CHIMACUM — The Chimacum High School Band and Choir performed at Disneyland the same weekend and got to hear their music as if it were part of a Disney feature.
The groups participated in a “Soundtrack Session” which is one of many Disney Performing Arts workshops.
The two groups (49 total students), accompanied by their two directors, 11 chaperones and a pianist left May 23 and flew to Los Angeles for the weekend, where they had their workshops, performances, watched shows together and explored the park.
Each group had to audition to be able to a participate in the program, the choir submitted their audition video in October and the band in late November/early December, choir director Tina Grewell said.
Incoming senior choir student Madison Boyd said that the choir focused on old material for the audition.
“For the audition we prepared music that we knew and could perfect to its fullest potential,” Boyd said.
“Our choir had never auditioned for anything like this before, so perfecting previous music was the best choice instead of throwing a bunch of new material into such a new experience.”
The “Soundtrack Session” was a 90-minute workshop where each group sight-read and recorded music from popular Disney films.
The choir performed songs from “Enchanted” and “The Princess and the Frog,” while the band’s songs were from “The Lion King” and the opening theme for Marvel films.
Each group was handed the song to play straight through with that first take recorded. Then the Disney producer would rehearse with the students on the songs and assign solos and they would re-record a final track, which was then overlaid over the film scene where the music was from.
“In a matter of 15-20 minutes, he chose three soloists to come up and record,” Grewell said. “Very professionally done. It’s an amazing experience for the kids for sure. After he chose the soloists, we laid down the solo track and then we went back again and laid down the final track.
“The band does a similar thing, though obviously it’s not vocal, it’s just the soundtrack for the instrumental.”
Getting the band and choir to Disneyland was not an easy feat. Before fundraising, the average cost per student (band or choir) was $1,006, but after fundraising the cost was lowered to about $830 for the students who went, Grewell said.
“We had to raise over $27,000. We just started reaching out to local events like our school holiday show and our school auction,” Boyd said.
“We mainly sold flags and garden products from Toland Home Garden and baked goods we made ourselves at events we would perform at like the Port Ludlow Follies and our own school concerts.”
Grewell and band director Garth Gourley showed the completed clips to the Chimacum School Board at its first meeting in July, and Grewell said she wishes that more people could have watched them, because they cannot share the videos on social media due to Disney’s copyright laws. Grewell said she hopes they might have another opportunity to share the videos with the public.
“Copyright for Disney is really tight,” she said. “We can’t share any of that workshop footage with you all though. We can share it with our parents in a private viewing sort of thing.
“We were glad we got to share that but the sad part was there was only like, six of us there? It would’ve been nice if it was one of the meetings where we actually had a full audience who could see that.”
In addition to the workshop, each group also had a 30-minute performance in the park itself, which another production specialist assisted with.
The specialist “really works with the students to reach their highest professional potential,” Grewell said.
“We chose the songs we were going to be singing and they had to be approved by Disney.”
“We really tried to choose music that would be entertaining for any one who might be in the park that day and is just walking by and saying ‘hey, wow, there’s a group singing’ and how cool is it that up on the board it says ‘Chimacum High School Choir’ and ‘Chimacum High School Band.’ People are walking by and they get to hear your best.”
This was the 15th or 16th time Grewell has taken a choir to Disneyland, but it is the first time that she brought the Chimacum choir there.
“Usually I have larger groups, so having this smaller group I went ‘oh boy, are we going to be able to produce the sound?’ The kids were just really awesome. They did a great job,” she said.
“I always say there is something in the water in Chimacum because those kids have beautiful voices. And that’s my alma mater, so yay, go Chimacum.”
The choir sang a variety of songs from Disney, Broadway and films. Both the choir and band performed pieces from “The Greatest Showman” during their concert.
“The kids had an itinerary they had to stick to and be on time,” Grewell said. “They had check-ins when they had to report to their chaperones and they had to adhere to the rules. But man, they were just so great.”
Grewell said her favorite moment during the recording session was when the producer had the choir’s male baritone sing the female soprano’s solo.
“As a teacher, the greatest moment is to see all the kids responding with enthusiasm, with excellence, they just really were coming out of themselves and realizing that they could give more than they thought they had to begin with.”
Boyd said she is grateful she could go on this trip, because this was her first choir trip and the first time she’s traveled out of state with anyone but her family. She summed up her experience with two words “hard work.”
“We all worked so hard for this and we all would agree that it was hard but worth it,” Boyd said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].