Harrison High School Successfully Engages in its First Ever District-Wide Caroling Trip!


Ella Zamek, Staff Writer

On Friday, December 23rd, music students from Harrison High School (HHS) went on a trip to spread holiday cheer to the elementary schools in the district, as well as the middle school. The students arrived at the band room, rehearsed for a little bit together, and then got on a bus to travel to the schools. After a full day of caroling, they returned to HHS to play and sing some more in the hallways before dismissal. The students were accompanied by Mr. Bastone and Ms. Loertscher, the orchestra and band teachers at HHS, and the new Director of Fine and Performing Arts, Mr. Royal. 

Mr. Royal, who has a background in opera and teaching elementary and middle school chorus, was the one who spearheaded the event. He explained how his inspiration came from something he has seen other districts do. 

So in my previous position, when I was in another district, we would do a faculty caroling brass quartet around our school and that was always a really nice thing the day before break to get into the holiday spirit so I thought it would be a nice idea.” Also, “I know some other school districts around here do a similar activity, so I thought it would be a nice idea to see if we could go to all of our elementary schools and see if we could build the program’s presence in all of our schools and spread some cheer.” Based on the reaction of all participants and viewers, that cheer was well received and the trip was a great step in building the music program’s presence. 

Joey Lipple-Smetana, a sophomore chorus student who attended the trip, said, “I’ve never gone caroling before. I felt like I was connected to everyone around me, and it didn’t matter that I was dressed like a crazy person or tired or sweaty, we were making people laugh. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.” Similarly, Mr. Royal commented on this connection saying, “Seeing like high school seniors that haven’t been back to their elementary school in a long time kind of light up and that feeling of nostalgia there’s a really nice feeling of togetherness in that.” This feeling of togetherness was felt by many people during the event, partially because of the location and nostalgia, but also the holiday music. The Right for Education organization says, “When a culture shares a particular type of music, this can create a sense of togetherness. This is because as emotions are shared and received, they become part of a collective experience…The inclusive nature of music allows us all to take part, even through passive listening, in a communal form of art. Music connects us because it is universal.” 

The caroling trip was enjoyable for HHS students, but it was even more special for the students involved in the district’s music program at LMK and the elementary schools. Mr. Bastone explained, “It was really nice to see how happy it made the younger kids and I think they were just excited to see something that was outside of their normal school routine but especially for those students who are already involved in our music program here at Harrison I think it was really exciting for them to see something that is going to be a potential like option for them when they get older.” 

Showing students in Harrison’s music program examples of musicians in older grades has always been important, but especially post-covid, because it is vital to the continuation of involvement of students in the programs. Mr. Bastone said, “A lot of students especially students in our instrumental music programs here in Harrison didn’t have the best time doing orchestra and band over zoom for a year and a half and unfortunately a lot of students dropped our classes like from fourth grade through twelfth grade, so doing things like this is really important to rebuild our instrumental music programs in the district.”

Hopefully, more trips of this nature can be planned in the future. This possibility seems very likely, as Mr. Royal said, It’s one of my big priorities to make sure that from our kindergarteners to our seniors there’s a lot of connection between our program and kids are able to see what the path of being a musician or an artist here in Harrison looks like from the beginning to end.” 

The caroling trip was a great first step in carrying out Mr. Royal’s goal. All of the children involved had a fantastic experience that they will never forget. Ms. Tvenge, a music teacher at Preston who has been there for 9 years, said, “I didn’t see any students to hear what they said after the caroling, but I know the teachers said it was wonderful to see former Preston students performing and everyone enjoying the music together. Many of our Preston students were singing along to the songs the high schoolers played and sang.” 

Hana Yamazaki, a student on the trip, similarly stated, “It was my first time playing in the chorus, band, and orchestra group, and I really loved it. The way elementary and middle school students sang with us was also so much fun and they were so cute.” Hana also said, “I would love to go again if it was offered next year. I really liked playing in front of other schools and I really loved the atmosphere while playing.”  

It seems that many students are excited for the trip to run again next year. Mr. Royal predicted that “One of the things we are going to run into as a challenge is too many students wanting to go.” So, chorus, band, and orchestra students, if you are interested in going on this trip next year, you’d better sign up fast!