Grand Junction students sing in Austria for ‘Sound of Music’ documentary

SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL—Grand Junction High School students sing a song from “The Sound of Music” at Mirabell Garden in Salzburg, Austria. A crew takes video and sound for an Austrian television documentary about tourists’ enduring fascination with the 1965 movie. Grand Junction High School German teacher Ralph Wahlers led the students on a trip through Germany and Austria earlier this summer.



Ten Grand Junction High School students will appear on Austrian television this October as part of a documentary about global tourists’ fascination with “The Sound of Music.”

The students were in Salzburg, Austria, as part of trip June 22 through July 14 to Germany and Austria. The local high-schoolers on July 7 were visiting Mirabell Garden, where part of “The Sound of Music” was filmed, when Grand Junction High School German teacher Ralph Wahlers spotted a producer interviewing a Japanese guide who gives tours of landmarks from the 1965 musical.

“I talked to the producer, and I mentioned our kids could sing a song from the movie,” Wahlers said.

“(The filmmakers) told us to jump on the fountain and sing,” said GJHS senior Alexandria Zirger, 17.

Ten of the 16 students on the trip lined up on the edge of a fountain featured in the film and walked in a circle while singing “Do Re Mi” four times in a row as cameras rolled.

“It was pretty cool. Not many people can say they were on another country’s TV,” said GJHS junior Bailey Reiners, 16.

The students also sang “Edelweiss” with some of the Japanese tourists featured in the documentary, which is set to air Oct. 23 on Austrian television station Servus TV. The documentary will focus on why a movie that never gained popularity in Austria or Germany brings hoards of tourists to see places where “The Sound of Music” was filmed in those countries, Wahlers said.

Grand Junction High students have been traveling to Germany, with a three-day trip to Austria, every other summer since 2003. During the trip, students stay with host families and attend a German high school in Markt Indersdorf, 20 miles northwest of Munich.

Within the same school year, students from Markt Indersdorf come to Grand Junction to live for a few weeks with the families of the Grand Junction High students who take the trip. The German students involved in the exchange in 2010–11 already traveled to Grand Junction and attended GJHS classes in October and November.

The exchange allows German and American students to sample each other’s cultures instead of seeing each other’s countries through a tour van window, Wahlers said.

“It gives them kind of a unique perspective of German home life,” he said, adding students experience rural life in the farm communities around Markt Indersdorf as well as urban life in day trips to Munich.

Central and Fruita Monument high schools also have exchange programs set up with German schools.


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