High school exam week is a busy time and students often countdown the days until they complete their last big test. This winter, the Jenison High School Choir and Orchestra students had another reason to anticipate the end of an often stressful week.
At the end of the day on Thursday, January 17, they embarked 4 deluxe motor coach busses and set off for a long weekend of fun, music appreciation and education. Excitement was high and it was pleasantly sunny when 191 students, a handful of directors, and plenty of caring parent chaperones set off on their way to the Twin Cities, Minnesota area.
Mr. Dan Scott and Mr. Grant Carmichael (directors of Jenison Orchestra and Choir programs respectively) believe that giving our students opportunities to grow both as a musician and a person is very important; and traveling is something that suits that goal. Students and musical ensembles grow musically by living and sharing experiences together, and performing and working with teachers at a more advanced level. A trip like this occurs every four years, giving a Jenison student the opportunity to join at least once in their high school music career. The directors spend many hours working to create an itinerary for this trip to guarantee an unforgettable experience.
Kicking off this year’s memorable trip; was a stop in Chicago. Authentic Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano’s for dinner, followed by a much anticipated performance of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.
After spending the night in Chicago, the hardworking loading crew got everybody and their stuff back on the bus. This crew consisted of volunteer students that were willing to work hard to make sure each and every piece of luggage, and all 104 instruments were accounted for each time the group stopped. This was another great teaching opportunity for students to follow a process and use team work efficiently – in very cold temperatures. Often, students that weren’t officially part of the crew jumped in to assist as well. They did their job brilliantly and showed character and strong work ethic at each stop. Next up, was shopping and Friday night dinner at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The hardworking highlight of the trip was the visit to the University of Minnesota on Saturday morning. Each clinician brought wonderful diversity in perspective and background. Students were exposed to several new ideas pertaining to rehearsal and performance of their music, and had the opportunity to be treated like a collegiate/professional ensemble. The clinics inspired the students to see what is possible musically and how close they are to obtaining it, despite not being professional musicians. It helped reinforce the reality that they too, are artists and can make music at the highest of levels. Our Jenison music directors and students also remarked, even with the added diversity in culture and experience; both professionals reiterated and validated many concepts students had already been learning in our award winning programs at home.
Orchestra Clinic with Ernesto Estigarribia
The words Ernesto Estigarribia used to direct the students, described his style of conducting: energy, passion, powerful and articulate. He connected with the students personally and technically. They were on the edge of their seats, thoroughly engaged in high level music making for the entire clinic. In a very relevant analogy, he told the students to not play as if they are giving the right-of-way to someone else. Play boldly and aggressive, then playfully added – but don’t drive aggressive! He urged them to leave fear behind and not be tentative in their playing, from the moment they pick up their bow. His passion was made even more clear as he pleaded with students to not give up their love for music. Although not everyone will study music and be a full time musician; there are many opportunities to keep music alive. Fostering love for music, playing for fun, and attending performances are all important for good balance in the world. Our orchestras made a strong impression on him. He shared that they are playing at a very high level and should be very proud to be part of such a great program.
Choir Clinic with Ahmed Anzaldúa
The choirs sang for Ahmed Anzaldúa who greatly transformed music making for the group. Mr. Anzaldúa challenged traditional notions and encouraged the students to think about their singing as a truly interactive and social event. Our Jenison singers participated wholeheartedly when he described music as a team building, story-telling adventure. He warned that choir can bring about an awful side that stifles creativity, however, with the right attitude from each member, they can achieve true balance. They worked to dissect the musical piece to understand each part; guiding them through exercises where they listen to and learn from each other, recognizing that all parts need to be heard. Choir in its best form is about people – self expression and fun experimentation as they find character in each sound.
After a very busy, hardworking morning, the students enjoyed lunch and game time at Dave & Buster’s before returning to the hotel.
Saturday night was another treat as the busses rolled up to Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, the nation’s largest professional dinner theatre. The students enjoyed dinner and a Broadway quality musical performance of Irving Berlin’s ‘Holiday Inn’. The show was an unexpected delight for many students. In the end, while the acting, singing and choreography was incredible – it was the larger-than-life sounding, behind-the-scenes, 10-man live band that received most of the student applause. Music appreciation at its finest!
Our Jenison Fine Arts programs are among the finest in Michigan and throughout the region. Thank you to our outstanding music staff who invest their time and efforts to make our excellent program a reality for our students. I am excited for the memories they made, the lessons they learned and am incredibly proud of the way they represented themselves, their music program and the Jenison Schools District/Community. This is a wonderful compliment to the students, their families, and the community of Jenison!