Pleasant Hill teachers get doused by ice water in an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at the High School last week. The challenge dares participants to have a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and make a charitable donation to ALS within 24 hours. After the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media earlier this summer, public awareness and charitable donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—a neurodegenerative condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease—soared. The ALS Association announced this month that it had received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million during the same time period last year. Teachers accepting the challenge were High School principal Paul Canaan, Spanish teacher and A+ coordinator Chris Purnell, math teacher Eric Bloom and language arts teacher Amy Fifer. Cheerleaders pouring it on were Meredith Burns, Aubrey Purnell, Emma Braley, Maggie Burton, Grace Dayson, Elizabeth Large, Daisy Fetters and Molly Takacs.
Teen tours Europe with Sound of America
By BETTY BEASON
Times Staff Writer ... Mary Beth Hertzog will be talking about her 2014 summer experience of singing and traveling across Europe with the 38th annual Sound of America concert tour for a long time. ... The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. David Hertzog of Pleasant Hill and a sophomore at Crowder College in Neosho, Mary Beth was one of 100 high school and college students selected to tour with Sound of America this year. ... Her summer adventure began on July 4 when she and her mother, Kristie, left Kansas City for Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania for Mary Beth to prepare for the Sound of America concert tour. ... The 50 singers and 50 band members underwent four days of intensive rehearsal and tour orientation in Elizabethtown. They got acquainted with the staff, other members of the group and practiced for the concerts they would perform on their trip. At the conclusion of the rehearsals, Sound of America performed two bon voyage concerts to full-house audiences in the Elizabethtown College auditorium. ... The next day, Kristie and David said goodbye to their daughter and Mary Beth and her new Sound of America friends boarded a chartered bus that took them to New York for their transatlantic overnight flight to Europe. ... Mary Beth compared her Sound of America tour experiences to 4-H camps she had enjoyed in the past. Members of the group got acquainted quickly and a family spirit prevailed. ... Mary Beth said the schedule was tight with performances every other day, but there was still time devoted to visiting historical landmarks, experience the European grandeur and to relax with new friends. ... "We were motivated to perform beautiful music for our audiences and to create positive bonds with the Europeans," she said. ... When they arrived in Germany, the Sound of America tour group boarded private deluxe coaches to travel to Rothenburg. During the trip, the passengers admired the quaint fairy tale towns they passed. That night, they performed their first on-tour concert. ... The next day's itinerary took them to Salzburg, Austria, where they visited the Von Trapp house made famous in the motion picture Sound of Music. There was also time to see other tourist highlights in the city of Mozart before performing another concert that evening. ... From Salzburg, the group continued on to the Austrian resort, Saalfelden, where they rode a chair lift to the top of the mountain and rode a toboggan on a 1-mile Alpine slide to the bottom. ... After lunch and more recreational time in the Alps, it was time to board the bus and travel on to Venice, Italy. ... By necessity, Mary Beth quickly adjusted to living out of a suitcase. Daily attire was casual and the Sound of America members had more formal attire for their performances. ... Since no traffic on wheels is permitted in Venice, they did their sightseeing on foot. The group visited the Murano Glass Factory and other attractions in Venice and performed for mass at St. Mark's Cathedral that evening. ... Mary Beth said she was in awe of the incredible scenery along the way and having the opportunity to visit the historical places in the cities they visited. ... In Verona, the group visited the world's third largest Roman Coliseum. After lunch, they traveled on through Italy to Stresa, an Italian resort city located on Lake Maggiore. The performing travelers were grateful for time to relax in Stresa. That evening Sound of America performed to a standing-room only crowd. ... The next morning, the group stopped on top of the St. Gotthard Mountain Pass for a picnic lunch, then continued traveling through the Swiss Alps, enroute to Grindelwald. In the ski village perched high in the mountains, there was time to ride a cable car to the top of the Alps, take a train ride to the top of Jungfraujoch, hike some of the trails, ice skate and shop for cuckoo clocks, music boxes and other gifts for friends and family back home. ... That night, Sound of America gave a performance in the local concert hall. ... The next day, the students enjoyed some leisure time in Grindelwald before departing for La Chaux-de-Fonds in the heart of the watch-making center of Switzerland. They performed that night in the town's concert hall. ... The next morning, the Sound of America Honor Chorus performed inside the 12th century cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. The band gave a performance in the Parisian Luxembourg Gardens and in the evening the choir joined the band for a concert. ... "I was impressed by the spiritual aura of performing in the historic, grand concert halls and especially in Notre Dame Cathedral," Mary Beth said. ... She said that throughout the tour, she was storing up the memories. It was an incredible, spiritual experience to be providing beautiful music to entertain others. ... "I loved everything about the trip...some of the most memorable highlights were seeing Paris, especially seeing the city from the top of Eiffel Tower and taking a riverboat cruise on the Seine River," said Mary Beth. ... After a performance in Luxembourg's concert hall, Sound of Music visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and the 5,000 American soldiers who died in the World War II Battle of the Bulge who are buried there. ... Leaving Luxembourg, Sound of America traveled to Frankfurt for a special farewell party and chartered buses took the group to the airport for the return flight to New York. ... Mary Beth was back in Pleasant Hill on July 26. ... Reflecting on her European tour with Sound of America, Mary Beth said it was time consuming and exhausting, but all worth it. ... She complimented the leadership provided by the directors of the program. Sound of America honor band director Clyde M. Barr is a former president of Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and Sound of America Chorus director Dr. Nancy Klein is a professor of choirs at Old Dominion University in Virginia. ... The final goodbyes back in New York were emotional. ... "There were lots of hugs and tears," she said. "Sound of America friends have become extended family. We will keep in touch through Facebook and other social media." ... Some of the group are already planning to reunite in Pennsylvania at next year's bon voyage concert. ... Mary Beth says she will never forget the fairy tale appearance at their first stop in Rothenburg, Germany. ... "Just being there, walking down the streets and seeing the historic cathedrals was humbling," she said. "I felt close to God." ... Sound of America has been performing for 38 years. The 100 high school and college age level students are chosen for their vocal or instrumental music abilities. ... In addition to demonstrating outstanding musical talent, references need show that the students have good character, are respectful, dependable, have a positive attitude and other traits that identify them as excellent ambassadors of the United States. ... One of Mary Beth's friends had received a pamphlet about the Sound of America a couple of years ago. She looked it over and thought it sounded like a fun trip, but at that time thought the cost might be prohibitive. ... This year, she reconsidered the cost and the trip seemed possible. After talking it over with her parents, Mary Beth decided to put together her audition recording. Pleasant Hill High School vocal music teacher Karen Dollins, helped with that part of the application. ... Mary Beth also asked some of her teachers for letters of recommendation and completed her audition/application by the December, 2013, deadline. ... In January, she received a call telling her that she had been accepted for the 2014 Sound of America tour. ... She worked for her father and grandfather at the Lee's Summit Animal Hospital for the summer to help raise spending money for her trip. ... Mary Beth hopes to inspire other Pleasant Hill music students to apply for the Sound of America tour. She says they should not be intimidated by the cost of the trip and suggests they do some fundraising to help raise the money. ... "It's worth it," she said.