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North Tama band hits up New York City

April 20, 2018
CJ EIlers - Editor , Traer Star-Clipper

Members of the North Tama High School band made the trek to the Big Apple from April 4-9 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience performing on the USS Intrepid and exploring what the city had to offer for the young musicians.

"New York has a lot of history with Broadway and it's one of the biggest places for music," Band Director Channing Halstead said. "There were lots of oppurtunities for educational experiences such as learning how theaters work, the costumes, the history and explore the world."

The students took off for the trip on Wednesday night, stopping in Cleveland, OH to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum on Thursday before making their way to New Jersey for their hotel. On Friday, the students toured the New Amsterdam Theatre where they learned about acoustics, lighting and other dynamics of the stage. Then, it was showtime as the band performed patriotic tunes on the lower deck of the USS Intrepid for visitors. Their audience sat around the band, with some dancing along to their country music medley and other recording the performance.

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"I think it was such an amazing opportunity to be allowed to play on the USS Intrepid because it really does represent our country and our country's freedom," Lydia Schafer, a senior said. "It was a great way for a small town high school band to show our respect and bring a little bit of Iowa to New York."

According to Halstead, playing at on the USS Intrepid also gave several students interested in the miliary a chance an eye-opening experience to see the Sea, Air and Space Mueseum and see planes, boats and spacecraft up close. Even with the performance over, there was still so much for the group to do. Later that evening, the North Tama students enjoyed Broadway with a showing of Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre, a popular choice for the students, including Schafer.

"You always hear how good Broadway is, but there is truly no way to describe it," Schafer said. "Every time I think about how good the entire musical was, I get goosebumps."

Another students who enjoyed the musical was Emmy Bradley, a freshman who plays tenor saxophone in the band. In addition to the performance, she was able to have fun the next day when the students were given the chance to explore Central Park in groups as rented out bikes, walked on foot or checked out shops in the area.

"I really enjoyed Central Park and the animals there were so used to people," Bradley said. "There were so many people from around the world there and it's interesting to see that. People talk about the world and how it's so different, but when you're actually out there in person it's a lot more different than what you hear or see in pictures."

The tours continued in the afternoon as students visited the iconic Radion City Music Hall and nearby Fifth Avenue.

"A lot of the tours talked about acoustics and how their facilities are equipped," Halstead said. "A lot of our kids don't think about acoustics because we play in a cement room. They learned a lot about the technology, lights, special effects through these tours."

For the rest of their trip, Halstead and her students experienced sights such as the Rock Observatory, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the National September 11 Museum and Memorial, St Paul's Chapel, Chinatown and Times Square. Everyone returned home safely Monday night.

"It was exciting to be able to perform there in front of a nice crowd of people," Bradley said. "People in general were nice and We took pictures with all the cops we could find."

Halstead hopes that the experience was educational and that her students can take away elements of what they learned and use them in the classroom and band room.

"They have now seen the highest level of music performance from going to a Broadway show," Halstead said. "It gives them perspective on how far the world of music can take you beyond playing in your high school band room. We can talk about dramatic elements, different tempos, dynamics and how your personal emotions can apply and they have witnessed that by seeing these shows. They can apply some of that in my room."

Fundraising for the New York trip takes four years as is mostly done through fruit sales and other events over the course of a student's junior high and high school career. Each student has one oppurtunity to go on the trip, but it's years in the making.

"I think that during the first couple of years, the fact that we were actually going to visit New York City never really sunk in," Schafer said. "It was only until this year when we had meetings and more discussions about it that I really felt the shock of 'Wow, we're actually going to the Big Apple!' I have never traveled to New York before and the way that we had it set up made sure that there was no sight left unseen there."

But the biggest thing Halstead wanted her students to take away was the fact there is so much more out beyond Traer, whether its in music or another career. She intentionally worked to have the trip be guided at times and open for her students to explore on their own at other times.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them," Halstead said. "For them to experience this I feel is important. It opens up there eyes and perspectives on different areas of music and the world."

It took four years to get to New York for Schafer, but described it has the "perfect vacation" for herself to grow.

"It's so cheesy, but I love that I got to go during my senior year and now I'll leave high school with all the memories of this fantastic experience," Schafer said. "The trip taught me that there is so much more out there than a small town in Iowa. While we should always respect our roots and where we came from, it is so important to understand that there is so much more in this world that we have yet to see."



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