YCHS band back from the Big Apple

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comApril 15, 2014 

— Elated members of the York Comprehensive High School band returned Monday from a four-day trip to New York City that included two Broadway shows, a visit to the 9/11 memorial, Lincoln Center and other top sites.

“There’s no words to say what it was like, it was amazing,” said Fernando Melendez, an 18-year-old senior in the percussion section.

The 99-member group, including two band directors and 10 adult chaperones, left via bus Wednesday night and returned Monday morning after a packed itinerary.

The schedule included the Broadway shows “Wicked” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” a city tour including Times Square and other sites, and visits to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall and more.

Melendez said the Broadway shows were his favorite part of the trip. “I had never seen that type of entertainment before,” he said. “They were just breathtaking.”

Bobby Guzman, 17, also a percussion section member, summed up his initial reaction to the city. “My first thoughts were, we’re not in Kansas anymore, and that’s completely honest,” he said Tuesday.

“It was something I’ve never seen before,” Guzman said. “It was new, it was large and grand. I loved it. It was a fantastic experience for me.”

Guzman said one of his favorite parts of the trip was the visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“It let me see the grandness of a lot of these religions throughout the world, but especially here in America,” he said. “I always wanted to have a chance to pray in a place that was bigger than a small-town church.”

Band directors and husband and wife team Laura and Douglas Brooks planned the trip, which was announced in May of last year. They said the band aims to take the students on one big educational trip every other year, to expose them to performing arts and culture.

The couple, in their second year as YCHS band co-directors, said they had taken other student groups to New York City in previous jobs at other schools.

“This is a trip we’ve done before that went over really well,” said Laura Brooks. “The kids loved it.”

Douglas Brooks said part of the aim was to show students “what it’s really like to be a professional musician and what it takes to go from high school to performing at that level.”

The trip included a workshop with the “Wicked” staff after that show, he said, and a separate workshop called “Broadway 101.”

“It’s very interactive,” Douglas Brooks said of the workshops, which he said featured “people on Broadway telling them how they got where they are.”

Band president Alison King, an 18-year-old senior who plays tenor sax, was struck by the size of the city. “It was overwhelming, but it was really one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she said.

King noted that she has seen New York City portrayed in movies and television shows, “but seeing it in person is just completely different.”

Makayla Phelps, a 16-year-old sophomore who plays mellophone, was particularly impressed with the diversity of the city.

“You could stand on a street corner and listen to people talk and you hear German, Spanish, Italian, all kinds of different people that just amazed me,” she said. “You could see all kinds of ethnic restaurants, and that was amazing.”

Phelps said she has driven through large cities with family but never really visited one. “Everything was just so big and so totally different from anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “It was a culture shock.”

One of her favorite places was Radio City Music Hall, “because of the way the theater part was set. It was supposed to look like a sunset. It was the coolest thing in the world.”

Laura Brooks said the trip cost $799 for students and $899 for chaperones. Students had the opportunity to raise money for their portion of the cost through fish and shrimp frys, and several sales of Yankee candles.

She said some students raised enough money to cover the entire cost of the trip, while others raised money to pay for a portion of the cost.

The couple said the band will present a spring concert based around Broadway music at 6:30 p.m. May 22 in the school auditorium. Admission is $5.

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