, until this home tour concert.”
After a long tour full of emotions and growth as a choir, the members have something to remember. With the difficulties of strenuous practice and homestays with people they had never met before, it’s easy to see why these tours have become a staple in the yearly schedule of the choir. “It truly is the most unique experience I have ever had in my entire life,” said Hintz.