Popular German Band Visits UT While Touring the United States
When Seth Bowers first started learning German, he wanted to make sure he sounded like a native speaker.
“I went on YouTube and just started looking for popular German videos so I could become more acclimated to the way it’s actually spoken in Germany,” says Bowers, a sophomore physics major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
One of the YouTube channels he spent the most time watching was DieLochis, a popular German music and comedy duo consisting of twin brothers Heiko and Roman Lochmann. Thanks to the Goethe-Institut Washington, Bowers had the opportunity to see the duo perform at the Tennessee Theatre November 29, 2017, during a five-city American tour. The concert drew a crowd of German teachers and students from several schools and colleges in the region, including Bowers and his German professor, Stefanie Ohnesorg, who helped arrange DieLochis’s visit to Knoxville.
“When a representative from the Goethe-Institut Washington and the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta approached me about the possibility to have DieLochis come to Knoxville, I knew it would create a unique opportunity for our students,” says Ohnesorg, associate professor of German in the UT Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. She reached out to Tom Cervone in the UT Department of Theatre for help booking the Tennessee Theatre.
The Goethe-Institut is a worldwide nonprofit German cultural association that promotes the study of German abroad and fosters cultural exchanges and relations. Ohnesorg has worked with the organization in the past to support German culture and educational events in the region.
“Collaborating to bring a German band to Knoxville that had topped the charts in Germany and Austria for several weeks last year opened up a completely new dimension,” Ohnesorg says. “I announced the possibility in my German class and the students were happy about the prospects of attending a concert. When I added there might even be the possibility to bring DieLochis into our classroom so the students had the opportunity to interact with them directly, my students’ responses ranged from disbelief to nervousness to shear excitement.”
Bowers told Ohnesorg and the class about his frequent visits to the DieLochis YouTube channel and soon, the classroom discussion focused on what they could do with the DieLochis and their band during their visit. Simply asking questions seemed too boring to the students, so they began exploring how best to use their class time. Was it to initiate the German duo to Southern culture? Play music with them or co-write a song? Or discuss how to build a successful YouTube channel?
“The possibilities seemed endless,” Ohnesorg says. “At that point I knew if we could really make a classroom visit by DieLochis and their band happen, it would not only be a memorable day for my students, but it would help them realize how empowering it is to be able to interact with our visitors in their language – German – instead of relying on them to speak English.”
Organizers with the Goethe-Institut Washington always look for opportunities for direct interaction and exchange between German students and the artists on tour in the United States. When Ohnesorg asked about DieLochis visiting her German class, organizers reached out to the band manager who responded with a quick “Yes! Of course!” Ohnesorg discovered later that the classroom visit would be the only opportunity for DieLochis to interact with American students during their entire tour.
The day after their performance at the Tennessee Theatre, Ohnesorg, Bowers, and the rest of the class welcomed the Lochmann twins and their band to the UT campus. It did not take long to break the ice. Students engaged in conversations and various activities, including playing music and writing a song – half in German and half in English. David Royse from the School of Music helped by hauling an electric keyboard and amplifiers over for the production.
“Most conversations took place in German, and it helped my students’ motivation when time and time again, our guests applauded them for their language skills,” Ohnesorg says. “Having this cultural exchange in my classroom not only allowed my students to hone their German in a multitude of conversations with native speakers, but it also helped counter some of the stereotypes visitors from other cultures may have about Americans.”
At the end of the class period, DieLochis joined the students in a German/English rewrite of “Rocky Top.”
“It was a great experience to interact with them,” says Bowers, who was still amazed that the people he started learning German from via YouTube were in his classroom playing music. “They just came in, and we spent 45 minutes rewriting the lyrics to ‘Rocky Top.’ I’m really excited to see what they put together for a video.”
This type of experience learning is not unique to the German program, but one that students in Ohnesorg’s German 411 course will remember for a lifetime.
“DieLochis’s visit to my classroom was fun and special for my students and for our guests as well,” Ohnesorg says. “It created a unique opportunity for intercultural exchange and learning and helped everyone in the room to gain a better appreciation of the multiple benefits that come with studying a foreign language.”