Your Impact: The Capstone Project

Leading the band

Designed to provide SYAers with an opportunity to showcase their evolving skills, the capstone is a comprehensive, thoughtfully selected project on a topic that captures the curiosity, creativity and passion of students across our campuses. Guided by their Experiential Language class teacher, each student delves deeply into a subject area that allows them to demonstrate knowledge by doing. Students cover a wide range of fascinating topics, from the future of cheese making in Aragon to the organ transplant process in a local hospital to participating in an annual medieval flag throwing event, which SYA Italy student Reagan had the fortunate opportunity to do. 

Experiences like Reagan's are uniquely SYA, exemplifying our mission and the benefits of place-based education. Your generous support of the SYA Fund helps bring these projects to life for our students. If you haven’t made an SYA Fund gift, please consider doing so before June 30.

Waving the Flag for Viterbo
Reagan H. IT’24 (Mercersburg Academy, PA)

In the thirteenth century, Viterbo was flourishing as one of the most influential cities in all of Europe; it was the papal residence for many years, and it was mentioned various times in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Now, Viterbo has the largest medieval city center in all of Europe. The medieval history that you can see everywhere — the architecture, the medieval quarters, the Santa Rosa Festival, etc. — has always been my favorite aspect of the city. I am extremely passionate about history, so I knew my Capstone Project would be rooted in some shape or form in the history of Viterbo.

I saw a medieval band for the first time during the Festival of Santa Rosa. From that point on, I fell in love with the uniforms and the idea of honoring the medieval history of the city. I saw different medieval bands successively throughout the year at various occasions, but I was always so fascinated by them.

Finally leaning into my interest, I asked Dave Lutchner, our extracurricular coordinator, if he had any contacts within the medieval band. I just wanted to join the band; at first, I hadn’t thought about putting the pieces together to use this as my Capstone Project. When I realized I could, I only became more motivated. After searching for various contacts and meeting with some different people, I finally met Fabio who plays the medieval trumpet for Sbandieratori di Pilastro, one of the medieval bands in Viterbo. He was ecstatic to have me in the group and let me join almost immediately.

Practices were late on Thursday evenings. I initially wanted to play the medieval drum, but I started with some flag-waving exercises, which were much more difficult than I imagined. Next, I started with the medieval drum. I have over six years of band experience playing saxophone, but I have never gotten near trying percussion. It was quite a challenge for me, but everyone in the band was so supportive of my learning and my project in general. The atmosphere was extremely encouraging and very low pressure. Practice sessions quickly became what I looked forward to every week.

Reagan leading the way

I went on two outings with the medieval band during the time I was working on my project. One was in Viterbo because it was chosen to host the International Championship of Long-Casting. This show was exactly three days after my first practice with the group! I was nervous … and I was asked to hold the banner leading the band and everyone else in the procession. It was a fun experience dressing in medieval costumes and being there with the band that welcomed me into their group.

The second outing was at Oriolo Romano, a small town close to Viterbo, to celebrate the ancient birthday of Oriolo Romano. Here, there was our medieval band along with another medieval band from Vetralla, a nearby city. This time, I was significantly less nervous and able to just have fun. The flag-wavers put on a spectacular show in the main piazza that left me in awe. While I listened to the powerful beat of the medieval drums and watched the people around me in medieval and renaissance clothing, I really felt like I had traveled back in time. I also felt immensely proud of Viterbo and its history. I was proud to have lived in its medieval stone walls for these last nine months.

Reagan and the flag throwers

Beyond joining the medieval band, to understand why Viterbo holds its medieval traditions so close and how the rich medieval history is honored at Viterbo, I conducted various interviews with people from Viterbo who were passionate about history. It was enlightening to hear different perspectives and to better understand the feelings that people have about their own city’s history.

My entire experience of studying abroad and living in Viterbo culminated in my Capstone Project. Not only was I able to witness the incredible medieval traditions of Viterbo, but I was able to participate in them and become a part of the long-standing history of the city.

Reagan IT'24 with Fabio and friend

Fabio (left), head of the flag waving group Sbandieratori di Pilastro, and a friend attended Reagan's Capstone presentation at school. This exemplifies the tremendous support our students receive from members of their campus communities.