Music takes Fergus sophomore abroad

Charlie Denison

Jane Rooney of Lewistown pauses in front of the Eifel Tower during her visit to Paris last month as a Northern Ambassador of music.

Photo courtesy of Jane Rooney

Jane said seeing the Matterhorn (in the Swiss Alps) was one of the major highlights of her trip.

Photo courtesy of Jane Rooney

From left, Cassidy Dutton, Jane Rooney, Mercedes Skinner and Molly Nunn are pictured in front of a cathedral in which they sang, in Paris, France during their European Tour as Northern Ambassadors of Music last month.

Photo courtesy of Jane Rooney

Last month, Fergus sophomore Jane Rooney had an experience of a lifetime. For 16 days, she traveled all around Europe as a Northern Ambassador of Music.

Through Voyageurs International, Jane joined 400 other students on a trip to England, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Italy and Germany.

“I was pretty nervous but really excited,” she said.

This opportunity came as a surprise to Jane. Winnett’s choir teacher, Kimberly Baker, nominated her for the honor. Little did Jane know she’d later receive a letter in the mail from Governor Steve Bullock himself telling her she was accepted into the Northern Ambassadors of Music program.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

A singer since she was 10, Jane said it’s her dream to have a career in music. When she graduates, she hopes to get a scholarship to the Montana State University music program.

“It’s a beautiful thing to create art and music,” Jane said. “It brings happiness.”

As a Northern Ambassador, Jane was able to “bring happiness” by singing in choirs in some remarkable cathedrals.

“We sang at a Wesleyan church in London and it was so amazing,” she said. “Our voices were so clear. It was incredible.”

What made the singing even more incredible, Jane said, was the message they shared.

“Our songs revolved around the pain and suffering in the world and striving for peace and unity,” she said.

Jane said hearing so many voices work together on these songs in old churches made for especially powerful performances. The harmony and the heavenly sound of all the voices coming together is what’s it all about for her.

“Singing in choir is what inspires me to sing the most,” Jane said. “The singers I’ve worked with are all so talented. They make me want to get better.”

Singing in choir at church is especially moving for her.

“I loved singing in the Cantata in Lewistown last year,” she said. “Religious music really inspires me. I go to the United Methodist Church and try to sing as much as possible.”

Having an opportunity to sing in cathedrals in France and England, however, was more magical than any performance of hers thus far. Just being in Europe and seeing the architecture made a lasting impression, especially in Austria.

“I could look at the architecture there forever,” she said. “But, really, the architecture everywhere was so cool. They put so much thought into it.”

But as remarkable as the architecture was, Jane said the mountains impressed her the most.

“Going to the Matterhorn was beautiful and absolutely amazing,” she said. “I’ve always loved the mountains, and the Alps are incredible.”

Looking back on the trip, recollecting on the adventure she took with 60-plus students on a double-decker bus (the group of 400 had to split up), hopping from country to country, there were too many highlights to mention.

“People were kind and the bakeries were amazing,” she said. “The food was terrific. When I was in Venice, I had pasta, and it was better than anything I’d ever had. It was made with so much love; culture exploded into my mouth.”

Jane was the only Lewistown representative on the trip, but she was not the only Central Montanan, as a few girls from Winnett also went abroad.

“We became good friends,” she said.  “I made so many friends on the trip. I can’t count them all.”

Sharing this experience with so many others made the trip more meaningful, Jane said, as it was a new experience for all of them and they were all in it together, singing in churches and growing together as individuals by opening their eyes to the world.

Although she’s only been back a few days, Jane said the trip had a major impact on her.

“I feel my appreciation for what’s out there has grown so much,” she said. “I want to learn so much more. I feel inspired and matured. I’d recommend a trip like this to anybody.”

But as magnificent as the trip was, Jane said she was happy to get home.

“I missed my family, friends, my dogs and my bed,” she said, “and I missed not paying to use public bathrooms.”

Jane said she’s grateful to be back and excited to pursue music with a newfound passion.

“I’ll keep practicing and keep working at it,” she said. “The only thing that can make me worse is if I stop practicing.”


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