Music Ministry Without Borders

WWU String Quartet takes their music to Eastern Europe

By: Becky St. Clair

The quartet plays at Temppeliaukio Kirkko, the Rock Church, in Helsinki, Finland.

During the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference session in 2005, Matthew James, chair of the WWU Department of Music, began talking with a man from Finland.

The man turned out to be Kari Laasko, a former student of Ginger Ketting-Weller, WWU’s VP for Academic Administration, who served as a student missionary at Toivonlinna Junior College in Finland during her time as a student at WWU.

After some conversation, James found himself discussing a WWU music tour to Finland.

“I really believed this trip would be a great opportunity for representatives from our school to reach out to a part of the world that we seldom reach,” says James. “I’m so glad things fell into place for it to happen. What a rewarding experience for these young people.”

For two and a half weeks during July and August, 2007, the WWU String Quartet toured to Eastern Europe. The group first arrived in Finland, took a ferry to Estonia, and finally a bus into Russia.

The quartet consisted of sophomore music performance major Noel Jabagat, first violin, graduating senior aviation major Laura Dickerson, second violin, associate professor of music Lyn Ritz, viola, and recent graduate Phillip Thompson, cello. The group was also accompanied by Patricia Ensman, a clarinetist and retired teacher from Rochester, New York, who played with the quartet on a Mozart quintet.

While in Europe, the group performed at Adventist and Lutheran churches, a school, a nursing home, a sanitarium, a youth camp, and two prisons. All in all, they successfully gave 13 performances during their time in Europe.

“This was a marvelous musical as well as cultural experience for the group,” says Ritz. “We will all have fond memories of this tour for years to come.” Ritz enjoyed playing with the group, as well as conducting rehearsals before they left and selecting repertoire for their performances at each venue.

Those on the tour who did not perform with the group included some parents and Ketting-Weller herself. They enjoyed listening as the quartet performed pieces by Smetana, Mozart, Piazzolla, Ravel, and Joplin, among others.

“The Mozart clarinet quintet never failed to give me goose bumps,” recalls Ketting-Weller. “It was a delight traveling with such wonderful musicians.”

Although the group’s intentions while touring were to touch and bless those attending their concerts, many received more than they bargained for.

“This sounds cliché, but from the bottom of my heart I mean every word I say,” says Jabagat. “I really felt like I was blessed by our ministry more than those we ministered to were blessed. The friendships and memories made on this trip have inspired me to strive hard during my time here at Walla Walla University. I sincerely appreciate all who supported the tour.”

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