WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange High School Marching and Symphonic bands traveled to Disney World the week of February 10 to perform for the guests and enjoy the park in between their special performances. The trip is held every three years to provide students in grades 9-12 at least one opportunity to attend during their high school years.
Students paid their own way for the trip, which was offset by the credits they received for selling cheesecakes, pies, cookie dough, and more during their fall fundraiser.
Rehearsals were held in December to prepare one piece for the Marching Band and five pieces for the Symphonic Band (comprised of Freshman, Concert, Symphonic and Wind Ensemble band members).
On February 10, 77 students, 5 staff members, luggage, and musical equipment like tubas, sousaphones, and marching drums were loaded into two charter buses for the 22-hour trip to Disney. The buses beat the snowstorms along the coast at every turn and arrived safely to 60 degree temperatures.
The group spent the day at Hollywood Studios and checked into their hotel rooms in the evening. The high schoolers were monitored under the watchful eyes of Erin McClure, WOHS band director; Lisa Swanick, WOHS band director and Mt. Pleasant band director; Michael Denburg, WOHS mathematics teacher; Andrea Rommel, band director for Washington and Redwood elementary schools; and Jon Tick, WOHS Mathematics teacher. Several parents also made the trip to support the students and teachers, help with performances, and take photos chronicling the week.
On Thursday morning, the students rehearsed in the hotel parking lot to practice the Marching Band parade routine, and Symphonic Winds rehearsed in the hotel ballroom. The group then headed to Downtown Disney, where Symphonic Winds performed on the chilly and windy Waterside Stage. They performed "Little Suite for Band" by Clare Grundman, "Birdland" by Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, "Sheltering Sky" by John Mackey, "Suite Provencal" by Jan Van der Roost, and "Night on Bald Mountain" by Mussorgsky.
They performed for an audience of approximately 200 appreciative visitors, who commented that the performance was one that sounded far beyond what they expected from high schoolers.
The group then enjoyed time at Magic Kingdom and Islands of Adventure. Temperatures in Florida last week were slightly chilly and hovered mostly in the mid-fifties range, but the freezing temperatures in New Jersey news of the 15-inch snowstorm back home made it seem warm.
On Saturday morning, the group headed to Epcot, where the Marching Band prepared for their afternoon performance. At 3:00 pm the West Orange High School Marching Band Mountaineers entered the gates and performed "American Pride", a medley of hymns from all the military branches. At least 800 visitors to Epcot enjoyed the performance as the band marched through the 'countries' at Epcot and Futureland on a half-mile route.
After the performance, the students were able to explore Epcot, spend more time in Magic Kingdom, and go to Animal Kingdom on Sunday. They departed for home in late afternoon.
For the past several years, the West Orange High School group has traveled exclusively with Peak Performance Tours. Band director Erin McClure noted, "Their attention to detail in planning and preparation makes every trip a huge success...from tour guides and bus and hotel bookings to security detail at night, the itinerary was fantastic."
In addition to Peak Performance, the trip would not have been successful without the efforts of the West Orange High School Music Booster parents, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to support the students.
The buses returned home to West Orange Monday, Feb. 17 at lunchtime, full of happy students that had an experience they will remember for many years.
McClure added, "We really had a fantastic trip.The kids were the best versions of themselves for 7 straight days!!
(Editor's Note: Thanks to Erin McClure, Band Director, and Lisa and Richard Adelsohn of the WOHS Music Boosters for their help with this article.)