W120 students from band, choir, orchestra and journalism enjoyed 5 days in sunny California
Hopping on a bus with limited air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and foot space as you travel from Utah to California in the middle of the night for ten hours isn’t what a teenager would usually choose for fun. However, when the destination is Universal Studios, Disneyland, college tours, and workshops with 120 of your closest friends, the choice is easy; in fact, it’s the very definition of fun.
Band, choir, orchestra, and journalism students embarked on the Weber High Performing Arts Tour from February 27th – March 3rd. Kicking off on a Wednesday night, the tour departed North Ogden close to 8 PM and drove all night, with as little sleep as you’d imagine.
Movies were watched, The Greatest Showman was sung, and eventually some students slept while the chaperones wished they had. Before a hotel (or a shower), the bus made its first stop: Glendale Community College, a beautiful campus amongst the green hills of southern California, where students participated in workshops for their specific skills.
Dr. Stephen Tucker, Choral Director at Cal State University Irvine, led a choir workshop that morning. Born in Jamaica, Dr. Tucker had a strong, colorful personality that connected with the high school students. Scott Wood, choir teacher at Weber High said, “He engaged the students from the beginning of the workshop.” He adds, “He focused on breathing energy, mental focus, and singing with more emotion. He was pretty humorous in a playfully challenging way. We had just come off an all-night bus ride, and he woke us up, which we appreciated.”
Orchestra students had a similar experience with their workshop, theirs with Dr. Paul Sherman of the college. “Sherman embraced our students through observing and giving students well-guided feedback to help improve their skills and technique,” said Rebecca Iverson, orchestra teacher at Weber High. She added, “Dr. Sherman showed a great love of musicality and expression through demonstrating the importance of pitch fundamentals through solfege and listening, dynamics and phrasing. His enthusiasm inspired our students to try new ways to tackle these concepts.”
The purpose of these workshops were for students to fine-tune their skills, but to also hear a voice outside of their teachers to reemphasize key principles and ideas. For some students, it can help fuel their desires to study these subjects in the future. For others, it can help those master areas they’ve struggled in. The instruction given from a college professor can go a long way to help students reach their potential.
Immediately following the workshops, students got back on the bus for a ride over to Universal Studios where Springville, USA (from The Simpsons), the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Minion Mayhem (from Despicable Me) awaited. For five hours, students rode roller-coasters based on the Mummy or Transformer movies and drank Butterbeer, from the Harry Potter world. Students watched shows with trained animals from various Universal Studio movies and purchased plenty of souvenirs around the park. Then, it was off to Hard Rock Café for dinner where servers not-so-eagerly awaited the party of 200.
After a busy 24 hours, the first night in a hotel was in sight and all were able to relax before two days at the happiest place on earth began. The first part of the trip was long and educational, but it was the next part that students were most eager for. Consider, the kids were excused from school, surrounded by friends with similar interests, and on a vacation amidst theme parks.
Friday and Saturday were spent at Disneyland and California Adventure for thrills and entertainment. However, students were also exposed to additional workshops from Disney professionals. Wood pointed out that the workshop at Disney was “terrific.” He adds, “We went behind the park to a recording studio which is actually used by Disney for recording of shows, Disney projects and movies.” Additionally, he added “We sight-read music from Disney movies, then recorded our parts in sync with the movies. We got to watch what we’d recorded, and it was a terrific experience.”
Orchestra and band did something comparable. Iverson said, “The students got to play Lion King, the Disney opening scene, Atlantis and Toy Story. The conductor was very encouraging and gave students many opportunities to keep trying and improving. At the end when the final recorded mix was added to the animation, students were impressed with their work achieved.” She added, “It was a very positive experience and students were eager to tell their peers in class about their experience.”
In between Disney workshops, waiting in line, and combatting rain and puddles, students enjoyed the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at California Adventure or classics like Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones. Parades with characters and catchy tunes walked Main Street, USA while students enjoyed churros, Dole Whip, or Ghirardelli chocolate.
Mason Olney, a junior, loved all things in the trip but highlighted the new Marvel ride. Olney said, “Guardians of the Galaxy was such a fun spin on the old tower of terror ride. It actually had six different videos and launch patterns.” He added, “I also really enjoyed the choir workshop at Disney. I love voice acting and it was so cool to get into a studio.”
Jonah Gonzales, a sophomore, agreed. “I enjoyed waiting in line for Guardians of the Galaxy with friends, even though it was a 3 hour wait, and the choir workshop. I learned so much on what I can do to sound better as a singer.”
For many of the students, not only was it about making memories, but making friends, too. Kira May, a sophomore, said, “I loved playing charades while waiting in line for rides.” Dari McNeely, junior, said she “loved making new friends and sleeping at Flo’s Diner (in Cars land at California Adventure).” Emily Wright, a junior, keeps it simple and said her highlight was “making new friends and exploring new, fun places.”
Amanda Hall, senior, summed it up by saying “I loved the clinics and all the different people who taught us and I enjoyed how much this trip taught me outside of music and in the classroom.” But the trip was fun and she adds, “I was also happy to know so many more people and make new friends!” With a smile, she adds, “Overall, it was a great experience and break from school.”