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updated: 3/19/2014 2:40 PM

Hot German band gains fans at North Central College

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  • The German band Tonbandgerät recently performed before a sellout crowd at North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall.

    The German band Tonbandgerät recently performed before a sellout crowd at North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall.
    Courtesy of North Central College

North Central College submission

Hundreds of students studying German in school packed North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall earlier this month for a concert by Tonbandgerät, an increasingly popular band from Hamburg that performs in German.

The band, whose name is the German word for "tape recorder," attracted more than 950 high school students from as far away as Wauwatosa, Wis., and Brownsburg, Ind., along with a strong contingent of North Central students.

The performance in Naperville was the only Chicago-area stop on the band's first U.S. tour.

In 2012, the quartet -- Isa, Sophia, Ole and Jakob -- won the New Music Award in Germany. The band's lyrics revolve around their experiences after they left school, love and the positive side of failure.

Before the concert, most teachers spent weeks preparing their classes for the show by going through the band's lyrics.

"The Goethe-Institut provided lesson plans on the website Step into German. We hope that events like this will encourage more kids to learn the German language," said Anja Schmitt, the German language consultant of Goethe-Institut Chicago assigned to Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota where she supports K-12 German programs.

Students from Wheaton Warrenville South High School even arranged a contest for designing the most creative Tonbandgerät T-shirt, and the winning design was worn by the school's contingent at the concert.

The band played a one-hour show before a sold-out crowd, with songs from its album "Heute Ist Für Immer" ("Today Is Forever") and even unveiled a new song for its young fans.

The Naperville show was part of a tour sponsored by the German government and the Goethe-Institut to promote the German language at schools.

"We want to show the American youth that German music has more to offer than Bavarian brass music," said Katja Fullard, head of the language department of Goethe-Institut Chicago.

At the end of its tour, the band will have performed in 11 cities all over the U.S., from San Francisco to Boston.

"There's a misconception that all German bands sing in English," said Gregory H. Wolf, professor of German at North Central College. "Tonbandgerät's music and lyrics present a vibrant image of contemporary popular music in Germany."