LHS Music Department Performs at Disney World


Ivy Reilly

The LHS chorus performs at Disney Springs

The LHS band and colorguard pose in front of Disney’s Imagination Campus (Ivy Reilly)
Soloists Eric Reilly, Parker Sloan, and Kate Chiulli (L-R) perform with the LHS orchestra at Disney Springs (Danielle Longo)

The students in LHS’s music department left for Orlando, Florida, for their trip to Disney World on February 2. The department usually takes this trip every four years, but due to COVID-19, this year’s trip was the first in six years. 

The 69 students assigned to depart from LaGuardia Airport arrived at the high school by 2:30 a.m. on February 2, while the 107 students assigned to JFK Airport arrived by 3:00 a.m. Wearing the green Disney shirts that had been distributed earlier in the week, students waited in assigned rooms with their chaperones and groups before departing for their respective airports on coach buses. Both planes departed at around 7:20 a.m.

Two and a half hours later, students landed at Orlando International Airport, greeted by Florida’s warm, sunny weather in contrast to New York’s chilly winter morning. Once all luggage was retrieved, students and chaperones again loaded onto coach buses, where chaperones distributed the Disney Park Hopper passes that would allow students to enter Disney World’s various parks for the next few days.

The buses took the students directly to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There, students spent the day exploring this park’s attractions, which include the Rock n’ Roller Coaster, a ride themed on the rock band Aerosmith; the Tower of Terror, a Twilight Zone-themed drop tower; Slinky Dog Dash, a ride located in the Toy Story-themed area of the park; and rides such as Rise of the Resistance and Smuggler’s Run in Galaxy’s Edge, the large and relatively new Star Wars-themed area of the park. 

Rise of the Resistance was a very immersive ride experience: following the ride’s plotline, riders went from room to room, each of which closely mimicked scenes of the Star Wars movies; the ride also included animatronics of characters such as Kylo Ren and General Hux, and ride attendants dressed in costume. Orchestra teacher Veronica Underhill said, “In terms of immersion and Galaxy’s Edge, going on Rise of the Resistance was fun to the point where I am more than comfortable being quoted on this: traditional roller coasters are dead to me. And anyone who has known me for more than .25 seconds knows how much I love Star Wars, so getting to be in a place filled with detailed replicas and props—the entire vibe put me in such a place of both fresh wonder and imagination combined with nostalgia.”

At 6:00 p.m., all students and chaperones met at the PizzeRizzo restaurant for a catered dinner. Following the meal, they had the option to either continue going on rides on their own or view the Hollywood Studios light show, Fantasmic, before meeting up again at 8:30 at Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride. From there, chaperones gathered their groups and took them out of the park to the buses. All were driven to Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, where they would be sleeping for the next three nights.

The next morning, the students woke up early, loaded uniforms and instruments onto the buses for that day’s performances, and departed for Animal Kingdom for early ride access. There, they were led to the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, an immersive experience based on the movie Avatar that involves a simulation to feel like riders are flying on a banshee (a mythical creature from the movie), scenery shown on a large screen, and splashes of water. 

After the ride and a catered breakfast, the students went about the park, experiencing rides such as Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Animal Kingdom’s Safari. The orchestra students left for their performance at around 11:00 a.m., the chorus students at 12:00 p.m., and the band students at around 1:00 p.m. The orchestra performance took place on a large stage in Disney’s Saratoga Springs, where Underhill conducted the students in a Pirates of the Caribbean medley, “St. Paul’s Suite,” a John Williams trilogy, and Vivaldi’s “Winter.” 

Unfortunately, poor weather struck during the late morning and early afternoon, bringing rain, wind, and colder temperatures. As Underhill put it, “The weather had plans for us that day, and they were not good. It was forecasted to rain specifically only during the two hours when we were warming up and performing our set.” The orchestra faced wet instruments and bows, tuning issues, and the wind blowing sheet music off stands, Underhill related. Senior Lola Sokolskiy, who is in both the chorus and the orchestra, said, “Performing was interesting. While I [definitely] think we left an impact with our amazing playing, the weather was definitely not the stereotypical Florida heat. During orchestra, I will say the cold, wind, and rain set the mood for Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ and our Pirates of the Caribbean medley.” Underhill expressed, “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we still got to play at Disney Springs, and our months of preparation didn’t go to waste.”

The chorus performance was the next to take place, also at Saratoga Springs. Chorus teachers Barry Wyner and Timothy Waldvogel led the mixed chorus in “This Land Is Your Land,” “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” and a Disney medley. The concert choir was also featured with some of its pieces: “Hope Lingers On” and “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” Some of the rainy weather was also experienced by the chorus, but, according to Sokolskiy, “As we sang in chorus ‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning,’ of course the sun started to shine.”

The band performance was later, at around 6:00 p.m. The wind ensemble and symphonic band, dressed in their marching band uniforms, played the Beatles’ “Love Me Do,” “She Loves You,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” as they marched down Main Street, U.S.A., in Magic Kingdom.

Some students were in all three musical groups and went from one performance to another throughout the day. Ashley Olalde, a junior, was one such student. Regarding her performance experiences, Olalde said, “It rained a lot at Disney Springs, which definitely dampened the experience a bit, but playing at such a big place for so many people was exhilarating, and I’d honestly love to do it again. The marching band parade emphasized this because it was in Magic Kingdom, which was basically packed.” She admitted that playing in all three ensembles was “difficult” due to the fact that she was on her feet for the entire time but still felt that “it was worth it in the end.”

At around 8:30 p.m., all students reunited near Magic Kingdom’s exit to depart for Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind ride, which has a virtual queue on which a spot must be reserved. The indoor roller coaster ride was also an immersive experience, showing riders a video beforehand that involved the characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and provided the context of the themed ride. The ride involved spinning carts, blowing wind, and rock music, a tribute to Guardians of the Galaxy character Star-Lord and his love for the genre. After everyone had gotten a chance to ride, the students and chaperones again piled onto the buses and headed back to the All-Star Movies Resort.

On the morning of Saturday, February 4, the last full day of the trip, the students were allowed to wake up later, a welcome contrast to the previous two early mornings. After breakfast at the resort’s food court, students again loaded onto the buses with their instruments. The chorus and band departed right away for musical workshops at the Disney Event Group Building. The workshops consisted of a professional Disney musician leading the groups through sight reading some popular Disney songs. For the second half of the workshops, the musician more thoroughly taught the groups a particular piece that was recorded and paired with a clip of the Disney movie it was from; the band’s movie clip was from Frozen, the chorus’s was from The Lion King, and the orchestra’s was from Tangled. Following their workshops, the band and chorus spent the day in Epcot. The orchestra students had been in Epcot that morning and then left for their workshop in the afternoon, returning to also spend the rest of the day there after their workshop. Underhill said, regarding the workshop, “We had so much fun and learned a lot at the workshop, from the helpful tips and inside jokes with the incredible conductor Rich (D Major!), cello holiday card moment, and incredible growth—going from zero to recording-ready in about 40 minutes!” 

In Epcot, the students could explore the different “countries” that the park features, which include Norway, China, France, Morocco, Canada, Mexico, Italy, and Japan. Each country contained restaurants at which students could enjoy that nation’s cuisine and shops selling authentic items that reflected the country’s culture. Rides that the students enjoyed at Epcot included Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Mission: SPACE, and Test Track. At 8:30 p.m., the students and chaperones met up on the bridge between France and the United Kingdom to watch Epcot’s fireworks and light show, Harmonious. They then departed for the resort for the night.

The morning of Sunday, February 5, found JFK students and chaperones up early again for a 7:20 a.m. flight. After checking their suitcases, large bags, and large instruments and going through security, they boarded the plane and arrived at JFK at around 9:30 a.m. Buses picked up the students, chaperones, and their luggage and brought them back to LHS, from where they returned home. A similar process was undergone by the LaGuardia students and chaperones later, departing from the Orlando International Airport at around 10:20 a.m. and arriving at LaGuardia at around 1:00 p.m.

This year’s Disney World trip was an unforgettable experience for many students. Olalde added that, despite tiredness and expenses, “I’m glad I got to go on the trip since it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience.” Sokolskiy related, “I haven’t been to Disney in ten years prior to the February trip, and its beauty overcame me. I have always been a Disney fanatic, and now that I left, I want to go back.” The trip was also an opportunity for the student performers to get to know one another better. Olalde said, “Since I didn’t pick roommates, I met new people [and] got to make friends I wouldn’t have otherwise.” When asked what her favorite part was, Sokolskiy said, “Being with my friends without a doubt!” The trip was also rewarding for the music teachers. Underhill commented, “I had an absolutely wonderful time in Disney as an orchestra director and human being in general. It was a triple-validating experience; as an ensemble director, I was thrilled to bring my group here in my first year and really proud of my kids for their hard work and incredible playing in the workshops.” The Lynbrook music department looks forward to its next trip to Disney World, as well as its future performance opportunities.