Perry High School students tour Europe with Iowa Ambassadors of Music

Allison Ullmann - Staff
The Iowa Ambassadors of Music band performs a concert in Austria. PHOTO SUBMITTED TO THE PERRY CHIEF

Breanna Penenger and Adriana Eastman can now say they’ve performed music in six different countries.

“I think the fact that we’re touring because of music and music brings people closer,” Penenger said of why she enjoyed the trip. “I feel like I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if we hadn’t been making music while we were over there.”

The Perry High School students recently returned from a tour of Europe with the Iowa Ambassadors of Music. The pair joined 390 others from across Iowa for the 21-day tour through England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

Penenger and Eastman were nominated for the IAM Europe tour by former Perry High School band director Brandon Weeks.

Penenger, who recently graduated from Perry High School, performed with the 150-member choir. Eastman, who will be a senior, performed with the band in the percussion section.

The pair attended a camp in Grinnell before the tour to put the music together. They then traveled to London, Paris, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany. The IAM groups performed concerts in all of the countries except Liechtenstein.

“I think those first couple days in London just swept me off my feet. It was just so cool to be in a whole different country and a big city,” Penenger said.

The pair enjoyed getting the chance to tour London and the other stops along the tour. Eastman and Penenger’s favorite stop on the tour was Switzerland.

“When I woke up and I was in Switzerland, I thought I was in Iowa, minus the mountains,” Eastman said. “The fields were just amazing. It was just beautiful.”

Penenger said the people in Crans-Montana were really welcoming to the IAM group. She added that they knew the group was from Iowa and thought it was cool that they were performing a concert.

One of her favorite performance spots was a spontaneous concert inside a church in Austria before a couple renewed their vows.

“After we got done singing, there was a lady who was so moved that she was sobbing because of how we sang,” Penenger said. “That was a really, really cool experience.”

The IAM Europe tour continued through Italy and into Germany. Penenger said that’s when it set in that they were almost done as the band and choir performed their final concerts in Germany.

Eastman said the band performed in the town square and a couple in the crowd held up an Iowa State flag. The choir concert was held in a local church.

“We had one of our best performances ever,” Penenger said. “All of us knew that this was the last time we were performing together. I think a lot of people really used that to their advantage and artistically shaped everything that we were singing.”

She remembered having to hold back tears during the concert. Eastman could see the emotion on the faces of those performing in the choir.

“I’m so glad that I got that experience. We got the experience that some don’t get in a lifetime,” Eastman said.

Both of them enjoyed getting to share that experience with other music students from Iowa.

“We came together as complete strangers from all across Iowa,” Eastman said of the band. “It was crazy the first time the band performed together how we could just play beautifully.”

Eastman and Penenger are happy to be home, but both would love the opportunity to go back. Penenger is headed off to college, where she hopes to tour with a college ensemble.

“I can’t wait to keep going and to keep digging into music,” she said. “I know that I’ve just barely scratched the surface right now, even though I’ve been around the world and back.”

Eastman is looking forward to sharing her experience with her fellow members in the Perry High School band.

“I just can’t wait until I get to play again and to teach them the things I’ve learned,” she said.