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Jazz Band sets sights on 'land of the midnight sun'

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Alaska trip fundraiser planned for this weekend for travel at the end of May

PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE WHEELER - The Scappoose High School Jazz Band will travel to Alaska at the end of May. The group will perform at several venues on their trip and will visit popular destinations in Sitka and Anchorage.The Scappoose High School Jazz Band will take a four day trip to Alaska at the end of May to perform at several high-profile cultural locations in Sitka and Anchorage.

Twenty students and six chaperones will attend the trip on May 25 to 28. Band director Larry Jackson helped plan the trip with assistance from Debbie Wheeler, a former Alaska resident and the mother of student jazz band performer, Joshua Wheeler.

Earlier this year, Jackson said he wanted to plan a special trip for the students in his jazz band class, and looked at several different trip options to take the students for an extended weekend trip over Memorial Day.

Debbie Wheeler mentioned her personal connections to Sitka and Anchorage and suggested the trip as an option. Jackson was intrigued by the idea of having students experience the Alaskan culture and began planning with her.

Students will perform at three venues, including a pub and pizza joint called Mean Queen, which is owned by a former Scappoose resident. The students will also put on a show at the Anchorage Saturday Market, where thousands of people historically gather for the largest open air market in the state. They will also perform at a wildlife center.

Wheeler said she is looking forward to visiting her home state and showing it to her son and his band family.

"I am most looking forward to taking 'my kids' home," Wheeler stated in an email to the Spotlight. "I grew up in Alaska and lived there until we relocated to Oregon so it is a special treat to (get) to take this fabulously talented group of musicians back to Alaska and let them experience the wonders of the land of the midnight sun."

The cost of the trip for each student is $1,000, which includes airfare and boarding. Throughout the school year the band held a variety of fundraisers, such as holiday wreath and candy sales, to help pay for the trip.

Parent volunteers like Debbie Wheeler have also planned a vendor fair this Saturday, May 13, to help students cover the cost of the trip.

Jackson describes this year's band as a group of mature and committed musicians, and has no worries about traveling with them.

"Being in a band is like being in a family," Jackson said. "So this is almost like traveling or taking a trip with your own family."

While the opportunity will allow the students to experience a new culture, Jackson said, the trip also gives the musicians a chance to hone their performances.

"The thing I've noted about trips is that the level of musicality rises," Jackson said. "They want to put on the best performance for their audience."