Highland News Leader

Highland siblings have served as ‘music ambassadors’ around the world

First there was Emily Comish. Then there was Jordan Comish. Now, it’s Johannah Comish, and in the future, it might even be Timothy Comish, who takes his turn on the cross-Europe tour offered through the Illinois Ambassadors of Music Program at HHS.

This musical family has sent three of their four children on the same tour, and the only reason Timothy hasn’t gone is because he’s still too young.

But music isn’t just a hobby. It has a strong history in the Comish family, starting with their mother, Kathryn.

“Any phrase of a song that comes up, I can probably start singing it. My husband is the real music guy. You’ll want him on your trivia team,” Kathryn said. “I was always in band and choir, my sister was always in band and choir, my brother was always in band and choir.”

Kathryn said she thinks her children’s passion for music started in church and school.

“You’re always around music in church and then fifth grade is when band comes along. You ask (the student), ‘Are you going to be in band?’ With my kids, the first one did it. Then the next one… and the next one. Like a domino effect,” Kathryn said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Will you be in band?’ It was more like, ‘What are you going to play?’”

Well, Johanna, a who will graduate HHS on Sunday answered that question with her own trip to Europe.

“I’ve been on various road trips to neighboring states and to the beaches in Alabama and Florida,” she said. “My first flight was with the middle school trip to Washington, D.C., in 2013. Yet, I couldn’t claim I’ve had a very worldly experience until this trip with the Illinois Ambassadors of Music.”

The Illinois Ambassadors of Music visits Europe every other year, embarking on a 16-day, seven-country concert tour. The group consists of over 200 vocalists and wind and percussion musicians from age 15 through adult.

Johannah was nominated to go on the trip in 2013 when she was in eighth grade. However, her dream was put on hold when her brother Jordan was nominated and went instead.

“I was maybe a little young to make that journey,” Johannah said. “But Jordan’s trip only solidified how much I wanted to go in 2016.”

And go she did, and she wasn’t alone. Kathryn decided to tag along this time, revisiting places she’d seen nearly 35 years ago on her own musical, European adventure.

“I wanted to see what they saw with them,” Kathryn said.

But before embarking on their memorable adventure, all the students had a three-day intensive training session at SIUE.

“I spent around 20 hours singing, half of those in one day,” Johannah said. “I was drinking as much as a gallon of water a day to keep my voice hydrated and healthy.”

After the intensive weekend, the group headed to Lambert International Airport and hit the ground running once the plane landed in London.

“We didn’t get any time to recharge after the plane ride though, we hit the ground running that first day with various sightseeing and tourist spots around London, including Windsor Castle and the Millennium Bridge,” Johannah said. “The choir performed in the Sunday service at Wesley’s Chapel, named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.”

From there, they toured France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.

“We explored the small town of Crans-Montana (in Switzerland) who looked forward to having us every summer. We visited the Chateau de Chillon and Montreaux, home of the International Jazz Festival and lover of Freddie Mercury, who actually has a statue there,” Johannah said.

In France, the group saw the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, along with a few other major landmarks.

“France was also like a living history book,” Johannah said. “Many students had a difficult time with the language barrier here, but I welcomed the challenge with two years of high school French under my belt.”

Although they were miles away from home on Independence Day, that didn’t stop the students from celebrating in Austria.

“Though we had to miss the festivities back home, one of our chaperones managed to get sparklers for us over there so we could celebrate. The next day, we went to Innsbruck, which hosted 2 Olympic Games in 1964 and in 1976. We also got to visit the headquarters of Swarovski Crystal,” she said.

It was an intensive trip, with many performances and was quite certainly a blur, but it’s a trip Johannah and Kathryn won’t forget.

“This was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m still getting used to not seeing my bus friends every day, or moving between countries every 3 days,” Johannah said. “I recommend this to those who are nominated to do it.”

And Kathryn? Well, she had just as much fun revisiting places she’d seen almost four decades ago and experiencing it with her daughter made it that much more special.

“Music is universal. It’s without language,” Katheryn said with a smile. “And it makes the world go ‘round.”