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Menahga band, choir students prepare for NYC trip

The bright lights of Menahga, rolling in on Highway 71, might be a site to see on a Tuesday night. But the lights of Times Square in Manhattan are a whole different story.

This year in June, Menahga High School will be bringing students to New York City on an educationally-influenced trip full of events and activities.

The trip, largely led and organized by band instructor Beth Holzhueter, will include events such as visits to Times Square and the “Today Show;” a walking tour of Central Park; a visit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; tours of Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State building and the Statue of Liberty; visits to Chinatown, Little Italy and the 911 memorial, and also Broadway show – the leading candidate being “The Phantom of the Opera.”

As if that weren’t enough, other events are on the itinerary as well.

“We’ll be a doing a performance at St. John’s Devine, which I think will be a really cool experience for the kids to perform in a place like that; we are used to performing in a gym. There might be construction going on at the time, but we also plan to go to Carnegie Hall. We will also attend a making music clinic and have a couple other activities planned as well,” said Beth Holzhueter, director of bands for the Menahga school district.

“Performing in a cathedral will also be a really great experience for a lot of them. Even seeing a cathedral will be pretty cool. Performing and seeing a performance in a place like that will be great,” Holzhueter said.

The trip will run from June 9-14, allowing no school time to be missed. Active band or choir members, grades 9-12, are able to participate. The majority of funds will be procured through individual fundraising, although the district plans to provide some financial support as well.

“The only funding from the district will be about $500 for help towards transportation to the Minnesota border. It’s typical for any group that goes on a national trip to get funding help for transportation from their district, so we asked for the same thing from the school board. The rest of it will be funds the kids raise themselves. Whatever portion they raise will go into an account with their name on it, so they will receive the money that they have fundraised. Some of the kids haven’t really fundraised a lot so they will just pay for the trip out of pocket, but some have fundraised a lot. We aren’t bringing 7th and 8th grade groups because it’s an incentive to stay within the band or choir program. As we talk to the younger kids at these fundraisers, we tell them in a few years when you’re in high school you will have opportunities like this and if you fundraise now, a lot of it might already be paid for,” Holzhueter said.

“The students have been really interested in going on a trip, which is a big part of it. I think it’s great for them to have the opportunity to travel. I know being in a rural community that maybe a lot of families don’t go on a lot of trips. I grew up on a farm in Northern Minnesota and we didn’t take trips because you can’t travel when you live on a farm, but I did get to travel a lot because of music. When I was in high school I got to go to Chicago, Florida, Europe and all these other cool places all through different music programs,” Holzhueter said.

A perceivably excited and visibly smiling Holzhueter sees the whole experience as one that will be considered unforgettable by her students.

“I feel like New York City is a huge cultural experience and there is culture everywhere you go. It is a really good thing for kids to see people who are different from them and see what the world is like outside their community. It opens their eyes to a whole new world of what exists in our country. Going to a Broadway show is something a lot of adults never have an opportunity to do in their lifetime. It’s an awesome experience for them,” Holzhueter said.

Explaining the decision to choose New York City, Holzhueter said she liked the idea of a place that had a lot of entertaining attractions with educational implications as well.

“Experiencing different cultures hands-on is a really unique and different way of learning than what we provide in the classroom. I think there is a lot more to learn from a place like New York City than say going to Disney World or some spot where a family might vacation. Although the kids might like the rides, you won’t really learn anything. The trip will also help fulfill two of the national standards for music education: understanding relationships between music and disciplines outside the arts and also understanding music in relation to history and culture,” Holzhueter said.

Superintendent Mary Klamm supports the trip, seeing the value in offering students the chance to see new experiences.

New York City is a cultural hub and it will be a wonderful experience for our students. It’s an opportunity to see different types of music genres and what other parts of the country do with their music programs,” Klamm said.

“I think anytime students have an opportunity to go to another part of the country, it is beneficial. Especially when they are able to interact with other parts of the country, it’s the best hands-on experience you can have. Even going to a McDonald’s in another part of the country can be a cultural experience,” Klamm said.

Both Klamm and Holzhueter see challenges ahead in making sure students stay safe and organized in such a large and unknown city to them. With proper precaution in mind, Holzhueter feels up to the task.

“Whenever you take teenagers on any type of overnight trip, it’s always a challenge. There are many things that need to be addressed in order to ensure that they are taken care of. Making sure they are where they are supposed to be and safe while doing what they’re supposed to be doing are our main concerns. You’re not in your own environment, where you have much more control. When the school board approves a trip such like this, they show a lot of confidence in our staff and students,” Klamm said.

“A day-long bus ride is never too fun. I feel really confident all of the kids will be fine and pretty well behaved, but they are still high school students. They will be accountable when we are doing events to be responsible. It’s a lot busier than what we are accustomed to. I am confident that they will be fine, but I want to still prepare them for that for sure,” Holzhueter said.

Now through Wednesday, Jan. 22 students going on the trip will be selling cookie dough to raise funds for it. Another fundraiser will happen in March when those who would like to support the trip can purchase garbage bags from students participating.

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
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