March 19, 2019
The East Texas Baptist University Symphonic Band and Concert Choir traveled to Austria as a part of the ETBU Global Study and Serve Program and the American Celebration of Music in Austria Concert Series from Wednesday, March 6 to Friday, March 15. Led by ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders, Department of Music Chair Justin Hodges, Assistant Band Director Douglas Lockard, and Collaborative Artist and College Organist Cathy DeRousse, the group of 56 students and faculty performed at and toured historical and cultural sites throughout Austria.
“Each time Band and Choir lead in worship, Dr. Hodges proudly proclaimed ETBU’s commitment to Christ-centered higher education to all gathered,” Dr. Sanders said. “The students gave clear evidence of this in their performance and lifestyles on this mission trip. They honored Christ and ministered to a hurting community.”
The small community at Pfarrkirche in Untermieming, Austria had recently experienced the loss of a 20-year-old young man, who died in a car accident. As the visitation was the same evening as the performance, the ETBU Band and Choir had the opportunity to spread hope through songs such as Soon-ah Will Be Done and Amazing Grace.
“The concert program in memory of the young man who passed away left an impression on me,” ETBU junior Chloe Wright shared. “I spent time with the Lord before ministering in song and wondered if this Austrian, who was my age, would meet my dad, who went home to Heaven in January of 2019. What a joy to know that our faith binds us together around the world.”
From the Neuschwanstein Castle, the model for the Cinderella Castle at Disney World, to the birthplace of the famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the ETBU Band and Choir witnessed beautiful places of worship, brick-laden architecture, and breathtaking mountains. Throughout the journey, Dr. Hodges asked students to switch seats on the bus rides.
“Dr. Hodges moved us out of our comfort zones to switch seats on our bus, allowing us to sit with the people we knew least on the trip,” ETBU graduate student Austin Anderson explained. “This brought us all back to the one thing that ETBU prides itself on – community. We really are a family, and trips like this are meant to bring us closer together as we work in unity to promote ultimate unity with Christ.”
To promote unity further, the ETBU ensemble provided lapel pins for all audience members. The pins’ design consisted of a combined Texas and Austrian flag. In recognition of ETBU’s mission and artistic work across Austria, Dr. Hodges was presented with a governmental certificate at the home of Dr. Jutta Unkart-Seifert, former Secretary of Education for Austrian Federal Ministry and current president of European Cultural Initiative.
“The pins were a small token that served as a reminder for us that we are all neighbors and God’s children, no matter where in the world we live,” Dr. Hodges shared. “It is always special to be recognized for our efforts, but I believe we are most proud that we were able to minister through our music and that each performance financially supported local missions and orphanages. To share music and leave an impression of Christ’s love on the other side of the world was life-changing for all of us on the tour.”