Looking Into the Future of Chamblee Music Trips

A group of Chamblee students on a 2019 music department trip to New York City

Photo courtesy of Jonah Bosselmann

A group of Chamblee students on a 2019 music department trip to New York City

Millie Gotsch, Staff Writer

School-affiliated music trips in high school can be some of the most memorable parts of a student’s educational experience. These trips allow students to further develop their passion for music and view it as an experience outside of school. However, due to the pandemic, Chamblee High School has not taken one since the spring of 2019.

“With the different variants of COVID-19 coming out, it is looking more and more difficult to be able to take a trip that’s going to be an overnight trip or an outside-of-Georgia-type trip. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I do know that the county has not been approving [music] trips from other schools, so the idea that they would suddenly approve our trip seems suspect,” said orchestra teacher Phillip Barnard.

However, trips might be a possibility for next year if the pandemic subsides. Trips out of the state and possibly out of the country could be on the horizon for music students at Chamblee.

“Something for [the Chamblee] orchestra would be something where we have an opportunity to compete in some sort of festival or competition where there are schools from other parts of the country, and not just […] going to LGPE,” said Barnard. “Large Group Performance Evaluation is all fine and good, but it’s always the same. It’s the same three, four or five, six other schools. I would like to be able to go and take our show on the road, so to speak, and be able to see how we stack up against schools from around the country.”

Music festivals and competitions give students an opportunity to meet other young musicians from around the country.

“My desires are kind of twofold. I really want to go to Indianapolis one day, not because Indianapolis is necessarily the most exciting city, but [because] there is a concert grand festival up there that is really difficult to get into. I want to apply and I want these kids to go out there,” said band teacher Colleen Marin-Mendoza. “I got to do it when I was in high school […] and you’re performing alongside the best bands in the country […]. It’s not a competition. There are no rankings or anything, you’re just sharing your music with each other. It is really awesome. So musically, that’s where my sights are set, working up to that and getting the students here to see band and high school music on a national scale. Because we kind of lose sight of that when it’s just here in our band room.”

Out-of-country trips are experiences that can stay with students for years. Being able to experience music education in another country, especially with fellow classmates, is an experience that is generally hard to come by.

“If the ability to travel out of the country is there, I would love to be able to do it. Some of the interesting trips that I’ve taken over the years involved crazy things, like working with professional musicians at the conservatory that was founded by Johann Sebastian Bach, crazy things like that,” said Barnard. “You can’t have those experiences if you don’t leave the country. I’m always open to an overseas trip. They’re expensive, though. That’s one of the drawbacks. They’re very expensive and time-consuming, but they’re always on the table when it’s safe to do so.”

Music trips offer students a lot of opportunities and experiences, especially in a big city, as some Chamblee seniors know from a trip to New York during their freshman year.

“We went to see a lot of sights, went to the museum, and at some point, we went to the Statue of Liberty. We had a performance in a church right off Times Square. I went to go do a dance class, a Broadway dance class, with the musical theater,” said Noah Schwartz (‘22).

Trips this year would be difficult to take due to the extreme amount of precautions that would be necessary and the amount of confirmation that would be required from the county.

“There’s a hierarchy. The local school administrators have to sign off on it, and they’re looking at the educational exposure, the educational validity, as well as safety and security of students. They have to sign off on it first and they pass it to the regional superintendents. […] Regional superintendents are the final sign-off,” said Barnard. “It doesn’t usually go to the central office level for approval. The only thing that the central office does is to just make sure that, if there are any liability issues, that they’re covered before the regional superintendent signs off on it.”

If a trip were to take place this year, general precautions would have to be taken.

“I would think that the requirements that are already in place, just in our country, to generally try to keep people safe would definitely be the starting point. If there was anything beyond that, I think that would have to be a longer conversation between not just teachers but faculty […]. Definitely the basis of having a face mask on and being smart about it, or, if you’re sick, duck out of the trip,” said Marin-Mendoza.

School-sanctioned music trips provide opportunities for students and instructors to become more familiar with each other, get to know their classmates, and become more immersed in their school programs.

“The best part of the trips are getting to see these kids outside of the classroom, in a setting where they are more themselves. In class, the students show their best face, their most mature face, their most focused persona, but on trips, they kind of let themselves relax a little bit and some of their true nature of still being kids comes out, and that’s actually refreshing. I enjoy seeing kids have an opportunity to be kids,” said Barnard.