German Students See Sand & Surf

German students at IA meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For the past six years, Christoph Wynecken has been teaching violin and viola to students in the Chamber Orchestra at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Each time he comes, he brings along several students from his orchestra in Germany that has toured Europe, South America and Asia. This time, he brought along seven students aged 14 to 18 years old. As promised, part of their “American experience” was seeing Venice Beach and other Los Angeles tourist attractions.

“You can’t bring these kids halfway around the world, and not show them California,” Christoph said on Sunday, as he was headed for his second trip to Venice Beach. The week before, his group had also visited Disney Hall and the Armand Hammer Museum at UCLA.

A few years ago, Christoph had a rented home right on Venice Beach, as he taught at USC and Idyllwild Arts. He went swimming every day, impervious to the cold water.

(from L) Christoph Wyneken gives last-minute instructions to his German students

“It’s been a great experience living so close to the ocean,” he said.

Many of us in Southern California take beaches for granted. They’re a couple of hours away, and perfect for people watching, especially the crazies at Venice Beach. Yet, Germans don’t have ready access to the ocean, only the North Sea without sand and surf, explained Wayne Parker, one of the Idyllwild Arts van drivers, who has visited there.

Most of the the 10 music students who went to Venice Beach on Sunday were seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. When they turned the corner from the alley, they stood in awe for a moment, just smiling at each other.

“Is it true that women have to wear tops on the beaches here?” asked Daniel, a clarinet player, looking at his guide book written in German.

“There are beaches in Germany where women don’t have to wear tops,” Christophe explained.

The Germans blended right in with the rest of the tourists on the Venice Beach boardwalk. That day, some LA police officers were trying to evict an illegal peddler who was angrily resisting. There was the regular reggae guy on rollarskates playing his electric guitar. An Elvis impersonator, dressed in white spandex, posed with tourists for tips. One bum had a handwritten cardboard sign that read: “Why lie? All I want is money for a beer,” and people gave him some. But the one thing the German students marveled at was the “medical marijuana” shops.

German students horseplay

On the way back, they felt the overbearing 100 degree heat in Palm Springs as they dined at an inexpensive steak house. It was too late for them to shop at the Cabazon Outlet Mall.

“Can we stop on the way back and feel the desert sand?” asked Fabian, a violin player.

This seemed like a strange request since they had been walking and playing in the sand at Venice Beach all day.

“We don’t have any deserts in Germany,” explained Christoph. “All of Europe has pretty moderate climate, although we do get snow.”

All of the students, including one American, ran around in the desert sand in the dark along Hwy. 111. They laughed, took pictures of each other, and didn’t want to return, even when Christoph insisted.

They scrambled to return to the dorms at 10 p.m., giddy from seeing the ocean and the desert for the first time.

“These students work really hard all week, and it’s nice to get away for a day,” Christoph explained. “So much of music is in your head, so you have to have a balance of work and play.”

Leo, the youngest violinist at age 14, has been to Venice Beach twice, and has taken hundreds of pictures of Venice Beach, Disney Hall, and even the Armand Hammer Museum, where he didn’t want to go at first.

“Why do we have to go?” he asked, sunburned and tired from the beach.

“Because there’s more to California than just beaches. There’s a lot of culture here,” was the answer.

Leo ended up marveling at the Rembrandts, van Goghs and Singer Sargeants that make up the permanent collection at the Hammer Museum. They allowed him to take photos of them without flash.

Leo and Christoph will leave Idyllwild Arts on Sunday morning, headed for LAX, while some of the German students are staying on in LA for another week. They’ll have their photos, T-shirts, and other mementos, while those of us who heard them play in the Chamber Orchestra have songs in our hearts.

Christoph said that he’ll likely come back to Idyllwild Arts next summer and bring along more German music students.

“The music program is definitely good, but there’s something special about Idyllwild,” he said. “I’ve always had a good feeling about this place.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


the attachments to this post:

German students horseplay
Germans horseplay

(from L) Christoph Wyneken gives last-minute instructions to his German students
Germans instructions

(at L) Chrisoph Wyneken gives last-minute instructions to his German students at Venice Beach
Germans instructions

German students at IA meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time
Germans hands ocean


One Comment to “German Students See Sand & Surf”

  1. […] German Students See Sand & Surf | Idyllwild Me 16 Aug 2010. This seemed like a strange request since they had been walking and playing in the sand at Venice Beach all day. German Students See Sand & Surf | Idyllwild Me […]