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Fine Arts Ravens Perform, Win Recognition at Prague Festival


Clockwise from top left: Ravenscroft Concert Choir, Wind Ensemble and String Symphony members perform; students and faculty march in the festival parade. 

Fifty-nine Upper School Ravens and eight faculty representing the school’s choir, band and orchestra programs traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, in March to participate in the 2024 Prague YoungBohemia International Festival of Young Choirs and Orchestras.

The festival, which took place March 21-24, is a world-renowned event that brings talented students from all over the world to perform in beautiful and historic venues. The festival included several public performances as well as a competition, in which the Wind Ensemble received a gold medal and the String Symphony and Concert Choir each received a silver medal.

“There is a legacy within our school for Fine Arts to travel overseas and let our students learn about and from other people and cultures. We’ve traveled to France, England, Denmark and Sweden in the past, in addition to opportunities stateside,” Director of Fine Arts David McChesney said. “It’s part of giving our students the opportunity to interact with performers from other schools and make music together.”

Students who participated in the trip said that it was all that and more.

“Performing for musicians from around the globe is both an incredibly daunting and a rewarding task,” strings ensemble member Kylie Scott ’24 said. “The festival allowed us to capitalize on the pressures of an international competition by serving as our main motivator throughout every performance.”  

“The biggest challenge was learning to play with a rental instrument that I wasn’t accustomed to,” fellow strings ensemble member Malachi Ogwangi ’24 said. “The best part was spending time with my classmates in a new environment.”  

“The Fine Arts Department strives to create an environment that allows students’ individual and group talents to be on display on and off-campus, as well as experiencing other ensembles and their performances,” Co-Director of Bands Matthew Parunak noted. “This allowed us the opportunity to perform in front of new audiences and other school groups to further their performing experience and opportunities. Our students’ confidence and enthusiasm for making music has only grown since the trip.”

As Choir Director Robert Strebendt added, each of the venues in which performances took place was “amazing.”

“In each venue, our students were either able to perform with or for other ensembles from around the world that were also participating in the festival. The beautiful Church of St. Martin in the Wall is a 12th-century church originally built in the walls of the old city (hence the name) and had the best acoustics of the four venues,” he said. “Mayakovsky Hall served as the venue for the competition and was an incredibly lavish ballroom with two huge chandeliers at the centerpoint. Rais Hall was a charming recital hall, similar to Mayakovsky Hall in aesthetic, and was a great venue to hear the other ensembles from the festival in. St. Nicholas Church was visually stunning on the inside with its 260-foot dome, which provided an otherworldly acoustic.”

Scenes from the festival

Now in its 19th year, the YoungBohemia Prague Festival brings thousands of young performers to Prague, which festival organizers call “one of the most attractive cities in Central Europe.” In addition to the competition, Ravens got to meet and perform with students from all over the world. They also enjoyed a guided walking tour of the city and a parade to the Town Hall, in which they proudly carried a Ravenscroft banner and the North Carolina state flag.

“Our directors were so impressed with and inspired by the high level of performance that we saw with the other choirs, orchestras and ensembles, and we certainly enjoyed meeting the other directors from around the world, sharing the concerts together and mingling together at the reception Saturday night,” Director of Strings Pamela Kelly said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for both cultural engagement and speaking the same language of music.”

“Being that we didn't have our full band going, it meant that each individual was largely solely responsible for their part alone in our pieces,” Co-Director of Bands Kelly Nivison added. “Our students always have great leadership skills and responsibility, but it was a joy to see our students step up and play their parts confidently and soloistically as individuals within our group.”

“My dedication to fine arts, and strings in particular, has been unwavering, but this trip further opened my eyes to the astounding ability of music performance to serve as both an audible and visual representation of one’s country and culture,” Kylie noted. 

Wind ensemble member Austin Greene ’25 added, “The trip to Prague brought me closer to my fellow musicians, made lasting memories and showed me how I could Lead From Here on an international stage.”

“It was truly the trip of a lifetime,” McChesney concluded.