Ferndale student musicians will tour Europe as part of symphony orchestra

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 25, 2015


FERNDALE — Next summer, two Ferndale School District musicians will have the opportunity to expand their musical and cultural educations as they travel to Europe as part of the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Eighth-grader George Van Der Vennet and sophomore Rachel Arquero were two of the 400 musicians selected to be part of the youth orchestra for the summer of 2016. More than 1,700 students applied for the opportunity to travel and play in France, Germany and a third, yet-to-be-determined country.

“I was really, really amazed, being a middle-schooler and getting selected to go overseas and play in a foreign country, so I am really excited and proud of myself,” Van Der Vennet said. “I am really looking forward to playing with all the other people that got accepted and learning about living in Europe and seeing the cool places we will be in Europe.”

Both Van Der Vennet and Arquero attended the Blue Lake fine arts camp in Muskegon this past summer, at which time they learned about and applied for the chance to be part of the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Arquero has attended Blue Lake for the past three years, and this was her third time applying for the international orchestra, so to get the chance to be part of it is exhilarating, she said.

“I have always wanted to go to Europe, and I have applied the past two years, but now I finally made it,” she said. “I was extremely excited because I kept working at it and knew these people were supposed to be the most dedicated and diligent in their practicing, so I felt proud and accomplished to be on their level.”

Arquero plays the violin and has done so since the fourth grade. Currently, she is part of the Ferndale High School symphony orchestra and the full-ensemble orchestra. She also plays with her friends in a quartet.

In looking to the future, Arquero said she wants music to be part of her career, but she hasn’t decided how it will fit in yet. Still, she knows she wants to continue a passion that began in kindergarten.

“When I was in kindergarten, I could hear the older kids rehearse for orchestra, and I really liked how it sounded, so I would sit outside the door and listen to them play for a while,” she said. “I liked how an orchestra sounded and wanted to be part of making that sound.”

Van Der Vennet started playing the upright string bass four years ago when his mother said that he and his twin sister, Kita, could each learn to play an instrument. With his mother having been a musician, Van Der Vennet said it felt natural to follow that path.

“My mom was a musician, and she was a great trumpet player, and seeing her perform, she has so much fun with it that I wanted to be part of that,” he said. “I like playing music with people, and I liked how big the upright string bass was, and how deep and low the sound was.”

Van Der Vennet currently plays with the Ferndale Middle School orchestra and jazz band, as well as in the full-ensemble orchestra with the high school. In marching band, he plays the tuba.

On a daily basis, Van Der Vennet said he mostly plays and practices with his sister, but he is excited to have the opportunity to play with other talented musicians as part of the international symphony orchestra.

“I definitely think this will increase my skills as a musician,” he said. “I’ve been told the music going into Europe will be difficult, so playing difficult music now, I think, will definitely help me out when I get into high school.”

As part of the experience, the students will live with different families in different towns throughout the three countries for about three weeks. When they return home, they will play a small, weeklong tour at various places around Michigan. While Arquero is excited about the opportunity to grow as a musician, she also relishes the opportunity to visit different countries.

“Europe is a beautiful place, from what I have seen in pictures, and I would like to learn a little more about the history of the towns we will be visiting,” she said. “I want to come away with a better understanding of their point of view on some of the same issues we deal with in the United States.”

The cost of being part of the orchestra is $8,000, so both students are hosting GoFundMe campaigns to help pay for their tuition and travel costs. To help Van Der Vennet and Arquero pay for their trip, visit their pages at www.gofundme.com/f483mgg4 and www.gofundme.com/rachel2016europe, respectively.