BY KATIE MATTESON
This is the request I received by email from Mark Eichner, director of the Racine Concert Band:
“A band from Braunschweig Technical University in Germany will be touring and presenting a concert at Bedford Hall at UW-Parkside on Sunday, September 15th. As is the custom throughout Europe, universities don’t have higher education Music programs, but the conservatories do. This band is staffed by non-music students and supplemented by community members. UW-P alumnus Alyssa Piela was a member of this band. They are asking for as many home stays with area bands as possible, to conserve on hotel expenses. If you have the capacity and the will, I hope you will volunteer to house one or more band members on the nights before and after the concert…Please reply to me, if you are willing to volunteer.”
We are so happy we said “yes” to this request, as we had a totally delightful experience hosting Alex and Annkathrin (aka Biene=Bee).
We met them at midnight on Saturday night after their nearly 24-hour journey from Braunschweig, Germany via Reykjavik, Iceland. Thanks to their pleasant dispositions and proficient English, we got acquainted quickly during our 30-minute ride home.
They awoke amazingly fresh the next morning and ready to explore the first stop on their two-week tour of the United States to celebrate the 55th anniversary of their band, Akademisch Bläservereinigung (Academic Brass Band – AkaBlas for short).
We started with a hearty American breakfast at Meli Cafe and then headed to the Racine lakefront. We walked along the beach and the couple marveled at the beauty and refreshing temperature of our amazing freshwater lake. Then we drove up to the Wind Point Lighthouse for more great views before we had to get them back home for a quick change of clothes for their rehearsal at 1 p.m. However, we did make a quick pit stop at Festival Foods for a few items for the next morning’s breakfast (Alex picked out a box of Chocolate Toast Crunch) and to get a bag of Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups for Alex to share with his bandmates (an American treat that he’d previously enjoyed).
We expected a very nice concert, but we were quite blown away by the joy that this group exuded with each note. As they performed an arrangement of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, Carl leaned over and whispered that this song seem to sum up what this group is all about.
After the concert we headed back to the lake for dinner at the Reefpoint Brew House and introduced the couple to deep fried cheese curds and the joy of eight flavors of barbecue sauce.
And in one more act of culinary indulgence, we stopped at DeRango the Pizza King and Premium Chocolates on North Main Street for ice cream.
We said auf wiedersehen to Alex and Bee early on Monday morning and had a feeling of connection seemingly impossible after just 32 hours together.
This enriching experience came to us just by saying “yes” and we know that the “Happy” will stay with us for a long time.