Barnum band, choir take their ‘show on the road’ – to the Big AppleWhile most students are spending Spring Break sleeping in late or maybe heading to a sunny beach somewhere, a group of students from Barnum High School is pounding the pavement of New York City.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
While most students are spending Spring Break sleeping in late or maybe heading to a sunny beach somewhere, a group of students from Barnum High School is pounding the pavement of New York City. Some 118 band and choir students in grades 9-12 departed Sunday for the East Coast, along with 15 adult chaperones. The trip is the culmination of a year and a half of planning, hard work and fund raising. And by all reports as of midweek, it was worth every minute of it.
Band instructor Jeff Gilbertson said the combined music groups first started traveling two years ago, when they went to Washington, D.C. in spring 2011.
“A lot of high school music groups like to go places like Disney World,” said Gilbertson, “but we thought Washington, D.C. would offer the most educational angle because of all the history there.”
“The nation’s Capitol is in the news all the time,” added choir director Lori Koski, “and we wanted the students to be able to see firsthand where those things were happening so they would be able to say, ‘I was there.’”
On that trip, the band and choir students visited the Smithsonian and all six national monuments and sat in on a Congressional session as well.
“Over and over again we heard the students say those were things they had only heard about before,” said Koski. “I know they were thrilled to be able to say afterward that they had actually been there.”
After that trip, the groups decided to travel somewhere every other year, both to allow adequate time for fund raising and to make it possible for band and choir members to go on two such trips during their high school careers. It didn’t take long to decide that the next trip should be to New York City.
“In the back of our minds, we figured New York City would be the next best educational spot,” said Gilbertson.
While on their trip to Washington, D.C., the music students visited the Pentagon Memorial and the Shanksville, Penn., site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after being highjacked by al-Qaeda terrorists during the 9/11 attacks. Gilbertson said it only made sense, then, for the students to visit Ground Zero in New York City, the site where the planes crashed into the World Trade Center.
“It’s pretty powerful,” he commented, “— one of those events where pretty much every one of us can say we remember where we were and what we were doing that day.”
While at Ground Zero, the choir is hoping to present an impromptu musical performance in honor of those who lost their lives during and after the 9/11 attacks. The choir also presented a concert at St. John’s the Divine Cathedral on Wednesday, and the band performed at Lincoln Center on Tuesday.
Both music instructors tried to tie their performances in to the 9/11 incident and its aftermath by including mostly patriotic songs and music in their programs. They have been rehearsing since right after Christmas and they performed much of the material locally during their February concerts, as well as during the music competition at the University of Minnesota last week.
The group traveled to New York via three coach buses, a journey that took 24 hours straight and required sleeping on the buses. They are staying at nearby Saddlebrook, N.J., about 30 minutes outside New York City.
During the week, their plans are to visit the top of the Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, Radio City Music Hall, Central Park (including the Strawberry Fields memorial which pays tribute to the late Beatle John Lennon), Rockefeller Center, Times Square and the fabled Hard Rock Café. They also plan to attend a performance of “Mama Mia” on Broadway and a “Making Music” clinic run by Broadway cast members and technicians, take a dinner cruise in New York Harbor to see the night skyline of the city and the Statue of Liberty, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and hold signs in the outdoor audience of the Today Show in Rockefeller on Thursday morning.
“We’re going to keep them busy,” said Gilbertson. “They should be plenty tired at night!”
Koski said the high school music students held five major fund raisers to help generate the approximately $80,000 needed to send the students to New York City, including two fruit sales, a variety show organized, put on by and starring members of the choir and band, and a cookbook featuring recipes submitted by the students themselves.
“We are so very grateful to be part of a community that supports us, as well as the fund raisers we held and the extra donations that came in,” said Koski. “We certainly wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”