Band and orchestra programs gear up to take trip to Washington D.C. after three year hiatus


Band teacher David Larzelere conducts students during 2nd hour concert band on Mar. 13. Photo by Joelle King

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the Band and Orchestra will be traveling to Washington D.C. for the annual music group trip.

A well known tradition here at the high school is the band and orchestra trip, which often take students far out of East Lansing. Over the years, trips have gone anywhere from Chicago to Florida, giving musicians both the chance to perform in a new place and explore all it has to offer. 

Right before the pandemic, a trip to Disney World had been planned for the spring of 2020. But shortly after brief information about the trip was shared with students and parents, the shutdown made the trip unpromising. After being postponed to 2021, the trip was eventually cancelled altogether by Larzelere and Rosin.

That trip was the last time a big trip had been planned for the band and orchestra program. Over the course of the pandemic, David Larzelere and David Rosin began planning a new trip with Guardian Travels, a travel agency that specializes in traveling with school music groups or high school music groups. Although they’ve traveled to Washington D.C. in the past, they chose D.C. for 2023 because they feel it was a great opportunity for the programs and a good first step into getting back into traveling with many unfamiliar students.  

On early Thursday, March 23, the morning before spring break will begin for most students,  about 175 students in the band and orchestra program and 25 adults will be hopping on buses for a five day trip to Washington D.C..students will spend time in D.C., performing pieces they have been working on for about 3-4 weeks. The pieces that were selected have left students eager to perform songs that represent them. The band will be playing traditional American pieces such as “America the Beautiful;” “Washington Post” by John Philp Sousa, a piece played throughout history; and “The Queen of Soul,” a medley of hit songs by Aretha Franklin.

Coura Dembele (9) said she’s excited to be able to perform pieces that show a different genre for the band. 

“The music that Larzelere picked out was really good. I feel like that will have a lot of good representation in Washington D.C., that is needed. And I feel like it’s gonna leave the audience with a good reaction to our music,” Dembele said. 

The Orchestra has a selection from the movie “Coco,” a Motown medley of Motown songs from the Four Tops, Jackson Five, The Supremes, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. They’ll also be playing pieces that represent American tradition like “Cashmere” by Led Zeppelin, a Brandenburg Concerto and “The Ashokan farewell” written for the documentary “Civil War” by Ken Burns. Students will have the opportunity to perform and showcase these melodies to the public at the U.S. Capitol and The National Museum of Marine Corps. 

“[There’s] educational opportunities, and [ways of] creating great memories and cool experiences,” Larzelere said. 

To make the trip even more memorable Guardian Travels selected fun infamous tour spots and landmarks to walk through and restaurants to dine at after or before a long day.

The trip overall was estimated to cost about $900 per student with 120 projected sign ups, but the price decreased because more people signed up to go than expected. Even with the price going down it was still costly, so the East Lansing Band and Orchestra Parents, alongside the directors, held a mattress sale, a Trojan Yeti tumbler fundraiser and Little Caesars pizza kit fundraiser that helped students raise about $8,000 to $10,000.

“Maybe 15 or 30 percent of the students took advantage of those [fundraisers], not everybody did but maybe a third,” Larzelere said. “So we always try to create those opportunities, especially for students that really rely on that but you know, not everybody participated in all those.”

One Symphonic Orchestra student did, Josh Johnson (12). He managed to participate in all three of the event fundraisers and raised around $400 all while being busy with school. 

Grace Liggett (12) was a student on the last trip to Chicago in 2018 during middle school, and she hopes nothing unfortunate will cause a shift in the trip during her senior year. 

“I’m excited cause we were supposed to go on the Disney World trip. And then all the COVID-19 stuff happened. So it’s like, ‘Okay, finally, We’re getting really close and I just don’t want it to be cancelled or anything,’” Liggett said.

After four days of travel and performing, students and parents will return home on the early morning of March 27. 

“It’s just a really fun experience with the kids. It’s really a neat experience,” Larzelere