Saniya Shah is a junior at Wilton High School and a Managing Editor for the Forum. She spends every free minute writing something, whether it's poetry, a scene for her book, or a news article. She's a morning person, likes tea, and wishes she spent more time reading.
Disney Magic meets the WHS Music Department
May 3, 2023
From Friday, March 10 to Monday, March 13, the WHS Music Department took a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The trip, organized by the five music teachers over the past year with help from trip advisor Doug Bennett, lasted four days. On each day, the Band, Choir, and Orchestra visited a different Disney World park: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom.
The inspiration for the trip came from other schools in the Connecticut area as well as schools in other states that often take similar trips. Ms. Jara, an orchestra teacher, explains, “We urged our administration to say, ‘Hey, if all these other schools like Fairfield and Greenwich are able to do it, then we should definitely do it.’ We know the musical and social benefits of it.”
On the Disney Trip, many students spent time with those they normally would not have, and they experienced real-life situations with these acquaintances. Ms. Jara said, “That lesson in life is so important. You are going to be placed with people that you just won’t know, but depending on the situation, it might bring them another light, honestly.”
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Going on a trip, rooming, eating, and spending time in the park allowed students to get the real-life experience that Ms. Jara discussed. In the park, all students followed a buddy system—they had to be alert in case of emergency and look out for their peers. The kids also bought their own meals and planned their own days. At the airport, they were tasked with following their chaperone’s instructions and being responsible flyers. All of these moments on the trip offered a novel, but still important, kind of education.
While trips like this are not uncommon for many other schools, the detailed planning of it was a learning process for the WHS teachers. Mr. Williams, the band teacher, described the planning as “chaotic, insane, wild,” and Mr. Karlan, the orchestra teacher, admitted, “There were a lot of spreadsheets….The logistics of who goes where was insane.”
Mr. Mandelbaum, the choir teacher said, “I thought [organizing] rooming was a lot.” The teachers were tasked with dividing all of the children into different hotel rooms while accounting for each one’s preferences and comfort around others in a personal living area.
“And then the collecting of the checks was a lot,” he added. Leading up to the trip, students were required to submit monthly $250 checks to their music teachers for a total fee of $1520. To aid students with paying the fee, they had many opportunities to raise donations through selling pies and apple cider donuts from Oronoque Farms in Autumn as well as creating accounts on GiveButter, a money donation website; money they fundraised would be cut out of their installment for the next month, reducing the total they had to contribute.
Despite the expense and hefty planning required for the trip, all five music teachers agreed on its success. Along with the social, practical, and musical enrichment it provided the kids, the trip was activity-packed. In the midst of spending ample hours on rides, each ensemble performed at Disney Springs and attended a workshop hosted by a Disney employee. On the day of the performance, students received special Disney employee privileges and were given permission to wish other Disney visitors a “magical day.” A highlight in the Disney Springs performances: the volcano visible in the behind the outdoor stage erupted during the band’s performance of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End highlights in an exciting, on-theme coincidence.
During the workshop, students gained special insight into the work life of a musician and, afterwards, had the opportunity to record a clip from a Disney movie soundtrack. The Choir recorded The Lion King, the Orchestra recorded Frozen, and the Band recorded Moana.
All of the teachers praised their ensemble’s performances. Mr. Karlan said, “I thought it was really exciting. It felt different from our school performances. It was a different experience.”
With positive feedback from the parents and students, the teachers hope to repeat this trip every few years (biannually or every four years) so that every student has the Disney experience once. Until then, smaller music trips will still take place such as an adjudication trip to Six Flags towards the end of the academic school year.