EHS Music Department Heads to Disney
From March 9-12, the Eastchester High School Music Department showcased its talent at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as members of Eastchester’s Concert Choir, Orchestra and Band had an opportunity to perform for crowds and learn from professional musicians in an environment that supplemented the work being done during their in-school hours.
The three groups took part in the Imagination Campus "Soundtrack Sessions"—workshops run by industry experts who led them through exercises designed to teach students about the process that professional musicians go through in order to learn, perform and record some of the iconic musical numbers in Disney's catalogue. The sessions culminated in each group recording music to accompany scenes from Disney films.
Mark Dodge, the Music Department Chair and band director, said the Imagination Campus program was a valuable one for Eastchester’s performers, providing them with insights into the responsibilities of the studio musicians who are heard on the soundtracks of Disney productions.
“The clinicians reinforce basic musicianship; Disney musicians have to learn hundreds of pieces of music in a short period of time, so they’re trying to give us that experience,” said Dodge. “This is very different from the way school groups normally work, where we have a couple of concerts a year and have many hours of preparation to get ready for them.”
That instruction was important, he added, because it may have piqued the interest of students—both those who will choose to pursue a career in music and those who may participate in other types of performance groups down the road.
“You don’t have to be a professional musician to play music at a professional level and that’s important for kids to understand,” he said. “Once they get older, they may end up coming back to play in regional ensembles or summer groups and they’ll have this experience to look back on.”
Dodge also said that the experience of performing at Disney in front of live crowds is an experience that Eastchester’s students won’t soon forget.
The band had the memorable experience of marching down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, and the orchestra performed in front of an enthusiastic audience at the Waterside Stage in Disney Springs. Both Dodge and Orchestra Director Suzanne Morello noted that, just prior to the beginning of the performances, they could sense a nervous energy among the students.
“A number of the kids were very emotional; we spent months months preparing for this and it was finally a reality,” said Dodge. “Not every school gets to do this kind of thing, so it’s an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Dodge said that discussion about the trip began in earnest last spring, when he, Morello and Choir Director Jeremy Messmer began their initial planning sessions. To ensure this trip was a reality for the students, the music department explored a number of fundraising opportunities—including candy bar sales and a department-based cookbook which compiled recipes submitted from each of the students who went on the trip. But Dodge also pointed to a September event, hosted in partnership with Eastchester SEPTA, that was instrumental in pulling everything together.
“We held an event at Mickey Spillane’s, we had raffles, and a student musical group led by senior Nick Cozza performed,” said Dodge. “This was all set up by Doreen Napolitano and Eleanor Evangelista from SEPTA, who were so supportive; it was really a strong start to our fundraising season and it helped us tremendously.”
Although Dodge acknowledged that trips to Disney would likely not become an annual occurrence, he hopes that future students will be able to experience it once during their high school careers.
“There are dozens of travel experiences, so whatever you’re hoping to do, there’s generally an organization that can help facilitate that,” he said. “Trips like these are a great bonding experience, so we’re hoping that this isn’t just a one-and-done.”
To watch the EHS Orchestra perform at thte Waterside Stage in Disney Springs, click HERE
To watch the EHS Band perform at the Magic Kingdom, click HERE