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Caitlin Vander Wal, 16, of rural Hadley, is working to raise more than $6,000 for a Minnesota Ambassadors of Music trip to Europe next summer. She will sing with a choir of other Minnesota students in several countries.

Hadley teen hopes to hit Europe

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Hadley teen hopes to hit Europe
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

HADLEY -- With school starting in about a week, Murray County Central (MCC) junior Caitlin Vander Wal has a lot on her mind -- one last quick vacation, her work on the family's dairy farm, school shopping...oh, and how to raise more than $6,000 for a trip to Europe in the next few months.

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Caitlin, the daughter of Greg and Madeline Vander Wal, was nominated by her choir director Chad Felton to be part of the Minnesota Ambassadors of Music (MAM) program. If she can raise the money needed, she will join other Minnesota choir and band students on a three-week trip to Europe.

The trip begins next summer on July 5, when Caitlin will head to the Twin Cities and meet the rest of the choir. They will spend several days learning the music they will perform. Then they will board planes and head overseas.

The trip includes stops in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and more. Each country involves an opportunity to perform as a choir and sight-see.

Caitlin had to make a tough decision when she learned of the nomination. The MCC Spanish Club is planning a trip to Costa Rica during the same time frame of the European tour, and she had to weigh the pros and cons of each destination.

The Costa Rica trip costs less, she said, but the tour through Europe was one she couldn't pass up.

"I just didn't want to let this chance go," Caitlin said. "With these tough economic times, and who knows how my life will progress...I might not get another chance to sing in cathedrals and see all these places."

Caitlin's mother Madeline said her daughter loves languages, and the European trip offers a unique chance to be exposed to many languages and cultures.

"I had the chance to go to Europe years ago," Madeline said. "Everything, even basic day-to-day living is such an adventure. I'm so excited for Caitlin, but as a mother, I'm slightly terrified, and I want to go with her."

Her husband, Madeline said, is a typical daddy -- happy his daughter will have this opportunity, but apprehensive. Both parents are proud that their daughter is making the most of the opportunity.

"This is really something that is out of her comfort zone," Madeline stated, "but she isn't letting that stop her."

Madeline describes her daughter as a hard worker -- a teenage girl who gets up every day at 4:30 a.m. to do chores on the family dairy farm in rural Hadley before heading off to school, where she is busy with choir and other activities.

Mother and daughter attended a meeting to learn more about MAM, and learned that musical talent isn't the only requirement of students nominated for the program.

"They were very specific during the orientation," Madeline said. "If you can't behave responsibly, don't come. They also look for students with leadership skills, and the students are expecting to interact with audience members after the shows."

When the letter about the nomination came in the mail, Caitlin said her mother was just as excited as she was. They contacted a family friend who had gone on a MAM trip, who convinced Caitlin to make the commitment for the European trip. They also listened to the CD of the music their friend had performed while on his trip.

"It's folk music, old hymn, classical choir pieces," Madeline said.

"Not much contemporary," Caitlin added with a grimace.

Caitlin is a second soprano in concert choir at MCC, which she has participated in since seventh grade. This will be her third year as a member of Rebel Voices, a specialty choir at MCC that students must audition for to join. In Rebel Voices, Caitlin is an alto. She is also an accomplished pianist.

As much as she loves music and loves to sing, she said she isn't really looking into it for a career after she graduates from high school in 2011, but she intends to always have music in her life.

To help fund her trip to Europe, she is preparing letters to send out to family, friends, businesses and organizations. Anyone who would like to help Caitlin with her fundraising goal can make a donation at the State Bank of Chandler in her name.

Minnesota is one of 37 states that participates in the Ambassadors of Music program.

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