Barry McNamara  |  Published March 21, 2024

Music, Sun and Sites

Concert tour in Greece March 9-17 was ‘life-changing’ experience for Monmouth students.

ONE OF THE MEMORABLE SITES: The Monmouth students are pictured at the theater at Epidaurus, which music professor Justin Sw... ONE OF THE MEMORABLE SITES: The Monmouth students are pictured at the theater at Epidaurus, which music professor Justin Swearinger said had amazing acoustics.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Spring break is in the rearview mirror at Monmouth College, and by now, most of the campus knows that three music ensembles – the Chorale, the Chamber Choir and the Chamber Winds – traveled to Greece.

For those who are curious about the trip overall and the impact it had on students, Kelsey Moersfelder ’26 of Huntley, Illinois, offered a take that several of her peers echoed.

“The atmosphere, the crowds – it was absolutely fantastic to feel welcomed in these new places. We had no idea since we’d never been there before, but it was life-changing.” – Kelsey Moersfelder


“The atmosphere, the crowds – it was absolutely fantastic to feel welcomed in these new places,” she said. “We had no idea since we’d never been there before, but it was life-changing.”

Aiden Earley ’27 of Annawan, Illinois, agreed.

“My favorite thing was probably the amazing crowds that we got to see as we performed,” he said. “They had total engagement with our music.”

With a few exceptions, it was most students’ first time visiting Greece. For Earley and several others, it was also the first time traveling abroad.

“I love Monmouth, because I transferred in here earlier this semester, and I’m already traveling to Greece with these amazing people. I’ve never been outside the country before. This was an amazing experience.” – Aiden Earley


“I love Monmouth, because I transferred in here earlier this semester, and I’m already traveling to Greece with these amazing people,” he said. “I’ve never been outside the country before. This was an amazing experience.”


Connections and growth

Riley Kalnins ’26 of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Lorenzo Ramirez ’26 of Waukegan, Illinois, both said they enjoyed the opportunity to see what the lives of the local people were like, but several students commented that the new relationships they treasured most were with other members of their group.

“My favorite part of the trip was being able to connect with the people around me in many different facets, like the hectic-ness of travel, getting through tough spots in performances, and the unknowns of each venue,” said Moersfelder. “We were able to work through things smoothly, and it was an incredible way to get to know the people around me.”

Chorale director and music professor Tim Pahel has been taking students on spring break trips for several years, and he’s witnessed many times that sense of camaraderie that Moersfelder discussed.

“These trips are so good for the musical groups, because people get to know each other better and bond more while they’re seeing these incredible things,” he said. “There was also great growth from the first concert to the third one, and by the time we did the third one, we were like, ‘That was a really good concert.’”

“I was extremely impressed and proud of how much the students helped each other navigate all of the logistics that come with travel and traveling with instruments. They took care of each other.” – Justin Swearinger


“In a normal setting, as we work on goals and projects together, we see a deepening of relationships,” said music professor Justin Swearinger, who directs the Chamber Winds. “But spending a week together in a land of new experiences is just so different for everybody. I was extremely impressed and proud of how much the students helped each other navigate all of the logistics that come with travel and traveling with instruments. They took care of each other.”


Ancient ‘time capsules’

Pahel listed some of the “incredible things” on the groups’ itinerary.

“In Athens, we saw the Acropolis and Parthenon,” said Pahel. “We also went to Delphi, Corinth, Epidaurus and Patras, and it was fantastic. We saw some incredible things, and we had incredible weather. We were able to love being outside, seeing all the beautiful sites.”

“We could see them for what they were, which are these grand and amazing time capsules that take you back to what it was like back then. You see how far man has come, but also how advanced they were then, as they served as the building blocks – the cradle – for Western civilization.” – Aiden Earley


The odds were in the contingent’s favor, at least in terms of sunshine, as Greece averages around 330 such days per year.

Earley said he was impressed by the upkeep of those historic sites.

“We could see them for what they were, which are these grand and amazing time capsules that take you back to what it was like back then,” he said. “You see how far man has come, but also how advanced they were then, as they served as the building blocks – the cradle – for Western civilization.”

“I couldn’t have even predicted how beautiful and well-kept everything was,” said Hannah McGhee ’26 of Morris, Illinois, who was thrilled to see in person the theatre at Epidaurus, a site she’s read about in class.

“It’s wild to think of how many different places we experienced in such a short period of time,” said Swearinger. “Because the crowds weren’t too large, we really got to be up close with all these sites. Epidaurus really sticks out in my mind. The acoustics there were truly incredible and were worth the trip alone to experience.”

“Overall, this experience is really rich and gives people memories that they’ll have for the rest of their lives. And it’s all wrapped up in music, friends and being in a new country seeing incredible things.” – Tim Pahel


Swearinger also enjoyed a footrace with Kalnins at Olympia, home of the original Olympics.

Pahel purposely schedules a trip outside of the United States every four years “so that a student, at some point during their time here, has the possibility of traveling internationally. And I love the idea of touring, because we get to make music together and go see new, cool places. Overall, this experience is really rich and gives people memories that they’ll have for the rest of their lives. And it’s all wrapped up in music, friends and being in a new country seeing incredible things.”

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