The Morristown West High Band took their first band trip in four years during Spring Break to Atlanta, Georgia. The four day recreational trip was exceptionally fun. As a member of the senior class, who was robbed during the COVID-19 pandemic of taking a previously canceled trip, this opportunity was welcomed warmly.
The pre-planning for the trip fell in the hands of students, Jared Box (the school’s band director), and WorldStrides. As early as August, students were able to participate in yearly fundraising. The band partnered with World’s Finest Chocolate, Rada Cutlery, and multiple restaurants in the Morristown area to sell an assortment of chocolate bars, kitchen knives, and food-related discount cards. Initially, funds raised during these campaigns would go towards the individual $650 cost of each student’s trip. The price was able to get this low thanks to the efforts of the band’s higher council (consisting entirely of parent volunteers), the Band Boosters.
Near the end of the fundraising campaigns, funds instead were to be placed into the Band Boosters’ general fund, which is dedicated to the general upkeep of Morristown West High’s band program. The upkeep includes things like the cost of performance music, replacing school equipment, and repairing broken instruments. The student who contributed the most to the fundraising was current junior, Madison Kite. She sold the most chocolate and discount cards.
Outside of student fundraising, Mr. Box shared a sliver of his struggles working out the details with WorldStrides in terms of what the trip would entail. The trip took a minimum of three months to be approved after countless weeks of working out what the budget could allow students to do. Box notes, “[All of] this [effort] was done to provide students with an incredible and memorable experience.”
During the trip, the band participated at the WorldStrides Heritage Concert Festival. Their played selections included: Kentucky - 1800 composed by Clare Grundman, Ammerland composed by Jacob de Haan, and Florentiner March (Grande marcia Italiana) composed by Julius Fucik. The band was ranked gold during the award ceremony. Aside from taking the stage, students were provided with multiple hours of enrichment at multiple tourist trap attractions.
The band departed for Atlanta on Thursday morning, the bus was spacious and surprisingly cozy. Unlike marching season, we did not carry out their ritualistic, ear-splitting, yet joyful banter during the bus ride. The day’s events began at Emory University, where we would spend a short hour performing at the WorldStrides AIM experience. In attendance was Paul Bhasin, Emory University’s director of orchestral studies, who gave us advice to round out our weaker, technical musical skills. Carter Holtman, current senior, thought that Mr. Bhasin’s direction provided the band with, “very useful information about the pieces we played for him.” Soon after our performance, we made our way to dinner for the evening, overrunning a Golden Corral, which fortunately didn’t have a chocolate fountain to commandeer. Once dinner ceased, we checked in for the first night at our hotel.
Friday’s activities picked up speed, but remained relatively lax. Many band members are in mutual agreement that the hotel provided breakfast was not much to write home about. After filling up on processed sugar and carbs, we began our morning visiting Zoo Atlanta. Students broke off into groups and roamed around the various animal exhibits the location offered. Daniel Zheng, current freshman, crowned the panda exhibit as one of his favorite parts of the trip. Once the zoo was left behind, we tactfully scrambled our instruments together to, unlike yesterday, perform in front of a larger audience. We finally took the stage at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival, hosted at North Cobb High School, to play our three selected pieces. The room was lively, yet the permeating stress cut through the air enough you could hear pins drop. The band performed the best they could, and did not receive immediate ranking. Just as hastily as we came in, we flooded out of the high school auditorium to make our way to the dinner attraction of the night, Medieval Times. A third of the band recall it fondly, deeming it one of their favorite parts of the trip. There we enjoyed cheering on the knights defending our side of the arena as we feasted. Unfortunately, the Red and Yellow Knight, which was our assigned knight, did not make it far in the competition. Instead the winner of the night’s dinner show festivities would be the Green Knight, which defended the guests to the right of our seating section.
The post-performance Saturday began with being placed under tornado watch, as rain was torrenting outside of the hotel. This held us off from heading to Centennial Olympic Park for at least an hour or so until the weather cleared up. Once at the park, our group split up for lunch and general exploration. Afterwards, we would reunite to play an overwhelmingly sized game of frisbee. Once Drew Anderson, senior trombone and low-brass section leader, was thoroughly covered in grass shavings and the rest of the band entered the frisbee arena, we began our migration to the World of Coca-Cola, which was a short walk away. Once inside the exhibit, students once again split up to take in the attractions within. Many enjoyed the taste testing exhibit, which contained over 100 beverages from all over the world.
Once we had finished up at the World of Coca Cola, the group made its way into the Georgia Aquarium. Initially, splitting off to explore the marine exhibits, but eventually coming back together to visit the 7PM Dolphin Show. Sadly, we were unable to experience the designated splash zone of seating, but the grand top theater view of the dolphins was equally mind-blowing. Once the dolphin show ended, the nine ensembles participating in the festival partook in the award ceremony.
Finally, Sunday had arrived. Many members of the band reported feeling antsy to head home, however this last day of fun still had quite a bit to offer. After being instructed to clean up our hotel rooms on check out, our last morning at the hotel came to a bittersweet end. Boarding the bus again sent the group straight to Six Flags Over Georgia. There, students would disband into groups of varying sizes to experience what the park had to offer. The DC Superhero themed roller coasters appeared to be a crowd favorite. We got back on the road at around 5 pm, stopping at one last coveted pit-stop: Buc-ee’s. Unfortunately, the band did not get to meet Buc-ee himself in the flesh and fur, but the shopping experience within the bodega-sized gas station was enthralling nonetheless. After fueling up on snacks and enough beaver themed merchandise to bring hunters to shame, we arrived back at West High around 10 pm.
Despite the overwhelming lack of energy at the end of the trip, a majority of band members report that they overall had a great time. We did enough irresponsible spending to make rich men blush, walked more miles than the finest runner, and took in many sights that would overwhelm the senses. Thank you Mr. Box for providing the classes of 23’ to 26’ the opportunity of experience.