While many UVM students were finishing up their holiday break at home and preparing to return for the spring 2009 semester, Professor D. Thomas Toner, chair of the Music Department, took a group of students from the UVM Band on a concert tour of southern Italy. Visiting Rome and Naples, with side-trips to Pompeii, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri, the band performed concerts in Rome, at a music conservatory in Avellino (near Naples), and with the Commander Naval Forces Europe Band-a NATO group with naval officers and marines as well as members of the Greek and Italian armed forces.
Given the current financial climate of our country, Professor Toner was skeptical that he would be able to get enough students to commit to the trip without UVM's financial support. However, just enough people who played just the right instruments were able to afford to go. The students in the band were from all the colleges and schools at UVM—in fact, this time just one music major made the trip. For Toner, this is one of the reasons he loves teaching at UVM. Unlike the schools he attended with very large music departments that had only a passing interaction with non-majors, UVM's music department embraces non-majors and, as a result, is made up of students who truly love what they are doing because they are doing it in addition to the requirements of their major.
Says Toner, "I was very proud of how the students represented UVM—everyone was on time and on task and the only problem we encountered was not wanting to leave Rome when it was sunny and 60 degrees."
Two years ago, some of the same students were with Professor Toner when they traveled to Slovakia, Germany, and Austria. Along with the success of the performances, Toner reflected on the importance of creating an opportunity for students to travel and engage with other cultures: "Once again, I was amazed at their enthusiasm for cultural history—whether it was seeing their faces when they first spotted the Colosseum and Pantheon, watching them be awestruck by the Sistine Chapel, or relishing the way they interacted with Italian students at the conservatory in Avellino and their fellow Americans in the NATO band."