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Disney trip inspires NHS music students


Musical education — Members of the band and orchestra get the opportunity to record pieces from various Disney animated movies

Newberg High School band teacher Joel Tanner has been taking students to recording clinics at Disneyland every few years for more than a decade, but because of the recession, the trip last spring was the first since 2009.

The opportunity to perform in a Disney recording studio is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most, but what Tanner found on this year’s trip was that the journey inspired students in several ways along the way.

“There were definitely some light bulbs going on,” Tanner said. “One student in particular, Jesse Groat, came up to me after the studio experience. He’s an actor and a singer and is just one of those kids that’s involved in everything. He said to me, ‘This is what I want to do for a living.’ And he wasn’t the only one.”

About 105 students and chaperones, including one band group and one orchestra group, went on the five-day trip, which began May 23. Leaving on a Thursday on buses, the tour stopped at Ashland High School on the first day so the two band classes that were combined for the trip could practice together for the first time.

The group also did a clinic with one of Tanner’s former students, Ashland High School band director Jon Soderberg-Chase, to get the experience of working under someone new and to pick up some new techniques.

The following day, students toured the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., working with renowned band director Eric Hammer.

“I work with our band every day and that’s great, but to sit down in someone else’s band room and see their perspective and work with them to make even better music was a really great experience,” senior Megan Hinson said. “It really showed that we can do anything if we’re willing to sit down and do it.”

The college visit was so positive that one senior, Stefan Vincent, is seriously pursuing attending the school to study music and play soccer, while several other juniors are now considering it as they ponder their future plans.

After arriving late May 24, the orchestra performed in the Disneyland California park the following morning, while the band had its studio session. Both groups were then allowed to explore the park for the rest of the day, then swapped duties May 26 before jumping on the bus for a non-stop bus ride back to Newberg.

Being treated like professionals was an eye-opening experience and Tanner said he was proud of how his students handled it.

“Once we got the process started, you could see the kids just intellectually clicking up a notch,” Tanner said. “You could see the engagement coming up to a whole new level.”

Jordan Geisch said being in the studio environment was amazing and answered a lot of questions she had about the process.

“You always see the music videos of people recording something and I always wondered why they had those big head phones,” she said. “We had to wear those and it’s actually a metronome. I just thought that was really cool. We also learned about stacking, where they record it and if they want it louder, they record it again over the recording.”

Students like jazz band president Thomas Gaumer enjoyed the experience so much they now have aspirations to become professional recording musicians themselves. For others, like Geisch, the trip made such a lofty goal actually seem within reach.

“I had thought about it, but it really seemed farfetched,” she said. “They explained that with hard work and perseverance, it is very possible.”

In addition to earning a new respect for the school’s new instruments in comparison to bands’ at Disneyland, which has expanded its studio space to accommodate 10 to 12 bands per day, Hinson said she expects the inspiration and positive feedback the band received from the clinicians to carry through to this year.

“We did have some kids graduate, but the ones who are left are really dedicated now,” she said. “We really want to go for it and we’re already playing really hard and great music, so I think we will go really far this year.”

After six previous trips, Tanner elected to make all the travel arrangements himself, which ended up lowering the costs about $200 to $695 per student. About 20 students received scholarships so they could attend, including two who were able to participate thanks to a large anonymous donation, so that every student that wanted to attend did go on the trip.

Tanner said that the band program operates smoothly because students see the effort put in by staff and faculty and therefore return it in kind, which was on full display when it came to behavior on the trip.

“I’ve done these trips many times before and this was the smoothest one,” Tanner said. “There were absolutely no behavior problems whatsoever. I didn’t even have a late student. That’s unheard of.”

Tanner said as much to the Newberg School Board when jazz band members Angel Nunez, Gaumer, Cole Aldred and Liam Hathaway performed a song at its Sept. 24 meeting. He also showed a DVD of the band’s recording sessions synced with scenes from the animated movies for which the music was written.

Unfortunately, a problem prevented the jazz band from doing a recording clinic, but Tanner said it will push to do more clinics and perform at more festivals this year as a way to make up for that.

Just two jazz band students decided not to go along because of the cancellation and missed the experience, but both did travel to Scotland over the summer with the theater program.

“I just love band and theater people,” Geisch said. “They’re amazing people. What better place can you think of for hanging out with your favorite people than Disneyland?”