It was truly the “trip of a lifetime” for many of the 155 Chatham High School students who recently traveled to Orlando, Florida for an opportunity to visit Universal Studios and Disney World.
Accompanied by Band director Brian Conti, Choral director Ken Bryson, Orchestra director Krystle Graser, Performing Arts Supervisor Barbara Klemp, and eleven district staff members, the students arrived at the high school at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 18 to depart for Newark airport for their trip to Florida. Chaperones included Adam Agree, Laurie DeBiasse, Barbara Fertakos, Lori Gironda, Erin Killea, Katelyn Killea, James Miller, Nelson Montoya, Tim Orton, Veronica Shaw, and Douglas Walker.
Members of the Bands, Choirs, and Orchestras got an early start for a packed schedule of activity that included visits to Universal Studios, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Although many students had already visited the Disney parks, all agreed that the opportunity to visit with their music ensembles was an experience they would never forget.
The last time the department had traveled to Disney was 2005. Last summer, band director Brian Conti began the laborious process of planning the trip with the assistance of expert travel planners Performing Arts Consultants, a NJ-based company honored by The Walt Disney World Corporation as a member of their student advisory board and recognized as a Preferred Travel Planner to Disney Youth Programs.
Part of the planning process included the decision regarding the performance opportunities the groups would pursue. The department determined the Disney Performance Backstage Workshops to be the unique experience they sought for their exceptional students.
Following their first day at Universal Studios, the group checked in to the Disney All-Star Movie Resort and prepared for their Disney experience. On Friday, a little rain did not dampen the spirits of the Marching Band as they led the Disney Character Parade down Main Street, USA to the cheers of thousands of park-goers in the Magic Kingdom.
Saturday was a busy day for all, as each ensemble experienced a two-and- a-half-hour workshop with Disney cast members in the backstage sound stages of EPCOT Center. Each workshop was led by a content-area specialist who is currently a Teaching Artist/Performer in the Disney Parks. All were musicians in Disney recording studios and were able to share their expertise about working as professional musicians.
Each ensemble sight-read and rehearsed a variety of Disney music during their workshop, culminating in the recording of a soundtrack which became the background music for selected scenes from iconic Disney films. The choirs recorded “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King with CHS soloists Layla Clark, Charlie Thomson, and Hallie Kaisand filling the singing roles of Timone, Simba, and Nala.
In addition to the choral ensemble work, several students performed voice overs and sound effects for the soundtrack. The Bands rehearsed the familiar Disney theme “It’s a Small World” before recording “The Stampede” from The Lion King, and new music from the Star Wars films. Orchestra students recorded music from Snow White, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen.
Music supervisor Barbara Klemp noted the benefits of the workshops to be a “realistic studio musician’s experience, taking students from sight-reading to performance perfection in a brief time frame.”
Klemp also noted her pride in the students throughout the trip, stating “Chatham is a special place with special people – the students could not have represented the music department better. The Disney teaching artists were incredibly complimentary to their talent, behavior, and work ethic.”
All students received Mickey Mouse ear hats with the Disney Performing Arts logo, and the marching band received a golden Mickey Trophy for their outstanding performance in Friday’s parade. On Sunday, students enjoyed their final hot, sunny day in Orlando with visits to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios prior to their evening flight home to Chatham.
Senior choir member Kimmy Scaglione captured the feelings of the group best by saying “Almost everyone has grown up listening to Disney music, so being a part of the Disney music experience was both a nostalgic and memorable learning experience. Also, it was super fun going to Disney and Universal with friends! It was an amazing way to end my years at CHS!”