OF THE MIND
TECH INSTRUMENT CENTER
TO BLACK MOUNTAIN
MAY UNLOCK MAD COW DISEASE
SPEECH WASN'T FREE
When it comes to recommending UM's Vienna Experience to other students, Stephen Sticka is the ideal pitchman.
"I don't tell them they should go to Vienna. I tell them they have to go," says Sticka, a former UM student. "I tell them it's a new experience that will have just as much impact on their lives as their whole college experience."
Like so many UM students before him, Sticka, a psychology major from Bigfork, found the Vienna Experience (a three-month study-abroad program in Austria) to be a life-altering event.
"It's really hard to describe how fun it was and how it changed my perception of life," says Sticka, who completed the program last spring. "It teaches you to go through life and enjoy the experience. It really helped me to appreciate events in my life a lot more."
glowing assessment of the Vienna Experience is no surprise to Gary
"I think it kicks them in the rear end and they come back refreshed and with a different kind of motivation to learn," says Funk, a Missoula native who has directed the program for the past eight years. "I think students come back with life re-breathed into them. It makes them believe that they should do something significant to make this planet better."
The brainchild of former UM Music Professor Donald Carey, the Vienna Experience began as an effort to enhance the skills of UM music students and members of the UM Chamber Chorale.
"Don always enjoyed international experiences with kids," Funk says. "And he believed Vienna was an excellent place for his students to develop their musical and vocal performance skills."
The first UM groups to visit Vienna were made up of 20 to 30 students. But over the past eight years, Funk says, the Vienna Experience has broadened its emphasis, attracting an array of students from a variety of disciplines.
"This gradual shift in emphasis was the result of learning from what was observed in Vienna over the years and taking better advantage of what Vienna had to offer," Funk says.
Funk took 45 students to Vienna, and only 25 were music majors.
"Students must realize that they are still full-time students at The University of Montana," Funks says, "but instead of studying here, they study in Vienna."
A special type of scholar
with a variety of music classes, the Vienna Experience curriculum
Students selected for the program spend about three weeks in January preparing for their immersion into Viennese culture and daily life. Funk recommends those wanting to go to Vienna have at least a year of German under their belts before they embark on the three-month stay in Austria. And members of the Chamber Chorale must be prepared for a rigorous schedule that includes 18 to 25 concert performances in Austria — a country with a rich musical heritage.
"We have to go there ready and able to perform at the musical level the Viennese expect," Funk says.
To be accepted into the program, students must apply about a year in advance and go through a fairly intensive application and interview process. Students who want to sing in the choir while overseas also must take part in a musical audition.
Funk says he is selective about who is accepted.
"They must indicate why they want to go," he says. "They must be mature and not just want to go because you can drink beer over there when you are 15."
Most of the students who take part in the Vienna Experience are sophomores and juniors between the ages of 18 to 23. But Funk says there have been some nontraditional, or older, students who also have participated.
"The original intent was to take students to a foreign country to make them better musicians," Funk says. "But now it is more designed to make students into better people."
wonders of Vienna
these days are more and more influenced by our pop culture," Funk
"The city revolves around the spire of high culture. You come back with a much higher respect for the role the arts play. In Vienna, the arts are much more than entertainment."
the UM contingent was housed in new dormitories constructed on the
grounds of an 18th century palace adjacent to the beautiful Vienna
Woods. During the mornings, students used the convenient and highly
accessible Viennese public transportation system to make trips into
the city where they spent time studying historic structures and in
museums with original paintings by great artists. During the afternoon,
While students spend most of the 12-week program in Vienna, they also may take a spring break trip to Florence and Venice, Italy. During their three-month stay in Vienna, the group also takes side trips to Budapest, Hungary, and Salzburg, Austria.
the musical portion of the program, Funk says the Chamber Chorale
"We always have to prove ourselves by singing the classical music of their culture," he says. "The audiences also enjoy hearing us sing American folk songs."
A lasting impression
For Todd Bailey, a UM graduate in political science from Great Falls, those memories include listening to the Vienna Philharmonic and spending long mornings in a favorite art history museum. He said the Vienna Experience is a wonderful opportunity to "broaden your own curiosity."
program allows you to see what you really want to see," Bailey
says. "It was superb, mostly from the standpoint that I was
able to develop my own ability to explore."
"I definitely recommend it to those who have a strong sense of individual command," Bailey says. "Not just a willingness and ability to only follow a group."
Funk says the Vienna Experience should be different for every student. But he hopes each student who takes part in the program is inspired to achieve excellence in some capacity.
"I hope when students come back here they will ask themselves, 'What am I doing with my life?'" Funk says.
He also hopes the participants decide to make a commitment to the arts.
"Oftentimes, they really don't understand what it takes to be excellent until they witness original works of great art or world-class musical performances firsthand," Funk says. "I hope it really inspires them, and, when they come back here, they will want to live life more artfully.
"These students will never forget Vienna. It becomes embedded in them. It is an education that is a powerful supplement to that which is typically provided UM students. And we need to provide more of that in education."
(Editor's note: The next Vienna Experience is slated for spring 2006.)