Becoming a Bremen Town Musician

by Abby Jones ’25

Statue of the Bremen Town Musicians in the city center

When I began telling family and friends about my upcoming study abroad in Bremen, the first response I got was often about the famous Grimm fairy tale “The Bremen Town Musicians.” Although these famous animals never actually made it to Bremen to play music, I have been overjoyed to participate in the music scene during my exchange semester. Playing trombone has been a hobby of mine for the past 11 years, so it was a priority for me to find a way to keep playing while abroad. This has been an invaluable experience for me as a musician, but even more so as a world citizen and language learner. 

The first contacts I made with musicians in Bremen were with members of the Unibigband Bremen, the big band jazz group made up of both community members and students of the university. A musician was kind enough to lend me a trombone free of charge, and I began to attend rehearsals. This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways, making it an incredible learning experience. Although meeting a whole group of new people speaking German was a bit awkward and stressful at first, through the language of music, communication came easily. In the familiar setting of a music rehearsal, speaking German began to become much more fluid for me. Many members were just as nervous about their English as I was about German, creating an environment of working together for mutual understanding. This helped me immensely in getting over my fear of making mistakes when I speak.  

Abby (second to the left) at trombone practice

I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a trombone instructor at the University of the Arts Bremen. Through these one-on-one lessons, I have learned so much both musically and culturally. After so many years of playing trombone, in order to improve, I have to break habits formed from years of experience and try slightly different techniques to get more out of my instrument. Because it is mostly a mental battle, it has been extremely interesting learning from someone of a different cultural background. I have gained some insight into how language is connected to many parts of life. 

Together, these experiences have been crucial to my adjustment to and enjoyment of the Dickinson in Bremen program. I was able to find a community of people patient with my slow German and willing to answer my random questions about life in Germany. Many of them have taken the opportunity to ask me about American culture, leading to fun moments of connection that feel to me like what exchange programs are all about. In weeks when schoolwork gets particularly tough, having time carved out to socialize and relax with music has helped me find balance.  

In addition to participating in music myself, I have also enjoyed attending performances of professional musicians in Bremen. The arts are very accessible to students, with tickets to theatre and opera productions costing only around eight euros! In this way, I have been able to get really great seats to impressive classical music productions.  

Engaging in music in Bremen has made me memories and taught me skills I will carry with me long after this semester is over, but for now, I look forward to enjoying my last two months as part of this community.  

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