- Associated Press - Sunday, August 9, 2015

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Avery Thomas was the youngster in the bunch but on equal footing when it comes to talent.

Thomas, 16, was recently in Europe for the International Music Festival of the Adriatic tour of Italy and Slovenia. The Abraham Lincoln High School junior-to-be said he was the only high schooler among a group of 27 musicians, The Daily Nonpareil (https://bit.ly/1Up4WcY ) reported.

“Most of the others were graduate students,” the violist said. “It was cool to see where I hope to be in college.”

Thomas was abroad June 6 through July 1, touring with a group that included two Italians, two Canadians and 25 Americans. The touring festival featured chamber orchestra ensembles, opera soloists, pianists and composers. Chamber music features small groups - usually three to four people.

The festival is coordinated by Luther College of Decorah, with home base in Italy the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino. The program focuses on individual training and chamber music with private lessons, coaching, master classes and performances, according to the Luther website.



The groups played a number of well-known classical classics - Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and the like - while also playing pieces by the composers participating in the festival. Thomas called the latter music a challenge.

“Having to learn a piece overnight and play it the next day was interesting,” he said. “I learned a lot through that.”

Thomas said he learned about musical touring on the trip.

“We did 12 concerts. We’d go on a couple-hour-long train ride, do a concert, stay for a night, come back,” he said. “It was enlightening to see how touring is.”

Thomas studied at Luther College with professor Spencer Martin during a winter program, and the longtime musician told his student about the festival. Thomas auditioned and was chosen to make the trek to Europe.

Along with the concerts, Thomas and company toured Venice, visiting a number of opera houses. They stopped by the home of 16th-century violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini in Slovenia, along with the grave of composer Igor Stravinsky in northern Italy.

“It was really cool to get to go to Europe - that’s the center of classical music,” Thomas said. “Getting to see where your favorite composers from history were from was inspiring.”

Thomas first picked up the viola in fourth grade when he decided to join the orchestra.

“They told us we get to pick an instrument. I picked that,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it since.”

Thomas plays both viola and the bass in the A.L. orchestra. He plays the saxophone in jazz band and is a drum major with the school marching band.

He said he plans to take his love of music as far as his talent allows, with an idea toward studying viola performance in college, with an eye toward conducting. The Italy and Slovenia trip definitely helped solidify his dream.

“Meeting people with similar goals as you was nice, being able to interact with them, get their perspective on things. They were all older; I saw where I want to be,” he said. “And it was a look at what being a professional musician would be.”

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, https://www.nonpareilonline.com

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