Coronavirus threats cause WHS orchestra, band to cancel Carnegie trip

Photo Courtesy of Esther Kim

WHS band and orchestra departments were presented with the great honor of performing at the prestigious music hall, Carnegie Hall on April 10 in New York City, but due to the Coronavirus, the trip is being postponed to next year.

Every four years, the band department travels to places all over the country to perform, with previous groups traveling to Hawaii, Chicago and New York. This would have been WHS band department’s second time performing at Carnegie Hall in the span of eight years and WHS orchestra department’s first performance there. 

“Orchestra never travels,” said orchestra member Esther Kim ‘20. “This [was] going to be our first time traveling with band. I [didn’t] know if [the performance] would be up to par to the whole mystique of Carnegie Hall.”

Students’ emotions ranged from excitement to nervousness as they prepared to perform in front of a live audience containing hundreds of people.

“I’m pretty excited!” said band member Jackson Bacon ‘22, prior to the trip’s cancellation. “It’s a great opportunity. Carnegie Hall is one of the most recognized and renowned places to perform in the world. It’s a great experience, it’s a great hall and place to perform. There are so many great musicians at WHS.”

Not only would students get to experience performing in New York City, but the musicians were going to be presented with other opportunities in “the city that never sleeps,” especially those wanting to pursue music education after high school. 

As graduation is just around the corner, band members are cherishing the time they have left with their friends, especially the seniors.

“The trip is just more about the program getting together, having fun and traveling,” said band member Cassidy Murray ‘20. “It’s not really about the music as much, although it is. For the band trip my sophomore year, we went to Chicago and so for that trip it was all about the gig. That was the motto: it was all about the gig.”

Since this was band’s first time traveling with the orchestra department, many students were looking forward to spending more time with musicians outside of their music program.

“I feel like the band and orchestra departments should be more combined,” said Murray.

Staff was faced with many factors in their final decision concerning the health and safety of the students, chaperones and staff members going on the trip, including the effect of their return and the impact on others back home. Ultimately, staff was worried about the risk of the group being stranded in New York due to COVID-19 concerns.

“That impacts a lot of people who aren’t even participating in this,” said orchestra teacher Elizabeth Blake. “Looking at it at this point, the odds were slim that something like that would happen. As we’re watching things unfold the odds are getting bigger and bigger, but even with slim odds to try to manage something like that and being responsible in place of everyone’s parents, it just did not seem like we would be making a responsible decision.”

Facing the news of the postponement of the trip, the group is attempting to recover as much of their payment as possible.

“We’re out of luck on some of it because the deposit on Carnegie Hall is nonrefundable,” said Blake. “Some contracts are not refundable. Hopefully [the vendors] will be able to take the deposit we’ve given them and just alter the dates in the contract and change it to next year.”

Since many of the orchestra and band members are graduating this year, seniors will be welcomed back to join the trip when it takes place next year.

“We have to consider how it’s going to work for the seniors,” said Blake. “We don’t care where [they] are next year. If we can help [them] get there, we’d love to have [them] with us, but for most of them we know it is not going to be possible, so we’re having to really figure out how we are going to work getting them at least most of their money back.”

Rather than focusing solely on the negative, WHS families have approved of the orchestra and band staff’s decision to postpone the trip.

“We haven’t heard anybody say, ‘We don’t think this is the right decision,’” said Blake. “The nice thing that I appreciate so much is that all of the families have all supported this decision.”

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