The Childbloom Guitar Connection
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The Childbloom Guitar Connection

Lawson Academy

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A Trip of a Lifetime
By Ann Hodge, Childbloom Guitar Parent

Sometimes the smallest occurrences converge to lead to the most amazing discoveries. Seemingly unrelated incidents can lay the foundation for fantastic opportunities. How could one Texas guitar teacher watching a video of a “bad” guitar ensemble on YouTube lead to two eighth-graders’ trip-of-a-lifetime visit to Germany? The guitar teacher mentioned is Kevin Taylor, founder and director of the Childbloom method of guitar instruction. The “bad” ensemble, which piqued Taylor’s curiosity on YouTube, turned out to be not “bad” at all, but, in fact, quite good. “Bad” merely referred to the ensemble’s home in “Bad” Nauheim, Germany.

Troy Hodge; Phillip Greene; Bernd Witzel, Burgermeister of Bad Nauheim; Kevin Taylor, director of the USA Bella Corda; and Konstantin Zobel, director of the Guitar Orchestra Festival InternationalThe YouTube clip inspired Kevin Taylor to contact Konstantin Zobel, director of the Bad Nauheim Guitar Ensemble and the Guitar Orchestra Festival International, held biannually in Bad Nauheim. Following visits between the two directors, Taylor organized a USA Bella Corda Guitar Ensemble of advanced Childbloom students from around the country to participate in the GOFI in Germany. In March 2010, Taylor met eighth-graders Phillip Greene and Troy Hodge, two students of Lawson Academy’s Childbloom teacher Michael Miller, during a visit to Spartanburg when the Austin Bella Corda performed at Converse and gave several concerts in the area. Phillip and Troy expressed interest in being part of the USA Bella Corda, and in September, were on a plane bound for Germany.

The twelve young guitarists of the USA Bella Corda arrived in Germany to rehearse together a week before the competition. Local families from Bad Nauheim acted as host families, and planned sightseeing trips, “pot-luck” dinners, an audience with the Bürgermeister (Mayor), and opportunities for the young people from both countries to interact with one another. The week culminated in the GOFI competition. During the weekend festival, the Bella Corda group performed a competition program, a “show” program, and a group concert with two hundred other German guitarists. The Americans were honored to be chosen as the “Best Youth Ensemble,” but most importantly, they came home with memories and friendships that will undoubtedly lead to unanticipated adventures in the future.

From Troy Hodge, Childbloom Guitar Student

I started taking guitar lessons five years ago as something to do for fun, but I never imagined that those lessons would open so many opportunities. The trip to Bad Nauheim was one of the most fun-filled weeks of my life. Playing guitar with such an advanced group of musicians was just one of the advantages of the trip. The friendliness of the citizens of Bad Nauheim made us feel welcome in another land. We enjoyed the sights and the food. The whole town was wonderful. Every day, those of us in the American ensemble explored the city, making friendships and memories that were priceless.

From Phillip Greene, Childbloom Guitar Student

I was one of twelve Childbloom students to participate in the USA Bella Corda ensemble that went to Bad Nauheim, Germany in September. Kevin Taylor, founder of the Childbloom Guitar Program, invited Childbloom students from across the country to compete in the Guitar Orchestra Festival International 2010 (GOFI 2010). As a member of the USA Bella Corda, I attended the Mid America Guitar Camp (MAGC) in St. Louis, Missouri this past summer to meet other ensemble members and start learning the music for our trip to Germany. We met Konstantin Zobel, the GOFI director, while we were in St. Louis at camp. He sparked our curiosity about Bad Nauheim as he shared some interesting facts about the town. The residents of Bad Nauheim, proud that Elvis had lived in Bad Nauheim while stationed in Germany during the war, placed many Elvis memorials around the town.

Troy Hodge and Phillip GreeneMy trip to Germany was a great experience because it gave me the opportunity to spend 10 days working with Kevin, playing great music with other classical guitarists from the United States and Germany. I was able to learn new music to add to my repertoire, and new techniques for better tone and improvement of right hand speed. Kevin Taylor made the trip a very relaxed experience. He wanted us to focus on having fun, learning about the German culture, and making new friends, rather than spending all of our time rehearsing. After spending several hours each day rehearsing and doing our school work, we were tourists—visiting a Roman Fort, some of the Elvis memorials, a local flower festival and even meeting the Mayor of Bad Nauheim.

One of the best experiences I had while in Germany was living with a German family. This definitely gave me the full experience of Bad Nauheim. It allowed me to live like a German first-hand, eating what they ate, watching German football (soccer) and listening to popular German music. I also attended a German school with my German host brother, Julius. Staying with my German family brought the experience “over the top” with excitement. 

After a week of rehearsals, we performed four different times. We played two different concerts during the competition, in the final GOFI Show with Konstantin’s ensembles from the Music School of Bad Nauheim, and in one piece with all of the GOFI competitors. We were awarded the Youth Ensemble award, out of over two hundred young competitors. 

My trip to Germany was an optimal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I made some great new friends, learned a great deal about the German culture and even learned to speak some German! The experience changed my life forever.