Jeffery Sekerka knows a thing or two about a dream deferred. Several years ago, Sekerka, now general manager of WWFM, the Classical Network, headquartered at Mercer County Community College, began thinking about a music-themed trip to Europe for station listeners. "I was eager to connect with the members of our station and to create a musically meaningful experience for them," says Sekerka, who was serving as development and marketing director when the concept took hold. "But so many things got in the way that the idea of a trip just kept getting pushed back."
But about 18 months ago, Serkeka dusted off his vision and presented it to the college’s new president, Robert Rose. "He was so supportive and enthusiastic," recalls Sekerka, "that it really made all the difference." The next step was a meeting with representatives from Collette Vacations and Tours, a travel company that has special expertise in musical group travel. The Rhode Island-based company, according to Sekerka, has a proven track record of arranging themed tours, particularly for classical music stations. "Collette turned out to be a wonderful match for us, and our dream was no longer on a back burner. We were ready to go," says Sekerka.
Now the dream is becoming a reality. In the fall, WWFM is sponsoring "Mozart’s Musical Cities," an eight-day European trip that departs on Sunday, November 27. Stops on the tour include Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, and Prague, all places significant in the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
On Wednesday, July 20, at 7 p.m., a wine and cheese reception will be held at Mercer County Community College to provide information about the trip, with representatives from the tour company and the station on hand. "We can’t wait to share the details of this trip with our listeners," says Sekerka. "Along with the special pleasures of travel to Europe in the pre-holiday season, this will be a remarkable trip for music lovers."
WWFM’s own on-air host,Alice Weiss, will lead the tour group, sharing her own considerable knowledge about Mozart."
Born to a musical father in Salzburg in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was already composing music at the tender age of five, and by six, was playing for the nobility in Austria. Because his father, Leopold, quickly recognized the remarkable genius of his son, and also of his daughter, Maria Ann, the children began a court tour of Europe. In early childhood, the Mozart children were already superstars.
‘There is no question that the Mozart we listen to today was a child prodigy, and while his sister was surely less known, her talents on the keyboard were also amazing," says Weiss. "The children were recognized by audiences as extraordinary."
According to Weiss, throughout his childhood Mozart would play for British and French royal families, then by his teen years, was off to Italy for composing and performing. Vienna and Munich were also on the young genius’ itinerary, and his scope was so vast that it went from writing symphonies and full-scale operas to composing dance music for court balls. Masses and requiems, cantatas, string quintets, sonatas – all were part of Mozart’s prodigious output in a life that lasted only 35 years.
"Mozart wrote 41 symphonies in all, 27 piano concertos, and five violin concertos, and by any standard, that’s remarkable when coupled with all his other works," says Weiss, who holds a degree in music from James Madison University. "There were few like him in all of music history."
Because of Weiss’ knowledge of classical music, participants will learn some of the intriguing details about Mozart’s style and genius. For example, Weiss explains that the master composer often didn’t include written directions for how to handle the concerto section known as a "cadenza," a place where a soloist can shine. "He would often perform these concertos himself, and would simply improvise, absolutely dazzling his audiences. Only later did he realize that not all musicians could handle that improvisation, so he added more direction for others."
Joining Weiss on the trip is her husband, Mark Miller, who writes the program notes for the Princeton Symphony and Pro Musica, and is well known as a pre-concert lecturer. While Miller is not officially a tour guide, he will, hopes his wife, also be sharing his considerable expertise.
The trip, explains Sekerka, is designed to immerse participants in the life and culture of some of the world’s greatest centers of music. The tour arrives in Munich, Germany, after an overnight flight from Newark that begins with special coach transportation directly to the airport from Mercer County Community College, where extended, secure parking will be provided.
From Munich, travel will take place on a private bus, complete with a European guide. The group will spend three days in the historic city of Salzburg, Austria, where highlights include a walking tour of Old Town and Mozart’s birthplace, an optional visit to Salzburg’s Christmas market, and dinner at a centuries old restaurant. From Salzburg, the group will travel along the banks of the Danube to Linz, with its baroque Main Square, and will enjoy a special visit to Mozarthaus, where Mozart composed his beloved Linz Symphony.
In Vienna, the visitors will experience a city tour, a visit to the majestic St. Stephan’s Cathedral, and an excursion to the wine-making village of Grinzing. Then it’s off to Prague, Czechoslovakia, "the Golden City," with its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. Prague’s Old Town Square and Old Town Hall are also on the itinerary, along with an optional visit to Prague’s famous Christmas Market.
"Every place we’ll be visiting had some connection to Mozart’s life or his work," says Weiss. "We hope the members of our travel group will get a glimpse of where Mozart began his life and the places along the way that had some meaning to him. Seeing them through the lens of the past, but also in the context of modern cities, will make the trip meaningful."
And then there’s the music. The travelers will have one very special night in a Vienna concert hall. There are also plans to try to incorporate other concerts into the tour, some of which are still in the planning stages. "But because this is obviously a group with an interest in music, we’ve been assured that there will be concert opportunities in the cities we visit, all of which have a proud musical heritage."
It’s been long in coming, but Sekerka is undeniably pleased that his dream has become a reality. "We know that this will be a memorable experience, both musically and culturally," he says, adding that the number is travelers is limited to about 40. "This trip is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a memorable travel experience with other classical music enthusiasts – and maybe even do some holiday shopping, too."
Wine and cheese reception for "Mozart’s Musical Cities" tour, Wednesday, July 20, 6 to 8 p.m., the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. RSVP for the reception is required at 609-587-8989 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations for the trip can be made at the same number. The cost of the WWFM "Mozart’s Musical Cities" eight-day trip to Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, and Prague, is $1,859 per person, double occupancy; single occupancy, $2,059. Price includes round trip airfare from Newark, meals, hotel, hotel transfers, and departure taxes, as well as shuttle service to Newark.