Member notes and letters - Band Exchange

1985 The first band exchange program by Bob Jacobs

2005 June 17th., Dist. 99, Downers North musical groups travel to Europe

2008 June, 7th Band Exchange Trip to Germany Honoring Bob Jacobs by Glenn William

2010 September, 1st Musical and Cultural Exchange Reaches Quarter century Mark by Glenn William

The Present, Continued Support by Local Kiwanis Clubs Fills Gap

Musical and cultural exchange reaches quarter century mark by Glenn William

German music students pose outside the Tivoli Theater

In 1985, it all started with one simple phone call from Kansas City to Downers Grove. One phone call, one simple idea, and a musical and cultural exchange program was created. Now, that program has passed the test of time and has become embedded firmly in two communities nearly 5,000 miles apart.

Calling from Kansas City, a fellow Kiwanis member asked Mr. Bob Jacobs if a Downers Grove music teacher would be able to host a music group from Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany. Mr. Jacobs contacted Al Roselieb, the band director at DGS in 1985. Mr.Roselieb then coordinated the visit for the first German group in 1985. Since then, the cultural and musical exchange has taken on a life of its own, forging connections for nearly 1,000 students from both communities over the course of 40 years.

Since 1985, District 99 student musicians have traveled to Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany nine times, most recently in June of 2016. District 99 Orchestra director and tour director Jennifer Mullen, Gregory Hensel and Craig Roselieb lead a group of student musicians and staff members from both North and South Downers Grove High Schools on a tour of Germany, France and Spain over an 11 day period. While in Bietigheim-Bissingen, students stayed with host families, gaining unique insight into German culture. District 99 students also experienced several cultural venues in the Bietigheim-Bissingen region as guests of the local municipality. The newly designed Porsche museum and the castle in Freudental, Germany are two of the sights that were visited by District 99 student musicians.

From August 26-September 1, 2010, 61 student musicians and staff members from the Music School in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany stayed with host families in Downers Grove. "Having the tours back to back like this really strengthens the relationships between families." said District 99 Orchestra Director Jennifer Mullen.
While in Downers Grove, the students experienced many things related to Chicago and Downers Grove, both with their host families and as a group. "This program would not happen without so many wonderful host families." said DGS Fine Arts Chair Glenn Williams.

One of the cornerstone events of this recent exchange was a concert at the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove. The String Orchestra, Recorder Orchestra, and Guitar Orchestra were able to perform on the stage at the Tivoli to a crowd of nearly 500 people. This performance would not have been possible without the generous donation of the Tivoli Theater for an afternoon event. The students from Germany were able to perform in an amazing venue for a huge crowd because the community of Downers Grove generously supports this exchange in so many ways.

In addition to the Tivoli Theater, the community support from Downers Grove Rotary, Downers Grove Kiwanis Club, and the District 99 Foundation all collaborated to make these experiences possible for the visiting German students. During this recent trip, German students experienced the Willis Tower Skydeck, and, a double-decker bus tour of the city of Chicago. "When we travel to Germany, our students are always provided with the richest cultural experiences, so it is nice to be able to reciprocate when our German guests are visiting with us." said DGN Fine Arts Department Chair Brayer Teague. "The cultural aspects of this exchange would not have been possible during this trip without the collaborative efforts of the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary, and the District 99 Foundation."

As the German entourage departes Downers Grove early in September, everyone dreames about past exchange experiences, and, begins to focus on the exchanges coming in the future. Usually in alternate years, the Band from the Bietigheim-Bissingen Music School will visit Downers Grove and a District 99 Honors Band will travel to Germany. Hopefully, there will continue to be many exchanges with Germany. Because of a strong commitment to this musical and cultural exchange from so many constituents in Downers Grove and in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, it is readily apparent that another generation of student musicians in the future years will be able to experience such a rich program.

Local Trib 09/01/2010 (2016 Update District 99 Honors Band)
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Band Exchange Trip to Germany Honoring Bob Jacobs by Glenn William

Guten tag:

It is still so surreal to me that I'm in Germany - absolutely amazing! Already this trip has verified two of my foundational beliefs - music is trans-generational and trans-cultural. The gentlemen in the photo, Bob Jacobs,
Bob Jacobs
came to wish us "bon voyage" yesterday (at least I think it was yesterday.) Mr. Jacobs founded this exchange, and shared his passion and joy with the students about this venture as we boarded our comfy yellow limousines outside
of DGN. Bob Jacobs confirmed for me that music transcends generations. My current interactions with our host and other German music teachers verifies my belief that music transcends cultures. Our passion for and belief in what music does for the human condition is already a unifying elements in our interactions. What a blessing.

Parents, your children were amazing during the travel process - they continue to make us all proud!


Glenn Williams
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Dist. 99, Downers North musical groups travel to Europe
Published: 6/17/05, Suburban Life Newspaper

Student musicians representing the Downers Grove North High School Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble, and the District 99 Symphonic Orchestra left June 12 for a two-week tour of Europe.

The students, staff members and chaperons are participating in the fourth trip for District 99 to Gietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, in a musical exchange program.

class="Body">Nearly 100 musicians will perform a variety of concerts during the trip, including three in Germany and a chamber strings performance in Salzburg, Austria. The remainder of the trip will include visits to communities in France, Switzerland and Italy.

The musical exchange program was developed as a partnership between the Downers Grove Kiwanis Club and the Bietigheim-Bissingen Music School.

Kiwanis Club member Bob Jacobs of Downers Grove and Al Roselieb, then director of South High School's band, were instrumental in founding the exchange.

Since that time, the village of Downers Grove and the Community High School District 99 school board have continued to develop the program, which includes a semiannual hosting of German music students by District 99 families.

Traveling with the musicians as a guest artist is Ron Modell, retired professor of music at Northern Illinois University. Modell will perform trumpet concertos with the band and orchestra, as well as solos with the jazz ensemble.

District 99 music faculty member Anne Brance will conduct the Symphonic Orchestra, and Brayer Teague, fine arts department chairman from North High School, and faculty member William Miller will conduct the wind and jazz ensembles.

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The formation of the first band exchange program by Bob Jacobs

I had learned about a band exchange from a school district in Kansas City. The assistant mayor, Heinz Steidle from Gietigheim-Bissingen, a small town in southern Germany was interested in bringing their young musicians to Chicago to see the skyscrapers and the big city. The Downers Grove Evening Kiwanis Club sponsored the first three visits beginning in 1985. Alan Roselieb, band leader for the Downers Grove South High School, helped  in providing buses, concert facilities and sound system. The students come to Downers Grove every other year and Kiwanis has helped in having families of our band and orchestra students in hosting as many as 75 to 90 students plus adult chaperons. The exchanged students would give several performances and also play along with our band and orchestra students. This international exchange was highlighted in the Kiwanis International Magazine. Caig Roselieb, instructor at South High School, added the various instrumental arrangements to a special march called the Aviation Cadet March, composed by my grandfather in 1944 upon my acceptance into the Army Aircorps Cadet program. This march was played for the first time in 2007 in my honor by the combined bands of Germany and Downers Grove at the Downers Grove North High School Concert.

Bob Jacobs, June 2007
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