AC band Disney

Adams Central High School’s band marches in the daily Disney World parade. Courtesy David Rhodes

School is out for the summer and students are ready to take a break from the books. The Adams Central and St. Cecilia bands were no exception — they just moved their classroom to an amusement park.

Adams Central traveled to Orlando, Florida, May 26-30 and St. Cecilia traveled to Chicago May 25-29.

Fifty-two students in the Adams Central concert and marching band joined a parade may 28 at Walt Disney World. The day before, they participated in a musical workshop and experienced a professional recording session.

Thirty-four students in the St. Cecilia concert and marching band performed at Six Flags Great America amusement park, after taking part in a master’s class at Elmhurst College.

Both bands travel every two years, alternating between a bigger trip and a smaller trip. Adams Central went on its bigger trip this year and St. Cecilia went on its smaller trip. If a student performs in the band all four years of high school, they will get the chance to go on one bigger trip and one smaller trip.

The Adams Central students started their trip with a workshop at Disney performing arts. There, they sight-read Disney songs and got to work with Disney musicians who gave feedback on their performance.

“It was great not only to experience the fun of the parks, but also to go behind the scenes and get to work with professional Disney musicians,” said Tristan Weston, a sophomore trumpet player.

From there, the band recorded a song from the 2016 Disney movie “Moana.” Their recording was then put into a scene from “Moana” and the students got to watch and listen to their work alongside a Grammy Award-winning movie.

During the parade on May 28, the band walked around the Disney World park, performing their school song, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the Avengers’ theme song.

“It was fun and they also appreciated the educational aspect of it and performing at Disney World. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I think they realized that,” said Debra Rhodes, director of instrumental music at Adams Central.

During the parade, temperatures reached over 100 degrees.

“They were troopers. I didn’t really hear that much in the way of complaining from them because they just know how important it was and realized that it was what they needed to do,” Rhodes said.

The St. Cecilia band traveled to Chicago this year, after going to Disney World two years ago.

The students took a master’s class at Elmhurst College with James Hile. There, they performed “Pevensey Castle” and “Kentucky 1800” and got feedback from Hile.

“They (the students) really liked it. He was funny and that was something that they needed … to have this fun, instrumental time with this different person was really good for them,” said Julia Loy, secondary instrumental and vocal music teacher at St. Cecilia.

The band also performed at the Six Flags amusement park near Chicago, playing 11 songs in about 20 minutes.

“It was perfect because we faced right into the park, all the people coming in could hear us,” Loy said. “… We got a lot of exposure in the park.”

Students in both bands still had the chance to enjoy their summer despite the work. Adams Central student visited Hollywood Studios, Epcot theme park and Disney World during their stay, while St. Cecilia students watched a Blue Man Group performance, attended a White Sox/Royals baseball game and went to Six Flags.

“They had so much fun that they started sleeping on the bus because they were so tired from how much fun they had,” Loy said.

Each school hosted its own fundraising for the trips. Rhodes said students are able to start fundraising in seventh grade because they know they will get the chance to go on the band trips. Loy said family members help raise funds through events across the year.

The Adams Central band has gone to Florida every year for the last four years. This year was Rhodes’ first year taking the band. The Florida band trip was started in 1991 by Rhode’s predecessor, Tom Jaworski.

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