The Student News Site of Rhinebeck High School

Rhinebeck Reality

The Student News Site of Rhinebeck High School

Rhinebeck Reality

The Student News Site of Rhinebeck High School

Rhinebeck Reality

    Hearts Across the Water

    45th Annual Rhinebeck Rhienbach Exchange
    All exchange participants standing in front of the old Town Hall in Bonn.  The participantes of the exchange about to begin the 45th year.
    RRX FaceBook Page
    All exchange participants standing in front of the old Town Hall in Bonn. The participantes of the exchange about to begin the 45th year.

    On August 1, 2023 twenty-six students from Rhinebeck Central Schools and surrounding districts including Red Hook and even Poughkeepsie and Wappingers, loaded their bags onto a coach bus to travel to our unofficial sister city, Rheinbach Germany to participate in a cultural and musical exchange.

    The Hearts Across the Water exchange also known as RRX (Rhinebeck and Rheinbach Exchange) has been happening for forty five years.  It started when Jack Shakleton, eventually the Band Director at Rhinebeck High School, had the opportunity to act on his curiosity about Rheinbach, Germany.  He had heard stories from town historian, Dewitt Gurnell, and decided a musical exchange would be something worthwhile.  A silver trumpet soon became the musical symbol of the exchange and gets traded between the two locales on each visit at the last concert.

    Students participated as either a band or a chorus member.  For each ensemble they had to attend a weekly Sunday rehearsal beginning in January until August.  During these rehearsals they learned the music that they would soon be performing with their German counterparts.

    Students also completed a survey where they had to answer questions about themselves and their interests in order to be paired with their German host family.  

    Here are two interviews with students who went on the trip:

    Mason Decker

    Sophomore, Mason Decker, who plays saxophone,  got involved with the RRX because his mom and sister went on the trip n 2017.  The following year, his family hosted three German students. 

    He bonded with his host brother over his love of games.  “I was somewhat scared to live with random people that I had talked to once, but having friends and family on the trip made it easier,” Decker said. 

    Decker enjoyed many activities like going to the city of Bonn on the banks of the Rhine river. Another one of his favorite parts was going on a cruise to the Lindt chocolate factory. 

    A highlight of the trip for Decker was when they all came together to play “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.

    “I would suggest learning some German;… there were sometimes that I felt left out because I wasn’t able to understand…,” Decker said. 

    Although this is a once in a life time experience Mason would have liked to sleep more. He does miss his friends he had to leave behind in Germany. 

    Mason is very happy for his German friends to come to america so that he can show them Howe Cavers.

    “My parents and I are going to host a bunch of Germans this summer. We will host Carl, Lisa and Jullian, my parents’ hosts in Germany, and potentially Clara, who is Carl’s sister, and maybe Max, who’s Jullian’s brother.” Decker Said. 

    Mason is going to have one packed house this summer. He is planing on hosting five Germans. 

    Lena Sealey-Nicotra

    Senior, Lena Sealey-Nicotra, who playes the violin got involved by seeing a video in band class of the Germans urging the students to participate. This is what convinced her to go on the trip. 

    Lena all about the specifics pointed out to me. 

    “There was technically no band. I joined the full orchestra as a 1st violin,” said Sealey-Nicotra.

    Like Decker, Sealey-Nicotra was scared about living with new people just like Decker. 

    “…but I was nervous to be staying with a family I’ve never met and to be surrounded by a lot of people I didn’t know that well, including the Americans,” said Sealey-Nicotra.

    Sealey-Nicotra’s host family like many others host families was very nice and welcoming. They also taught Sealey-Nicotra about Germany and its history. 

    Sealey-Nicotra enjoyed seeing everyone performing their personal pieces at the open mic night. She enjoyed seeing peoples hidden talents with music you do not get to see in an orchestral environment. 

    “My favorite piece was Simple Gifts. … we sounded amazing. And I could see that Thomas, the conductor, loved his job when we played Simple Gifts. He would get so into the piece, closing his eyes, and moving as one with the music,” said Sealey-Nicotra.

    Sealey-Nicotra misses all her German friends she left behind. In those short two weeks she felt very connected to the Germans through music. 

    “First, I would 100% recommend going. Second, don’t take the time you have with your host for granted. So many people I know would go home and go straight to their room and not see their host until the next morning. But me and Annemarie were inseparable; we functioned like sisters. Sure, there were awkward moments, but I got to know so much about her, and the more we talked, the more we connected,” said Sealey-Nicotra.

    Lena is very exited to give the Germans an American forth of July. She wonders what they will think of America and Rhinebeck. 

    Unlike Mason, Lena is only hosting one German, her host sister Annemarie. She feels they where a good match and have become quite close. Lena can not wait to make many more memories with Annemarie.

    “It seems like all in all this was an amazing experience for students from both Rhinebeck and Rheinbach.  Please consider hosting a German student or chaperone this summer and join in on the fun!” said Sealey-Nicotra.

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