Thursday, April 4, 2013

English Song Contest in Tytuvėnai

On Friday, March 22, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in one of the Embassy’s outreach programs, where six representatives from the US Embassy went to the annual English Song Contest in Tytuvėnai. This song contest brings together schools from across the Kelmė region under the overall theme, “Music Unites Us”. Students prepared songs to perform in English for a panel of judges, which this year included the three interns from the US Embassy, myself, Meredith, and Michael, as well as two music teachers from the region.

Students performed songs that they picked to be considered “Future Hits” – it was open to interpretation as to how they would each pick their song. Songs varied and included such hits as “We are the World” by Michael Jackson, “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, and “Raise your Glass” by Pink. It was a diverse range of music, and that made it all the more fun and interesting to watch. The contest was divided into two age groups; grades 5-8 performed first, and those from 9-12 performed in the second half. The acts from both groups were so much more than I could have ever expected -the students were very talented singers and dancers, and the productions included choreographed dances and musical instruments and even costumes. It was obvious that they put a lot of time and effort into preparing, and it really made it feel like I was at a concert! At the end of the contest there was an awards ceremony, where the top three performances from each of the two age groups were recognized. Truly, every participant did an excellent job. We took a long time to come to a decision on who would be in the top three, as everyone really deserved to win considering their hard work and talent.

After the contest was over, we were fortunate enough to see a little bit of Tytuvėnai. Some of the students gave us a tour of the monastery in the city. The monastery was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It dated back to the 1630s – way before the United States even gained independence! The building had an unbelievable courtyard outside and striking artwork and architectural details inside. Not only was I impressed by the place itself, but also by the passion displayed by the students for the culture and the history of their city. There wasn’t a question we asked that they couldn't answer, or a fact that they didn’t present with genuine excitement. It was fun to learn from them about their region and the beautiful monastery that they were so proud to show off.

Overall, the trip to Tytuvėnai was a fun and informative experience. We learned about the region and the monastery through the student tour, and music truly did unite us at the English Song Contest. Everyone sang and danced and clapped along to the music, allowing us to have fun and laugh together, transcending cultural boundaries and language barriers.