PORT ANGELES — There are many things to do, see and experience when visiting New York City.
Yuri Crawford’s goal when she arrives there on Thursday is to eat a slice of authentic New York cheesecake.
Crawford and 52 other members of the Port Angeles High School band, 70 members of the orchestra and 40 members of the choir will get the chance to discover and explore the city when they leave Thursday for a five-day trip and performances at Carnegie Hall on Sunday.
“I’m going to eat as many kinds of food that I can,” said Crawford, who plays oboe. “I’m not so into sightseeing.”
This will be the first trip to New York City for high school musicians and choir members since the COVID-19 pandemic created shutdowns, stopped travel and interrupted fundraising.
The move from in-person to online learning also drained music programs that are still in the process of rebuilding.
“We all suffered some losses,” choir director John Lorentzen said. “Everything came to a screeching halt.”
Previously, the music programs traveled separately to New York City on a yearly rotating basis.
The decision by Lorentzen, orchestra director Nathan Rødahl and band director Jarrett Hansen to go as a single group was part of an attempt to reboot the music programs and restart the tradition of student trips.
“We decided, let’s take everybody, the whole music department, and maybe do a four-year cycle where we go to a big, big place, whether that’s New York City or Europe, and then every two years we go somewhere closer,” Hansen said.
The music directors said the trip to New York City would not have been possible without the support of parents, community members, businesses and especially boosters — Orchestra Parents United for Students (OPUS), Port Angeles High School Band Boosters and Port Angeles Schools Choir Boosters.
“The boosters have been phenomenal. I can’t say enough how much we have relied and depended on them,” Lorentzen said. “They have done a lot of the negotiations with WorldStrides [the student travel company which organized the trip]. That really has freed all three of us up to really be able to just focus on preparing the kids.”
Boosters and volunteers have handled the myriad details for planning and organizing the trip and undertaken the monumental task of fundraising.
“People volunteer their time to do all of the phone calls and all of the hotel rooming lists and, you know, do we have enough vegetarian options at the group dinner?” Rødahl said. “Without that support, we could not do this trip, because there just is not enough time in the day for the three of us music teachers to plan this on our own.”
The cost of this year’s trip is about $2,300 per student. Each booster club decides how it will assist students who need financial assistance; this might come in the form of a scholarship or a commitment to helping out at fundraisers.
“It was a big goal of ours that every student who wanted to go, got to go,” Rødahl said.
The musical directors, students and chaperones — about 200 people in all — leave Port Angeles at 1 a.m. on Thursday for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and depart for New York City at 7:30 a.m.
The group will follow a fairly structured itinerary with what Rødahl called some “wiggle room” for students to do some exploring on their own — with a chaperon, of course. On the schedule are outings to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and attending a Broadway performance of “Hamilton.”
Clarinetist Ava Medley would like to see the 911 Memorial and tenor saxophone player Faith Carr is interested in visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. Trumpet player Antonio Ceniza wants to visit the Bronx to meet people he has met online who share his love of rap music.
The band will have one final rehearsal on Saturday — in the ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown — before it performs a six-song set including, appropriately enough, William Owens’ “Carnegie Anthem.”
The orchestra will perform Symphony in G Major by Joseph Bologne, an 18th-century French Creole composer, and the world premiere of Jerry Kracht’s “Port Angeles Triptych.”
“It’s a journey from sunrise at Hurricane Ridge out to sunset on the Strait,” Rødahl said. “He did a significant amount of research about our town and the history of our region, and he even found a couple of Salish tribal songs to include in the work to acknowledge the history of our land.”
While the band and orchestra will have the stage to themselves, choir students will join choir members from high schools around the country under the direction of Lynne Gackle, the director of choral activities at Baylor University. The 250-person chorus will perform a challenging program that includes works in German (Robert Schumann’s “Ziguenerleben”), Latin (Ola Gjeilo’s “The Ground”) and in 7/8 time (Elaine Hagenberg’s “Alleluia”).
Band students said they were excited and felt prepared for the concert.
Trombone player Danika Asgeirsson said she was confident the band would perform well and looked forward to performing in one of the most prestigious concert halls in the United States.
“I really want to hear the acoustics,” Asgeirsson said. “They’re supposed to be really good.”
As much as visiting the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center — not to mention eating cheesecake — would be memorable experiences, the music directors said the trip’s most profound impact on students would come from within Carnegie Hall.
“To play on one of the most important stages in the world could be the turning point in their life, the thing that opens their perspective beyond small-town life and to really see themselves as a global citizen,” Rødahl said. “And that’s really what the trip is all about.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at email@example.com.