BELMONT — Piet Wolter came from Hanover, Germany, ready for an adventure. He knew he would perfect his English and play trombone, but now, half way through his academic year program at Belmont High School, he is discovering much, much more.
Walking into Belmont High in September he noticed trophies, life-sized art installations, and a lot of smiles. He was pleased to find the band room was the first classroom as he entered. He and his bandmates will spend many rehearsal hours there with conductor Lauren Fountain as they prepare for performances throughout New England.
There turns out to be much more than band. As a member of the chorus, Wolter discovered a new musical expression. In November he was chosen as one of five students from Belmont to become part of the All-New England Chorus Festival which meant a bravura performance of "Five Days That Changed the World" under the direction of Dan Perkins at Plymouth State University's Silver Hall. He returned to Plymouth later in November as a member of the All-New England Band Festival where he was under the direction of Dutch composer and conductor Johan de Meij. Wolter had performed de Meij's work back home in Germany, so it was of special significance to him to meet the award-winning composer in person in New Hampshire.
Wolter is hosted by the Lundahl family in Canterbury. Both his host parents are musicians themselves and support his musical adventures with critiques, accompaniment and rides. In January they had a shorter drive. The Granite State Invitational Festival was held at Gilford High School. There Wolter met students from Windham, Goffstown, Raymond, Manchester West and John Stark. Other trips took him to Manchester, where he auditioned and was placed as first chair in the All-State Orchestra. Wolter doesn't only perform with large bands and orchestras, he is also part of the All-State Chamber Festival Brass Quintet, along with other top student musicians in this elite ensemble.
Marching band is new to Wolter. Participation in this long-standing Belmont High School tradition has placed him in step with his own classmates where he learns both the written and unwritten rules of the culture and language. He performs at Belmont throughout the school year. It is here on the fields and in the hallways that he has perhaps gained the most from his year in the United States. He said "Adapting to new environments and learning the subtleties of new cultures have been most important." He notes that each study abroad experience is unique. "It is unique to each person, but also to each time and place," says Wolter.
Principal David Williams says that Belmont students and the whole community benefit in unique ways. He is eager for students to stretch their vision beyond New Hampshire and meet people from around the world. "Everyone benefits," says Williams.
Wolter has expressed his gratitude to Williams and the Shaker Regional community for welcoming him to Belmont High. He also realizes that without his host family and Cultural Homestay International, this experience would not have happened. CHI is the non-profit organization behind the scenes which handles visa compliance and more. Susan Dyment, Sanbornton, is academic coordinator for CHI in central New Hampshire. She helps to match students with schools and families, and provides support throughout the school year. She is now looking for host families for the 2017-18 school year.
Local families are invited to contact Dyment at 387-7050 or through the Belmont High School website if they would like to open their doors to a student from abroad.
Belmont High School Principal David Williams, left, and Band Director Lauren Fountain, right, congratulate junior Piet Wolter, from Germany, center, on his many musical accomplishments. (Coutesy photo)
Belmont High School Band Director Lauren Fountain directs junior Piet Wolter from Germany, with Nick Miles, saxophone, as Principal David Williams looks on.