VCHS music students get gold, silver in NYC

The Valley City High School Senior Choir, Senior Band and Jazz Band traveled to New York City May 3-6 to compete in the Heritage Festival at Riverside Church. Riverside Church is located in the upper west side of New York, next to President Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb and the Hudson River.
Juniors and seniors and music directors Sheila Zinke, Penny Peterson and Tom Kjelland along with eight chaperones spent four days competing and touring The Big Apple, even seeing a couple celebrities.

The festival, which, according to their website, helps talented students take the trip of a lifetime to perform and showcase their talents in breathtaking venues across the country, was held Friday and Saturday; the results were announced Saturday evening.

“We got the gold,” Jarod Nelson, member of senior choir, exclaimed. The senior choir and jazz band received gold ratings while the senior band received a silver rating. “We worked hard for that,” Zinke said of their awards.

Competitors were judged by nationally recognized composers, consultants and instructors.

“We were all really excited to be there. We did super, super good,” Kamie Wagar, percussionist in senior band and jazz band, said referring to her fellow jazz band competitors.

After the award ceremony, Heritage Festival took all participating schools on a dinner cruise down the Hudson River past the Statue of Liberty, up the East River and back. During the four-hour cruise, music students danced and admired the New York skyline.

While in New York, students also visited various attractions such as Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial, Radio City Music Hall and two broadway musicals. Students were divided into eight groups with chaperones. “This was a way to keep track of students in a big place,” explained Zinke.

Three senior choir students Devon Liljenquist, Austin Svenningsen and Nelson all agreed that the 9/11 Memorial was their favorite attraction.
This particular group of students were the first to see the 9/11 Memorial. “No other group has seen it yet,” Liljenquist said. Zinke explained that the next group of music students who attend this bi-annual trip will be able to see the museum that is currently being built at the World Trade Center site.

Wagar said she’s currently watching movies about the 9/11 attacks during her history class and “actually seeing it first hand has more of an impact.”

Another popular attraction was the Radio City Music Hall, an art deco-themed entertainment venue located in the Rockafeller Center in New York. “Lots of music and theatre history was brought to life during the tour,” Zinke explained of their time there.

Students were able to “understand how a stage works--the sets and costume” through their tour at Radio City Music Hall, said Svenningsen.
Zinke had the opportunity to see country music group Lady Antebellum’s band rehearsing for a performance at the hall.

In another celebrity sighting, some students saw actor Corbin Bleu in Times Square. “He just happened to be signing autographs while we were there,” said Nelson.

Students and instructors alike were intrigued by the culture and population difference between New York and Valley City. “There’s more people on a city block than in our entire town,” Svenningsen explained. Zinke was amazed by the different languages she heard being spoken at once.

Even more amazing to them were the musicians selling their music on the streets.

Liljenquist, Svenningsen, Nelson, and Wagar all agreed their time in New York was a great, educational opportunity. “It was a great experience, but it’s also great to be home,” Wagar said.

“I hope our younger siblings are able to have the same opportunity in the future,” Lilijenquist said.

The music department would like to thank the community of Valley City, the VCHS administration and the VCHS music boosters for making this wonderful experience a reality for their students. “They will never forget it and were great ambassadors for Valley City. They were also very proud to bring home a silver and two gold ratings, Zinke said in an email.