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Summer vacation takes students from coast to coast

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Although it’s now officially fall, Bethel College students are still looking back on some great summer memories.

Like those from any college, Bethel students spent their summers mowing lawns and making pizzas, waiting tables and counseling at camps – in short, earning some money to help them through the next school year. Some, however, had more unusual experiences.

Three music majors who are also aspiring conductors got to learn by watching an experienced orchestra conductor for a week this summer.

Daniel Hege, Jamesville, N.Y., a 1987 Bethel graduate, this fall begins his second year as music director and conductor of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. He has been music director of the Syracuse (N.Y.) Symphony Orchestra since 1999. He conducted the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra from 1999-2004.

Bethel seniors Anna Cook, Lawrence, Rachel Voran, Newton, and Andrew Voth, Topeka, shadowed Hege July 17-24 at the Music Academy of the West annual summer music festival in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Music Academy of the West is a prestigious preparatory institute in which young musicians spend eight weeks during the summer learning from faculty and guest artists. The latter include guest conductors such as Hege who come for a week each to work with the string players. Past conductors have included Otto Klemperer and Leonard Slatkin.

William Eash, Bethel director of choral studies, had the idea for the students to shadow Hege. Eash set up the group’s experience, gave guidance and helped fund the trip.

The students observed Hege’s conducting and met with him to discuss aspects of the profession.

“Our conversations were incredible,” said Voth. “Topics ranged from things as broad as the role of a conductor to the specifics of score study.”

In addition to their conversations with Hege, the three also attended master classes and concerts and talked with individuals from the academy.

“I gained incredible insight from the master classes,” said Voran. “The performers were so advanced that the clinicians didn’t need to focus on notes and rhythms, but instead focused on the nuances of tone and musicality.”

The week included more than just music. The students spent time on the beach, visited the Santa Barbara pier and learned to know other young people at the hostel where they stayed.

“Despite all of the other amazing experiences, the highlight of the trip was interacting with and learning from Dan,” said Cook. “He was so helpful and encouraging. We were blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such a successful Bethel graduate.”

Junior Natasha Orpin, Moundridge, also went west but to the mountains rather than the coast. She spent 10 weeks in Kalispell, Mont., as a Ministry Inquiry Program pastoral intern at Mountain View Mennonite Church.

MIP helps college-age young adults consider pastoral ministry as a vocation, by placing them in Mennonite congregations (students do not have to be Mennonite to participate) where they can experience ministry firsthand under the supervision of an experienced pastor. They also receive scholarship funds to be applied to tuition, and the host congregation supplies housing and pays other living expenses during the term.

“I could have made twice as much working during the summer,” Orpin said. “But two different people tapped me about doing it MIP, so I thought maybe I should.”

During her time at Mountain View, working with Pastor Jeryl Hollinger, Orpin participated in Sunday worship services – leading worship, reading Scripture and occasionally preaching. She went to “almost any church-related meeting” and participated in the congregation’s regular community activities such as cooking a meal for Feed the Flathead, the homeless assistance program of the Flathead Valley, and singing at a local retirement community.

“Since Mountain View is so small, averaging 50 or so in church on a Sunday, I figured it would be relationship-based, and it was,” Orpin said, “but not as I expected. I connected with people my parents’ and grandparents’ age. I was pleasantly surprised [by that].”

With Kalispell only 30-40 minutes from Glacier National Park, she did spend some time there, including having her family come for a visit near the end of the summer. She also went biking and hiking with people from the congregation and generally enjoyed the outdoors for the short summer season of high country Montana.

Orpin, a business major with a communication arts minor, is also serving as a student chaplain at Bethel this year. After her summer with MIP, she said, “I feel more grounded as a person, and better able to be there for other people. I would love for people to feel comfortable talking to me right away – my experience this summer affirmed my belief in relationships, and that they take a long time to build.”

Danica Cox, a senior nursing major from Weskan, spent most of her time at home helping out on her family’s farm with painting and other work. However, she also took 10 days to return to Haiti, which she had first visited during her January interterm class earlier this year.

That class was not “nursing-based,” so Cox paid special attention to any kind of medical situations or issues she encountered – and decided she wanted to organize a trip with fellow nursing students, which she hopes to carry out next March during Bethel’s spring break.

After the interterm class, Cox kept talking with Cliff Dick, North Newton, who had led the class, and with Bethel graduate Wildy Mulatre, a native of Haiti who lives in the central Haiti town of Hinche and works in health-care administration.

“We talked about what to do to make [the spring break trip] happen,” Cox said. “We decided it would be best if I made a visit, to look at what the needs would be and how we could best plug in.” She visited Hôpital Ste. Therese in Hinche and a rural clinic.

She came home with a better idea what the needs are, how the organizations are run and what supplies they need most.

“It was better than just sitting at home trying to [figure it out],” she said. “I saw that we really need a doctor or two to go with us – as nurses, we can see patients and make diagnoses, but we can’t prescribe medication. I also realized we would need interpreters. I can’t communicate the skills I have, or understand what’s wrong with the patient.” Most Haitians speak Haitian Kréyol and not many speak English.

Cox was encouraged by the connections that seem to be helping next spring’s trip come to fruition. Not only did her church, Risen King Community Church in Weskan, give her the funds to cover this summer’s trip – she also discovered that “someone I’m related to is best friends with the head of Heart to Heart International,” a nonprofit medical charity based in Kansas City that will likely be the source of supplies the group will take with them to give away.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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