The opportunity of a lifetime was presented to sophomore music majors Jamie Johnson and Evan Hawk when they were invited to travel with music professor Nemanja Ostojić to attend the 18th annual Guitar Art Festival in Belgrade, Serbia.
Ostojić, Johnson and Hawke left shortly after the end of spring break on March 18 and returned the following week on March 26.
Ostojić was invited to perform as one of the guest artists for the festival and extended the invitation to both Hawke and Johnson, as well as a pre-college student (12 years old), who has been taking lessons through the pre-college program at UIndy.
This was Ostojić’s first time organizing any trip of this nature for UIndy students, but he hopes make the trip something that is available to future guitar students as well.
“What I would like to try in the future is to open this possibility to more of my students,” he said. “I am already having conversations about repeating this, so that other students can have this experience as well.”
The schedule for the trip was incredibly tight and hectic, according to Johnson. Each day Johnson and Hawk attended master classes, clinics and workshops, nearly two or three a day, according to Ostojić.
The students also received three private lessons each from a renowned guest at the festival.
Along with the lessons there was an international competition for several age groups at the festival. Ostojić’s pre-college student actually won the first prize in his age group, against 30 other children from around the world.
As well as the other events, there were three concerts that everyone attended each day . The students also participated in the “World Guitar Ensemble,” which included about 100 different guitar students from around the globe coming together to play as one large, guitar orchestra.
However, the students did manage some sight-seeing on the trip, visiting to visit the Belgrade Fortress at Kalemegden Park and the Nikola Tesla Museum, along with other parts of Belgrade.
While in Belgrade for the festival, Ostojić had several interviews with various television stations, radio stations and newspapers across the city. He was excited to be able to advertise the students of UIndy through the examples of Hawk, Johnson and his pre-college student.
According to Johnson, she spent less than $1,000 of her own money for the whole trip, and her round-trip plane ticket cost only about $700.
Ostojić worked with the U.S. embassy in Belgrade to get grants for both Johnson and Hawk to attend the festival for less out-of-pocket costs.
“I would like to bring more students,” he said. “And that, obviously, entails having more sponsorship, because it is quite expensive to pay for these things out of pocket. I was very fortunate that the U.S. embassy was willing to help with this. So my students [Hawke and Johnson] ended up spending very little, just a little of the air fare, which was fantastic.”
Ostojić said that the most fulfilling aspect of the trip was getting to expose his students to the cultural differences as well as the performances of world-renowned musicians.
The students had not previously left the United States, Ostojić said this trip was a perfect opportunity for them to experience other cultures as well as improve and learn their craft.