Marching band’s Disney trip resonates with strong emotions

67 student musicians experience three parks, a soundtrack session and Disney Springs


Karly Reger

Leading the Marching Rockets down Main Street, Disney are junior auxiliary members Jaime Graves, Colleen Jordan and Kim Biada.

Capturing a moment in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom are junior Elizabeth Slaughter, freshman Logan Valenti and sophomore Rebekah Sears. (Submitted by Rebekah Sears)

Marching down Main Street, exploring “Star Wars” at Hollywood Studios, recording songs in soundtrack sessions and time to bond were highlights of the marching band’s November trip to Disney. 

For the seniors whose freshman-year trip was canceled due to COVID-19, this was an extra special experience.

Eighty-two total people were part of this trip, which was intended to teach the students different ways to be better musicians and then, of course, give them a chance to enjoy a fun experience together. The majority of the group consisted of 67 students, but there were also 11 chaperones, one nurse and three extra family members. 

The group spent a total of four days at the parks. The other days were devoted to travel. Animal Kingdom was the first stop, then Hollywood Studios on the second day, the third day EPCOT, where they had the soundtrack session and the fourth day was split between the Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

Marching down Main Street at Magic Kingdom was a highlight of the trip for many attendees. 

“I think my favorite part…was actually probably the performance that we did down at Disney, when we marched through Main Street, Disney and we came up on the big castle,” said senior drum major Grant Miller.

Freshman trombone player, Logan Valenti, agreed. “Marching was really, really fun,” he said. “I feel like it was a great experience for, not only me, but for the band as an entirety.” 

Sophomore mellophone player Rebekah Sears also loved marching, but then she talked about how her favorite part was Hollywood Studios. 

“It was definitely the Star Wars area,” she said. “I just love how real everything looked. But I think just spending time with the band, too, just spending time with friends and just really getting to know them better, ‘cuz I got to know a few more people that I didn’t really know very well. I got to spend a lot of time with the freshmen that I didn’t know as well. It was a big bonding experience for the whole thing.”

Clarinet player and senior Katie Martin also valued the time to bond with fellow band members on this trip. “My favorite part would probably be just spending time with my friends outside of school and at Disney,” she said. “I mean, that’s just really cool. Getting to ride the rides, getting to like, be able to live some of my childhood memories with my friends, ‘cuz most of them have never gone to Disney.”

Valenti echoed Martin’s sentiments.  “I had a lot of fun with my friends and…the performance was very fun,” he said. “It felt professional…The trip is very fun and it’s something to be celebrated.”

Hanging out in Animal Kingdom are sophomores Drew Miller, Sean Sesler, Miles Kobie, Liam McDonough and Aiden Sadowski (center). (Aiden Sadowski)

Band Director Brett Dawson explained how during the soundtrack sessions, the band played songs from “Star Wars,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Moana.” They spent about two hours learning how to play four to five different musical pieces.

“…At the end, we got this awesome recording of the band playing the backing track to different scenes from Moana, which was really cool,” he said.

The Disney trip is scheduled for every four years, to give each student the opportunity to go but not financially burden families of the expense more than once

The band trip to Disney is only a part of what the band does.

“I know it’s one of the most flashy things that we do, but there’s a lot more that goes into the band program, and the things that these students do than just going to Disney. The biggest thing that somebody could take away is that, that’s the tip of the iceberg, and that there’s a lot more to learn,” Dawson said.

Other students think the trip should receive more promotion and recognition.

“…There’s…a lot of effort that goes into planning the trip,” Miller said, “a…lot of effort that goes into preparing the music that we play down there.”

Valenti commented, “I feel like [others] probably should care because…it’s harder than you think…to prepare for this and… honestly it grows the whole school and not just the band… because, it’s like we’re working real hard toward a common goal. So, people should also take inspiration from this.”

Marching down Main Street are freshman trumpet player Reggie Benton and trombone players, senior Hailey Carmen and sophomore Elijah Estes. (Submitted by Katie Martin)

The trip took an emotional turn for the Rockets, though, when, the day after they left, SHS lost beloved senior James Woods.

Martin said the group struggled to enjoy the trip while grieving the loss of their classmate.  “…Knowing that every single chance that we got, we would always sit down and talk about what was going on back home, and we felt that we were missing something,” she said, “but we all made so many memories, we became so much closer…not only at Disney, but because of what was happening, and it was just a really good bonding experience because of what had occurred really brought some us together. It made our grief easier to go through.” 

The seniors, especially, still wanted to make the most of this trip that they had been looking forward to for a long time.

“We were supposed to go my freshman year and that got canceled because of the pandemic…” Miller said. “This year was actually really cool and [being] able to go as a senior was actually a lot of fun.”

Martin agreed. “As a senior I felt very excited,” she said. “I absolutely love Disney. My family goes almost every year. Disney’s just been a part of my childhood. So, really, it was a full circle moment getting to have the opportunity to march down Main Street at Disney, and it was…a fantastic feeling.”