A traveling band

NHS students bring American music to France

Naugatuck High School band director Robert Hughes, right, warms up the band April 10 at the school. Members of the band left for a week-long trip to France April 11. The trip is part of a cultural exchange program. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School band director Robert Hughes, right, warms up the band April 10 at the school. Members of the band left for a week-long trip to France April 11. The trip is part of a cultural exchange program. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Last year, students from Louise Michel High School in Gisors, Normandy, France came to Naugatuck to participate in a cultural exchange program.

This year, the Naugatuck High School band is returning the favor.

“What’s happening now, finally after a year, is we are going to be participating in the second half of an exchange program,” Naugatuck High School band director Robert Hughes said last Thursday. “We’re now going to be reciprocating and traveling to their home town. They’ll be hosting us there.”

On the morning of April 11, 21 NHS students and six adults made the trip to France. They are expected to return home Friday. 

“I’ve been counting down for the past year, day by day. I’m really excited to see everyone and everything,” sophomore percussionist Stephanie Richard said last Thursday. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the French student that stayed at my house last year because we became really good friends. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again and meeting her family.”

While in France, the group plans to travel and see as many sights as possible, including Paris, the Normandy beaches and the Arc de Triomphe.

For senior and flautist Julia Murray seeing Paris is at the top of her list.

“I’ve never even been outside of this time zone, so to be able to go and travel with all these people I have known for so long, it’s really great,” Murray said before the trip.

Senior and percussionist Ryan Plourde said he’s looking forward to experiencing French culture and seeing the sights first hand, rather than just reading about them. He was particularly looking forward to seeing the Normandy beaches because of the amount of history the United States has there.

The trip is about more than sight-seeing though. While in France, the band will perform two concerts.

The musical selection includes Annabel Lee, written by American composer Leroy Anderson, an Armed Forces salute, which features all the motifs from all the branches of the Armed Forces, and a suite from the Hunger Games movie.

“We’re going to be playing a lot of American music,” Hughes said.

Richard added, “I think they’re really good selections. I think they represent American culture well. I think they are challenging enough so that they would be really impressive.”

Hughes said this connection between the two schools started two years ago, when he received an email from two French teachers that were interested in coming to America.

“They wanted to connect with the school and start pen-palling. They wanted to connect our students with their students, and allow them to talk via email and Facebook. Then they would come here and spend some time in New York City and check out what it was like to be in high school in America, and have a performance. Then they wanted us to go to France and have the same experience they had,” Hughes said.

The last time the band program traveled abroad was in 1994 during the school’s April break. This trip is almost 20 years to the day of the last one. The last trip was also to the Normandy region of France, Hughes said.

“It’s obviously purely coincidental, but it is interesting that it happened like that,” Hughes said.

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