Performing in the most magical places on Earth

For students who participate in an ECS music program, the opportunity to travel, explore, and sometimes play in an extraordinary location comes with the musical territory.

“I think it’s important for kids to have the opportunity to see and experience places outside of their own community,” said Kurt Weimer, Elkhart Memorial Band. “Travel experiences shape your view of the world. You see and hear people from other places and countries.”

David Elliott, Elkhart Central Band, agrees. “Traveling with a music group is a great way to see cultures and the world outside of Elkhart and Indiana. Traveling is one of the best ways to build a relationship with the band. They learn to cooperate and compromise on the long bus rides, they make new friends by spending a great deal of time together, and they learn to be punctual because the schedule is packed.”

Students in the Elkhart Central Orchestras travel to New York City during Spring Break every four years.

“Visiting New York City gives our students the chance to visit one of the most culturally and artistically rich cities in the world,” said Kyle Weirich, Elkhart Central Orchestra. “We always schedule at least one world-class musical performance event, such as a Broadway musical (we’ve seen Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Aladdin) and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.”

“My favorite part of the trip was the musical, Aladdin,” said Sydney Bias, Elkhart Central cellist, who travelled with the orchestra in 2012. This trip was Sydney’s first time in New York City.

“We also visit educational and historic sites, like Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Natural History, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum,” said Weirich. “Our trip usually includes a guided tour of Manhattan, and visit a performing arts facility, such as the Lincoln Center or Radio City Music Hall. These experiences bring history and world events to life.”

Students in the Choral program at Elkhart Central also experience the arts live through trips to Chicago. “We take the South Shore train from South Bend, go to a show (this year, we are seeing “Miss Saigon” in December and “Dear Evan Hansen” in February), spend time in small groups in the Loop area, see the show, and come back the same evening,” said Bill Niederer, Elkhart Central Choir. “Chicago is a perfect opportunity to see a professional production and enjoy each others’ company, while keeping the cost down for students, giving them the new experience of the train, and for some, the new experience of visiting Chicago.”

For many of the music program trips, the experience includes playing music in an extraordinary setting.

In 2015, students in the Elkhart Memorial Band had one of the most memorable performances in Elkhart Memorial history, as they marched on the track at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, where they performed for the sell-out crowd at the historic event.

“It was a little overwhelming at first,” said Samantha Barker, a senior at Elkhart Memorial. “It was cool to be there, realizing that you were being televised. You always hear about people talking about being somewhere for a specific show or a certain activity but it was really special to be there for the 100th! When they celebrate the 150th, I get to say I was there for the 100th!”

One recent trip for the Elkhart Central Band was to the Bands of America Super Regional in Indianapolis, where they performed in the Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Going to Lucas Oil Stadium was very special,” said Juan Resendiz, Elkhart Central junior. “It was extremely intimidating, but it was honor to step foot on the field. I would love to perform there again.”

“They felt like rock stars and celebrities, and it’s a moment I won’t forget,” said Elliott.

In April, the Elkhart Central Band went to Disney World. “It was an amazing experience,” said

Madelyn McCord, Elkhart Central sophomore. “I’ve never performed in a parade so amazing. Marching in front of thousands of people at Walt Disney World was a better experience than any marching band competition I’ve ever been to.”

Students in the Elkhart Central Orchestra have also performed in the Madison Avenue Atrium in New York City.

The music program trips provide much more than a glimpse at an unfamiliar city, or a chance to play in a new venue.

“Students learn a lot about each other,” said Elliott. “They take care of each other, especially on trips like this, and I am always impressed to see how students mature even during the course of the trip.”

Amy Wyse, a senior violinist at Elkhart Central, echoes the sentiments as she reflects on her 2016 trip to New York City with the orchestra. “Since I was just a freshman when I went, this trip really helped me grow in my high school confidence and make upperclassmen friends. I think it’s really important to establish relationships with peers in all grades of your school, not just your grade.”

Elkhart Community Schools believes that each student who has the desire to travel for educational purposes and life experience should have the opportunity to do so. Through donations from individuals and groups throughout the community, financial support may be available to students who qualify. Students in music programs are provided with opportunities to fundraise throughout the year to help support trips.