Groups receive "I" ratings
After performing at Epcot Center, enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney World and winning several large trophies on their long-awaited journey to Florida, there was only one thing left for members of the Storm Lake High School band, orchestra and choir to enjoy late Sunday night: the bright shining lights of a large escort comprised of police cars, parents and supporters accompanying them home to the high school parking lot.
The positive reception back home mirrored the entire Orlando trip for the SLHS ensembles, as all three groups received "I" ratings for their performances at MusicFest Orlando, a three-month competition featuring students from high schools across the country.
A trio of large trophies were the physical reminder of the success the Tornado musicians enjoyed on stage, and SLHS band director Frank Hoskins said that reflected well on the quality of the Storm Lake music department as a whole.
"I was pleased with the fact that all three of our groups ended up with first place in their divisions," Hoskins said. "I was happy with that, because it means we have a very balanced program. I believe in a strong music department as a whole rather than just strong entities within that department, and I also think it really gives the students a feeling of pride and unity to know that all three of the entities are successful ones."
"The students did very, very well," SLHS orchestra director Carol Peterson said. "They performed well on stage, and they were absolutely wonderful off the stage as well. There's no other way to describe it. They were very well-behaved throughout the entire trip, and it really was a great experience for everyone."
After arriving in Orlando early Wednesday morning, the students performed in front of a large crowd in Epcot Center on Thursday morning, and Hoskins said all three ensembles shook off the jet lag to deliver noteworthy concerts on the Future World West stage.
"I made the comment to the kids that there were probably some people from Europe that listed to us that don't have any idea where Storm Lake is, but they know that Storm Lake has a fine music department," Hoskins said. "The chaperones that were in the crowd told us they heard positive comments from many people, and that's a big tribute to our kids and the way they performed."
The musicians competed in the national MusicFest competition on Saturday afternoon in front of judges from institutions such as the University of Florida and Daytona Beach Community College, and Peterson said she was impressed by the way the students were able to rise to the occasion and give a virtuoso performance of the various musical literature.
"The way they were able to focus in and play at that high level was rewarding to see," Peterson said. "I think they were proud of the way they played, and for them to see that all three groups did well made them feel even better."
"Everyone commented on how well-mannered the kids were, and that speaks very highly of them," Peterson said. "Everywhere we went, from the restaurants to hotels to the beach, people told us that they were impressed by the way they handled themselves. That was important, because the kids heard all of that feedback too, and they saw the importance of being able to handle themselves well. It was definitely a positive experience for everyone."
That positive experience was made even sweeter by the police escort home from the weigh station near Early on Highway 71 all the way home, and Hoskins said the stream of car lights illuminating the buses during the last stretch of pavement before hitting the SLHS parking lot made a big impact on the bus passengers.
"I think the kids really appreciated that," Hoskins said. "That really made them feel important. One of the goals we are after is the pride factor that comes from playing in the music department, and that show of support from the community bolstered that quite a bit. They really enjoyed that."
All three ensembles will perform selections from their Orlando itinerary at their spring concert on April 24, and Hoskins is confident that the high level of morale and satisfaction the students gained from the trip will be evident not only in the spring performance but in future events as well.
"It was a neat thing, because by Friday we weren't individuals, but we were almost like a family," Hoskins said. "We were the music department as a whole, and we were protective of one another, conscious of one another and supportive of everything all of the other groups did.
"The trip was a performance trip, but it wasn't just for the music," Hoskins continued. "It was to have the students feel like they were part of a large whole, and to give them the feeling of knowing that they accomplished something great. That was totally accomplished with this trip."