The Westerville community is invited to a free concert featuring the Ahrensburg Youth Symphony Orchestra of Germany at 3 p.m. Aug. 6 in the auditorium at Westerville South High School, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

Mark Stevens, a music teacher and orchestra director at Westerville South, said the ensemble is affiliated with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp that Westerville high school and middle school students have attended, including the past two summers.

"This is a great experience/opportunity for the students from Germany and our Westerville community," Stevens said. "These orchestra students are ambassadors of their country and we are ambassadors of our community."

The students are traveling through the Midwest and will be staying with host families in Westerville Aug. 6 and 7.

Stevens said he has taken orchestra students on trips to Europe twice, in addition to California, Washington, D.C., Chicago and on other drivable excursions.

"Traveling abroad takes a student out of their comfort zone," he said. "Leaving home to another country is an unknown experience emotionally and culturally, which requires an open mind and the thrill of an adventure."

He said every student returning from a trip such as this arrives home as more mature and grounded.

"This is one aspect of our life experiences that can only be taught through travel," Stevens said. "More importantly, from a teen perspective, travel is fun, exciting and a great experience."

Michael Klaue, who has led the Ahrensburg Youth Symphony since 1993, said in Germany right now there are many prejudices against American politics.

"Our kids want to visit your country and make up their own minds," Klaue said. "Some of our orchestra members either took part in the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra or in summer courses at Blue Lake.

"They told so much about their wonderful experiences that the rest of our orchestra members became jealous and wanted to experience your way of living themselves."

Klaue said Stevens is part of the Blue Lake family and a wonderful orchestra leader.

"We are very grateful for him hosting us in Westerville," Klaue added.

Every year, the 64-member orchestra, with participants ranging in age from 14 to 25, travels to a foreign country and invites a foreign group to Ahrensburg.

Four years ago, the orchestra toured Shanghai/China, and in 2014 there were concerts in Finland.

In 2015, the orchestra had an exchange with a students' choir from Rzeszow in the southeast of Poland.

Also in 2015, the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra was hosted by Ahrensburg Youth Symphony Orchestra in the Hamburg area.

Klaue studied music at Hochschule fur Musik und Theater Hamburg.

He conducted several well-known choirs in northern Germany, was guest conductor in Hungary, the United States and Japan, worked as a juror at several choir competitions and now works with talented young instrumentalists and students of Ahrensburg Youth Symphony Orchestra.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla