The tradition for De Smet music students is to take a trip every four years and head east, entertaining at a few selected venues. Destinations have varied between Washington D.C., New York City, Nashville and Memphis. The latest trip was originally planned for last year, but COVID made an appearance, and the trip was postponed until this year. The music students traveled without their instruments and without singing a song. There were no venues for the choir, and no bass drums or tubas to haul around, just a fun-filled trip of sightseeing.
Last year’s trip was scheduled in April, too. Because of the COVID postponements, some of last year’s music students graduated and missed out on a tremendous experience. COVID concerns are still in place, and performances are still not being scheduled. Fear of spreading the airborne virus by blowing through brass and woodwind instruments or by singing is the main reason for no scheduled performances.
This year the postponed trip was open to any student, including the seventh and eighth grades, and not just limited to music students. Students traveling on the trip raised $107,000 to make it a reality. Students hosted fundraisers and solicited donations, and some parents gave contributions. A local business, UltiMed, helped students raise funds by unloading trucks and making donations for the trip.
On April 4 at midnight, 46 students and 11 adult sponsors headed off on an educational trip of a lifetime. The group had chartered two buses and made frequent stops while they crossed 13 states headed to Washington, D.C. On the way there, the group stopped in South Bend, Ind., and made a visit to the Notre Dame campus, touring the football stadium and bookstore before loading back on the bus and finishing their twenty-five-and-a-half-hour marathon drive to Washington, D.C.
With the amount of time spent on the buses and driving, one would think the students would get a little stir-crazy, but Music Booster President, Renae Aughenbaugh, said it best, “The kids were all great. They were excited to get to go, and it was quite a privilege and opportunity for everybody.”
Once the students arrived in Washington, D.C. and were rested, they got to see some of the local tourist attractions. Students traveled to the Arlington National Cemetery and the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. The Smithsonian Museums are still closed due to COVID, so they opted to take a cherry blossom bike tour of Washington, D.C. They split up into four groups and rode along the Potomac River. The groups toured many of the monuments and memorials as well as the U.S. Capitol.
Students got to tour Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. COVID has placed limits on visitors allowed inside the home, so the group toured the grounds. The group also traveled to Pennsylvania and toured Gettysburg National Military Park.
Once in Nashville, students toured some iconic places like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his songs. Another sight visited was the Grand Ole Opry, and the students enjoyed a nice dinner on the General Jackson Riverboat Dinner Cruise. They also toured The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home. At this location they were allowed to tour inside the home.
On the group’s last day in Nashville, they attended a songwriting event where they got to meet singer/songwriter James Dean Hicks. He helped the students write their own song titled “I Won’t Forget Nashville.”
What an exciting trip, with plenty of memories and experiences that students will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.