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December 17, 2018

4/13/2018 10:19:00 AM
Dodgeville High School Band and Choir perform in Orlando over Spring Break

by Luci Ramthun
Some road trips are especially memorable because of the long wait for them to arrive, the new sights and experiences they provide, and the chance to represent one's home town performing in a pretty exciting venue. Over spring break, some fortunate Dodgeville students got their chance to do all of these things, after months of planning and fundraising, on the recent DHS music tour to Orlando.
On the chilly morning of March 22nd, three motor coaches lumbered out of the parking lot of Dodgeville High School, loaded with instruments, music stands, plenty of luggage (and, yes - sunscreen!) along with 127 excited people, including 112 DHS music students and 15 adult staff and chaperones. They were heading south, ready to ride all day and straight through the night. Destination: Florida! "Surveying the kids on our bus, about half of them had never been to Orlando or seen the ocean," DHS Band and Orchestra director Mark Ramthun noted. "So we were excited for them to take it all in."
For the uninitiated, attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep on a bus is a real challenge. But the students were troopers and arrived to much warmer temperatures by lunch time the next day, where they headed straight to the beach. They enjoyed the warm sunshine and rediscovered the luxury of laying horizontally on the warm sands of Cocoa Beach that afternoon. The next morning, many of the group got up early to head to the beach behind their hotel for Mother Nature's first "wow" moment of the trip. "Watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean was amazing!" enthused junior Kaitlyn Laufenberg.
After that good night's sleep under their belts, the group headed to Universal Studios, where, along with the many roller coasters and virtual reality attractions, many kids and adults enjoyed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. Walking down a re-created "Diagon Alley" and catching the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 3/4 to arrive in "Hogsmeade Village" and tour the castle was just like stepping into the books and movies that many of the kids had grown up following. Or at least into a really good movie set!
The next day, the DHS Band performed a concert at Old Town Kissimmee, an amusement park and outdoor shopping mall, and then the group spent the afternoon exploring Disney's Epcot Theme Park before moving on to Disney Springs, another outdoor shopping and entertainment venue, where DHS Choir director Tamra Bickel led her group in their concert that evening. Both groups impressed their audiences and held up well performing in the hot Florida sun. Quite a few local Dodgeville families who had also travelled down to Orlando were on hand to cheer the groups on, which was special for these young musicians.
Both the DHS Choir and Band were able to participate in some top-notch Disney music clinics that help young musicians gain skills in sight-reading and getting a glimpse of the rehearsal and performance experience of professional musicians. In fact, the Disney clinician who worked with the choir also performed in one of the amazing live shows in the parks. Dodgeville Middle School Band and Orchestra director Terri Ellis was along on the trip for the first time, as accompanist for the choir, and she was able to attend both the "You're Instrumental" band clinic and the "Disney Sings" choir clinic. She found both to be very impressive in their content, teaching technique and clinician talent. The choir students were taught some choreography from an actual Disney show as they recorded a song from the popular "Frozen" movie. The band students also polished and recorded a song from the "Frozen" soundtrack as well as songs from other Disney musicals synced to go along with animation - just as the pros would - in a recording studio.
"The Disney workshops were the most memorable part of the trip" remarked sophomore Tate Jewell. Freshman Josh Stoughton added, "We got to work with some really cool performers from Disney."
Other highlights of their tour included visiting Disney's Magic Kingdom (aka "the Happiest Place on Earth") and Disney's Animal Kingdom. Along with the many exciting rides and attractions, students were also impressed with the live musical and acrobatic performers. The "Festival of the Lion King" and "Nemo" musicals were like shorter versions of Broadway shows. One group of seniors, Jordan May, Gavin Byers and Connor Fitzsimmons, were inspired to join in the street dance put on in the "Africa" section of Animal Kingdom. Everyone seemed to cut loose and enjoy the fun music and dancing opportunities that came along on this trip.
"Since a lot of our students had never been to Orlando, this gives them the chance to experience these awesome attractions," said Ramthun of the trip, which the music department takes every four years.
"Another important factor - and part of the reason we offer it - is that it's a chance for these students to get to know what it's like to experience a week away from their usual routine and the familiarity of their own household. They get to figure out how to do that, getting along with roommates and exploring these cool places all day with their small groups in between the big group activities," Ramthun said. He added that most kids were in rooms of 4 students and everyone had to be up, showered and breakfasted by an early hour each day, and report to the bus on time, without Mom or Dad to wake them up. "It's sort of a sneak peek of what they may be in for in college," he added.
By the time those 3 motor coaches rolled back into Dodgeville on March 28th, the group was tired but happy, ready to tell their families about their days on the road and hit their own beds (though not necessarily in that order), having had quite the musical adventure with their friends and classmates.
All in all, many great memories were made on the trip, both the musical variety and the heading-out-into-the-world kind, that these students will probably never forget.

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