Students rock out at the annual music tour in Washington D.C.

April 23, 2018

This year South’s annual music tour is going to Washington D.C. Just in time for the cherry blossom festival and a balmy high of 80 degrees, music students in Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra and Varsity Choir enjoyed a 5-day trip to and from the nation’s capital.

With long 22 hour drives on each end, there were about 3 days in DC in total.

After arriving in Washington around 2pm, students settled in to the hotel. Later on we ate dinner at Union Station, a train station located a few blocks from the Capital. We then hopped on the bus to go on a night tour of monuments. We ended up touring the FDR monument, which is a series of smaller statues, plaques with quotes, and a waterfall. The monuments focused on the Great Depression and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s time as president.

Outside the hotel, a group of friends celebrate a birthday with desserts and other snacks. “I think you strengthen your relationships with people just by being able to see a new place,” said senior Danny Johnson. “It’s always a great opportunity… no matter who you’re going with.” Photo: Zoë Chinander-McFaul

After an hour of walking, the tour ended at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. “I would’ve loved a little more time at the monuments,” said senior Danny Johnson, a bass player in Chamber Orchestra.

The next day, waking up at 6:00 in the morning, the music students grabbed breakfast and hopped on the bus to Yorktown High School, where they played with the local school music ensembles.

“The Yorktown exchange was fun,” said Natashia Otiso, a soprano in Varsity Choir. “The students were supportive and nice, their school was really pretty too.”

Pictured above are all the music students from Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Varsity Choir in front of George Washington’s mansion. Photo Courtesy: Kevin McDonald

Many students enjoyed seeing how other music classrooms are run: “I really, really enjoyed the high school exchange, almost more than the University [clinic]…being able to see what music students might be like at another school, and being able to make those connections is really valuable,” said Johnson. “I really enjoyed it for that reason, that kind of social connection and broadening of what it means to be a high school musician.”

After the finale of Stars and Stripes Forever with Wind Ensemble and the Yorktown Woodwind Ensemble, we loaded the bus and headed to the National Mall, a long strip in D.C. with museums, monuments and the capitol all along the path. “The monuments that we saw [at the Mall] were amazing,” said trombone player Will Danaher, a junior in Wind Ensemble. “[I’m] glad I got to see them.”

After lunch and the Mall, South students could decide whether to go the International Spy Museum or National Portrait Gallery. While both choices seemed enjoyable, many thought the Portrait Gallery was a relaxing choice. “One of my favorite [sites] was actually the Portrait Gallery, [it] was a really nice surprise,” said Johnson. “I wasn’t expecting that beautiful indoor courtyard with the thin fountains and to see a lot of those portraits was really fun.”

Above Wind Ensemble plays at Yorktown high school located in Arlington, Virginia. “The Yorktown exchange was fun,” said Natashia Otiso, a soprano in Varsity Choir. “The students were supportive and nice, their school was really pretty too.” Photo Courtesy: Eric Sayre

Saturday morning, students again woke early, and made their way to American University to clinic with professors at the school. “The clinic at AU was helpful,” said junior Natashia Otiso, a soprano in Varsity Choir. “It gave us a chance to see our pieces from a different perspective.” Varsity Choir sang Loch Lomond and Sleep by Eric Whitacre in their clinic with the choir professor from AU.

Danaher agrees that the groups gained a lot in their musicianship after working with a professor. “The Wind Ensemble clinic I found very useful,” he said. “I really hope we continue to sound like that for the rest of the year.”

After the clinics, student made there way to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. For two hours students toured the museum, which follows the span of World War II and its effects on the persecuted victims of the Holocaust. “The Holocaust museum was a great reminder of a horrible past,” said Danaher. “It had many powerful exhibits, including the hall of shoes.”

Junior Aria Wanek and senior Anthony Beerswing from Wind Ensemble pose on a rental scooter while waiting for their meal from a food truck. Photo: Zoë Chinander-McFaul

After debriefing from the Holocaust Memorial Museum and grabbing a quick dinner at Whole Foods, we arrived at the Kennedy Center to view a performance from the National Symphony Orchestra, “I thought the Kennedy Center was a beautiful theater,” said Danaher. “The National Symphony played very exciting songs.”

The last day, we made our way to Mount Vernon, where George Washington’s mansion resides. Many thought the way the exhibits portrayed Washington were less than truthful: “An exhibit that was supposedly about slaves highlighted the morality of George Washington and his ‘changing views’…rather than highlighting the struggles and importance of slaves lives,” said Otiso. “There is still more work to be done at Mount Vernon.”

Overall many students agreed the social aspect was the most rewarding part. Otiso’s favorite part of the tour was, “getting closer with the people in my ensemble.” Some students who have attended the tours previous years enjoyed this tour especially: “I was on tour last year, [which] was really fun but this year was great [because] more of my friends were there,” said Danaher.

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