Choir Trips: Educational…Really?

nyctrip1Are those “music trips” educational or are they merely fluff?  I get this question on occasion and if not the actual question at least some of those looks from non-believers who think us music teacher’s use these trips to manipulate students into signing up for choir.  The trip is certainly a highlight of the year; something the students look forward to as the culminating event of the year and sometimes for the right reasons but I admit most of the time their reason for looking forward to the trip is the fun, the friends, and the stuff we have planned.  As the trip gets underway and afterward, it is a different story as the students experience the “much more” of music trips and I so enjoy hearing them share their new discoveries.

The Hays High Chamber Singers recently traveled to New York City and on our return I offered a survey to gather some data about the value of the trip. Before I share some of the survey results, let me tell you about this trip.

The idea of a trip came about in a unique way. In fact, this was not a travel year for Chamber Singers.  It is our tradition to travel every carnegiebillother year.  Last year, the summer of 2013, we traveled to Florida and did the Disney experience and also took a Bahamas’s cruise so we were not scheduled to take a trip in 2014; it was an off year.  The NYC trip, unique from the beginning, emerged from a performing relationship with the Staley High School Chamber Singers on an annual Martin Luther King memorial concert; three concerts were held at the First United Methodist Church in Hays and one at Grace Cathedral in Kansas City.   My friend Tracy Ressequie, choral director at Staley High School in the north Kansas City area, contacted me with the opportunity for our choirs to perform together at Carnegie Hall – the NYC trip would build yet another performance memory between these two choral programs.  Because Tracy had conducted and had choirs perform at Carnegie Hall he was able to put together a wonderful experience for our students.  Staley and Hays High would combine with three other choirs from New Jersey to perform Dan Forrest’s “Requiem for the Living.”  Tracy would rehearse and conduct the choir, professional orchestra, and professional soloist. And to enhance the experience, Tracy and I would provide the financial means so that the composer, Dan Forrest, could be there for the Sunday rehearsal and performance. (Dan led a valuable question and information session following the rehearsal.  The students asked some very thoughtful questions regarding the music and Dan’s compositional decisions.  Our money was well spent.)

How could we pass on this great opportunity?

I also saw in this opportunity a way to expand the “trip” tradition at HHS. Our past trips included a music performance element, usually of our “show choir” music,  but not to extent of this NYC trip.  Our choir would have to commit to a large amount of rehearsal preparation prior to arriving in NYC and also while at NYC.

Students and chaperones at 9/11 reflective pool.

Students and chaperones at 9/11 reflective pool.

I believed that this enhanced music experience would equate to a greater impact on our choral program with my students taking their experience back home to our rehearsals and concerts and that the combination of the Carnegie performance and other educational opportunities experienced on the trip would have a greater positive influence on the rest of their lives.  What were some of the educational opportunities? I am sure there are more but here is what I gleaned from our itinerary: airline travel, budgeting, the NYC big city environment, Times Square, 9/11 Memorial, NYC Subway, Carnegie Hall Performance, Broadway Show, seeing major national landmarks such as the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station, multicultural experience, NYC Harbor Cruise, time management, group dynamics (roommates, chaperone groups), and rehearsals.


9/11 Memorial in Background

9/11 Memorial in Background

Twenty-eight choir members, two directors, and nineteen adults embarked on an educational experience from Hays, Kansas on June 11 and would return to Hays on June 16.  I want to share with you some of the reflections from the twenty four respondents to the survey, twelve students and twelve adults.  100% of the respondents felt the trip was of educational value and worth the time and expense. Here are some of their personal statements by question.


Question:  What was an educational highlight for you on the NYC trip? Please describe and tell why.

  • #1. Seeing Empire State Building is an important American Icon. #2 Statue of Liberty because its history of U.S.A and British relations. #3.Visiting ‘ground zero’ memorial to have a better understanding of what people lost from a senseless terrorist attack. #4. Seeing Broadway Show to see possibility of music professional career.
  • By attending a Broadway show and dining at a restaurant full of wait staff aggressively trying to get into Broadway, all of us were afforded the opportunity to see firsthand the talent of others and the work they have to put into that chosen career path. This is especially useful at a time where TV shows such as The Voice and American Idol can make the process look much easier than it is for the majority. This experience allowed a more practical and forthright conversation with my child regarding her continuing education goals which was great!
  • Carnegie Hall Concert. Because of the experience and quality performance
  • For my son to be able to experience the culture and what it would be like to live in a big city like New York.
  • Getting to learn about places and things in the biggest city in the U.S.
  • Getting to take the students to the 9/11 memorial. It was a very powerful experience for both the kids and parents to get to visit the site and learn about what happened that day and see firsthand the size and magnitude of what happened.
  • Going to Ground Zero was definitely an educational highlight. Spending time with these awesome kids and watching them follow directions, experience ‘NY’ and making decisions. So glad I was able to be a part of the group.
  • I think seeing the culture of Carnegie Hall and how rich in history it is was pretty dang cool.
  • I, myself, produce music. I also love choir, and the choral art. The largest educational value was seeing the way Tracy rehearsed not only with the choir, but with the orchestra that played with us and observing the techniques used in production of choral scores. There is a large difference between seeing it in real life, and listening to it on a mp3.
  • Learning more about the 9/11 memorial definitely stood out to me. I never knew that there were a larger amount of people saved than killed. I also found out that a tree somehow survived from all of the rubble that it was underneath.
  • Rehearsing with all the different choirs and being able to work with different conductors to increase my ability to work with others. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
  • Seeing the Statue of Liberty was awe inspiring for me!!! But…I could go on and on about the entire New York experience. Unforgettable and priceless!
  • Singing in Carnegie Hall was educational because we got to sing in a place where so much music has been made. So many great people have sung or performed there and it was an honor and an experience to sing there.
  • Something I found educational was just realizing and being a part of a completely different culture and lifestyle for four days. It was really interesting and neat to be in a place so different from Kansas. Not to mention all the fun things we got to experience like Broadway shows and other neat things New York has to offer.
  • Taking some of the kids down to World Trade Center Tower One and the reflecting pools. Very good for the kid as most were only 4 or 5 yrs old when it happened.
  • The diversity of the city. How different life is there compared to here.
  • The opportunity to perform a wonderful piece of music with other choirs in world famous Carnegie Hall. Working on the piece was a great experience, but performing it with the composer on sight and with his suggestions was priceless. Performing it with a professional orchestra is something many high school choirs will never get to experience.
  • The performance with the professional musicians. It helped to push us to perform even better.
  • The rehearsals and concerts-music-making in a different atmosphere and with different ensembles is always eye-opening.
  • The World Trade Center Memorial was my highlight. It is a very important part of history in our lifetime, and something I’ll never forget.
  • Visiting ground zero. It was a significant part of American history that became real to me.
  • We got the opportunity to be a part of something professional and amazing. Carnegie hall itself is a huge deal. But we were able to premiere a piece, meet the composer, and experience a professional orchestra and concert.

Question:  List educational benefits of the Carnegie Hall Trip. Parents, what did our students learn? Students, what did you learn?

  • 1. Working with other choirs 2. Working under a different conductor 3. Performing with a professional orchestra 4. Meeting the composer and being able to ask questions about why he wrote the piece and his motivation for doing some sections the way he did 5. Performing in a professional atmosphere
  • As a family, we discussed the history of Carnegie Hall and those who performed there and what impact Carnegie has had on so many performers. That conversation was made more awesome upon seeing the beautiful architecture and just the majestic feel of being there. We brought this around in a conversation about attainable goals and dreams through handwork and dedication. It is important for our children to experience, when possible, rare and beautiful opportunities such as this trip. It will be a lesson and life-moment they will never forget.
  • Great performance opportunity for the students-i.e.working with a professional orchestra.
  • I feel the new experiences for our students and the cultural atmosphere will help them understand our world on a broader scale. I also feel that many of them realized new ambitions to strive for while they were in New York!
  • I learned a bunch about New York and its different boroughs which I thought was pretty cool. I loved seeing all of the different sights and being in places such as the World Trade Center and how it was rebuilding was really cool.
  • I learned a lot of the technical side of the Requiem from Dan and Tracy.
  • I learned about the professional music world. How sometimes all you get is one rehearsal with the orchestra and then concert. Your focus as a performer must be at its highest level at all times in order to do well. I also learned that I want to perform professionally like that someday.
  • I learned that all the sections need to work together to balance the sound of the choir. I learned the three v’s. Vibrato, volume, and vowels which you use to make a communal sound.
  • I learned way more than just ideas of music and theory. There was a massive geology lesson, the social skills lesson, learning how to make a plan and follow through with that plan even through chaotic situations. There were many life lessons learned, as well as the educational experience with music.
  • I learned what it was like to sing in such a famous hall. Also, what it was like to sing with a professional orchestra and solo singers.
  • I learned what it’s like to experience city life, I learned that people in big cities are not near as conservative as people in smaller areas, I learned the discipline of performing a 30 some minute piece of music, all while having a great time.
  • I saw so many things in NY that I will never forget. I also was impressed with our students and proud to be a part of the Hays High group. This was a trip that our students will never forget and somehow believe with the decisions they had to make, all the sights of being in NY, performing at Carnegie Hall has made them be more responsible young adults. They learned that hard work does pay off and what a great feeling that must have been. Being able to attend a ‘Broadway’ show was also an amazing experience for the students to see. Our kids are performing all the time, so it was great for them to experience that.
  • I think the students learned the dedication it takes to be a professional performer when we attended Newsies. They learned some history of our country when visiting many of the sights, be it at St Patrick’s, Grand Central, or the Empire State building. And they learned how to get around and function in a big city.
  • It helped us to combine with other choirs and learn to sing with people other than just us for a change. We had to learn to adapt quickly to a new sound.
  • Musically I learned how to have a better tone. How to sing well with a large group. How to sing with an orchestra.
  • Some educational benefits were learning more about why Dan Forrest wrote the Requiem. And getting to ask him questions was really cool. Another benefit was learning about how culturally different everyone is in New York. Seeing so many races there makes so no one stands out. So by seeing all of these people every day, I believe people are desensitized to the idea of racism.
  • Students learned to perform in such a wonderful place. The confidence it gave them to know they were there made it worth all the practice and work to get there.
  • The experience of getting to sing in a place that some of the best musicians in the world have performed in. Getting to visit some of our nation’s monuments and see them first hand instead of reading about them. Learning how to navigate a large city.
  • The piece was a difficult one…great to see other choirs…the opera performers…the whole performance atmosphere of NYC and Carnegie Hall.
  • They learned about a different life style. I hope they learned to appreciate where they come from.
  • To be able to perform in an iconic place and experience what it would feel like to be in the spotlight. My student learned that it takes lots of hard work and dedication to become a professional singer.

    Chamber Singers hold Hays Daily News Paper dated June 16, 2014

    Chamber Singers hold Hays Daily News Paper dated June 16, 2014


Question:  Parents, from your perspective, and Students, from your perspective, what was your most enjoyable experience? Describe.

  • Without a doubt the 9/11 memorial. I learned so much, and it was a very eye opening- emotional moment.
  • Broadway , Carnegie hall, and the energy and vibe of New York City.
  • Enjoyed the concert at Carnegie and the site seeing described in #6. The NYC trip was very educational for the students and parents who went. For some individuals this trip was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to see NYC and for many a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to perform at Carnegie Hall. Even though it was a costly trip I think it would be difficult to refer to it as a ‘fluff’ trip. What price do you put on a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ and the pride each student felt and will feel in the future when he/she says ‘I performed at Carnegie Hall in 2014’?
  • Getting to spend time together and being able to perform in one of the most amazing auditoriums in the world.
  • I enjoyed most of the trip. My favorite part was seeing my child perform at Carnegie Hall.
  • I thought the applause from all of the audience was flat-out awesome, but I also loved seeing the view of NYC by the harbor with the freedom tower and Brooklyn Bridge was incredible.
  • It is impossible to answer this since I was on ‘Cloud 9’ the entire time I was in New York! I loved the cruise and seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Broadway musicals the most, I suppose, but every other activity was right up there with them!!! I loved the group of people we went with; each and every one of them will be missed immensely-my Chamber Singer family! You all were so friendly, helpful, and extremely hilarious to travel with!!! Thank you so much!! Andrea
  • Just being in NY and watching the kids experience so many different things. I was so proud of our students and proud to have been a part of this wonderful trip!! Thank you so much for giving our kids this opportunity! It was truly worth it!
  • Just everything was amazing.
  • My most enjoyable experience was not singing at Carnegie Hall, but it was when a small group of chamber singers went to Times Square and we sang “Let the River Run” there. It was just awesome to see people stop talking and just listen to you. It was definitely my favorite experience from the whole trip.
  • My most enjoyable experience was just being in Times Square in New York. Being in the center of the ‘City that Never Sleeps’ was amazing. Looking around at all the lights and moving screens and just being among all those people was an experience in itself.
  • My most enjoyable experience was probably attending the Broadway show Newsies and the show The Fantasticks. I love theatre so seeing them was so much fun. I also really enjoyed just being in New York, experiencing all it has to offer. And of course singing at Carnegie was such an honor.
  • My son enjoyed the trip tremendously and his favorite part was attending the Broadway show. He commented that the performers were amazingly talented. He also liked the restaurant experience where there was aspiring singers performing. As parents we are so appreciative of Hays High allowing this opportunity for our son. We also want to thank Johnny Matlock for his passion for teaching music in the school and his commitment to making the New York trip a huge success. It will be something my son will be forever grateful to have had this musical experience. I completed survey using my IPhone so not sure if the rankings above were recorded. Marked everything as a ‘1’ except for time management as a ‘2’. Thank you.
  • Seeing those great kids up on the stage at such an historical place, and then hearing their wonderful performance at Carnegie Hall.
  • Singing in Carnegie!!
  • That is a hard question because every single day in NYC was enjoyable! For the sake of having to narrow my answer, I will say that the Broadway Show was my favorite experience next to seeing my child singing in Carnegie Hall. What a blessed event! Overall, sharing the experience of being in NYC with the cultural diversity and shopping with my kiddo was just awesome.
  • The Broadway show, it was a big help to see professionals do a show to help us prepare for musical next year.
  • The Carnegie Hall performance.
  • The entire Carnegie Hall experience from getting to perform to the cruse afterwards.
  • The last opportunity to be a family with this Chamber Singers Group. I have become very close to them and this will probably be the last time this group will all be together. The way they genuinely care about each other and enjoy being together and doing things with each other. Going to the 9/11 Memorial and seeing how touched they were and respectful of the moment. Going to the Broadway show and seeing how excited they were to experience this. I wouldn’t trade any of the moments we enjoyed together on this trip.
  • The performance was the most enjoyable!
  • Time spent with my daughter. Sight-seeing


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Johnny Matlock 217 West 24th Street Hays, Kansas 67601 Phone: 785-623-1412 Email: