Students travel to Europe with the AMA program


Credit: Courtesy of Susan Memoli

Students pose for a picture after a concert in Europe. They travelled across five countries during the tour. “The sites we went to were fascinating, and I’d do anything to be able to get to do it again,” said junior Mallory Leonard.

CJ Brown

Three Weeks. Eight concerts. Five countries.

Over the summer, WHS students Walker Whitehouse, Tali Wong, Jaelin Hoopes, Abby Gavron, Casey Zhang, Jacob Schilp, Kristen Bestavros, John Bestavros, Mira Mills, Annabelle Cummings and Sophia Blair-Goldin participated in American Music Abroad, a program that brings students to Europe to perform.

The students started in late June at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania for three days of practice with the band, orchestra and chorus before taking off from JFK for an 18-day journey across Italy, Croatia, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

This was WHS Fine Arts Director Susan Memoli’s sixth tour with AMA.

“We have info sessions about how to stay safe, how to keep your passport safe, how to use your money, etc. so that the kids feel comfortable being good travelers in Europe,” Memoli said. “We give them a lot of freedom within a structured environment.”

Memoli believes that a “trifecta” experience on the AMA trip is why it is so successful.

“It goes on a trifecta philosophy of the musical aspects, the social aspects and the cultural aspects,” Memoli said.

Junior Mallory Leonard went abroad with AMA in 2017, and she had a great experience on the trip.

“Europe opened my eyes to the rest of the world and made my playing significantly more confident and better,” Leonard said. “I have made best friends that I plan to have for the rest of my life. From the beginning, [even though] we didn’t know each other, we became family right away. The sites we went to were fascinating, and I’d do anything to be able to get to do it again.”

Sophomore Abby Gavron cherishes the people she met on the trip.

“It was a really amazing experience to travel all across Europe with my friends,” Gavron said. “I got to meet tons of new people from all over the country, many of whom I still talk to. I would definitely recommend it.”