Kingsland High School students Shelby Larson, Jordan Pokorney and Amy Welch are set to travel to Europe next summer as part of the Minnesota Ambassadors of Music.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland High School students Shelby Larson, Jordan Pokorney and Amy Welch are set to travel to Europe next summer as part of the Minnesota Ambassadors of Music. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland students Jordan Pokorney, Shelby Larson and Amy Welch are bound for Europe in July.

The three - junior flutist Welch and seniors French horn player Larson and trumpet player Pokorney - are traveling to Europe as they represent Minnesota on a 16-day tour of seven countries from July 6 through 14, including England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Lichtenstein. The trip is part of the Minnesota Ambassadors of Music program, a band and choir comprised of 270 students nominated by their local school music directors, based on their musical ability and quality of character.

"I'm most excited about London in general," said Welch.

Larson added, "There are so many things to see in Europe, and we get to cross the English Channel, see the Eiffel Tower. I also can't wait for the food."

Pokorney exclaimed that he is excited to see all the countries, and to try the food.

The Minnesota Ambassadors of Music program was founded by the late Dr. Frank Bencriscutto and his wife Jean in 1989. Bencriscutto was the director of bands at the University of Minnesota for many years. The tour directors are Joni Sutton and Chip Williams. Sutton is a recently retired band director of 33 years from the Osseo school district, and Williams taught for 34 years and retired from Wayzata High School in 2010. He also conducts the band on the tour, as do some of the 29 other chaperones accompanying the band and choir. William Krinke, a music teacher for many years in Redwood Falls, is the choir director. Krinke and his wife Sue were the tour directors prior to Sutton and Williams.

Larson related that when she received her nomination letter in late March, she wasn't quite sure that it was real until she verified it with Josh Hogberg, Kingsland's band director, who nominated her, Pokorney and Welch for the honor of traveling with the Ambassadors.

Welch stated, "It was pretty exciting, especially when we weren't expecting it."

"Then we were nervous because we didn't know if we would be able to go...if our parents would let us," said Larson.

Pokorney was simply "excited because I've always wanted to go to Europe...I've been to Latin America, but never Europe."

Larson started making plans to see Paris, France, and all the sights of Italy, Welch began thinking of just what she'd want to remember about London, and Pokorney began considering the horizons of England and Germany.

All three are pleased to be included in the endeavor which will begin with three days of all-day practice with both the band and choir, as all decided to join the choir as well since "we get to sing in all the old, huge, ancient cathedrals," and after those long days of rehearsing with the other 267 musicians, they will have two days off, then depart on July 6, landing in London and crossing the English Channel to Paris. They'll stay in hotels in each country, perform for the local audiences, see the important sights, then travel to the next country and repeat their performances.

Welch anticipates "playing with the big, experienced band, because everyone is pretty talented...we're going to be playing with people we don't know, but we'll appreciate their talent."

Larson hopes to revel in the opportunity to play her French horn with five to seven more French horn players, as she is the only horn player in the Kingsland band.

Pokorney is proud to be "traveling with two of the best players in the band."

Welch is the only one of the three who will be able to return to school next fall with stories to share of their journey since Pokorney and Larson will be attending college. However, Larson observed, "It's a big honor, a huge deal that in the whole state of Minnesota, we're three of the ones chosen to go. Going to college sounds big and scary, but we'll have gone to Europe and seen the world."

Pokorney added, "I'm fulfilling a dream to be in Europe with my friends...and the food.

They thanked their parents - Scott and Rachel Welch, Rick and Gina Jahn and Pat and Nicole Pokorney - for the support already given and the community for any support that might be given, including that given at a concert at Our Savior's Lutheran Church last Sunday.