Showcase stars are students

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Souhegan High School Band Director Carl Benevides, left, and Ethan Boucher, 17, a senior at SHS who has been a musician since he was a fourth-grade student, prepare for a final practice rehearsal before leaving to perform at Disney World in Florida.

Toothbrush, check. Sunscreen, check. Clarinet, drums and tuba, check, check check.

Transporting by air and coach the people and equipment headed for a week in the sun was a happy task. Student musicians, singers, band and chorus personnel, in addition to volunteer travel companions from Hollis Brookline, Souhegan and Milford high schools, voiced no complaints. The destination was Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Disney Performing Arts, an affiliated Disney organization, assisted in arranging for a grand set of musical showcases, presented at Disney venues during the visit, Feb. 21-26.

The combined concert bands and chorus included students from all three schools. Conductors Dave Umstead, of Hollis Brookline, Carl Benevides, of Souhegan and Vincent Duval, a volunteer conductor from Hollis and parent of a participant, directed portions of the musical interludes. Kim Whitehead, of Souhegan, led the combined choir. Matt Barbosa, of Hollis Brookline, conducted singers. The Milford concert band was cheered with leader Brad Smith at the helm.

A pre-trip concert at the Souhegan High auditorium brought together the participants for a final planning session. Parents, students and others shared details about lodging, food services and attractions at Disney. Matt Barbosa and the other educators guaranteed a valuable learning experience.

“We are very fortunate in this region to have support from all three schools whose musicians are sharing this activity,” said Barbosa. “Without that support, it couldn’t be possible.”

Chris Landry, of CSL Tours in Hudson, spoke to those who initially would be aboard a trio of tour busses. Departure times for a bus at each school were confirmed. Highlights of the Florida jaunt included word about dinners with Disney meal cards, a show at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and a band clinic at Contemporary Resort. Free time at Universal and Islands of Adventure was included.

Norm Gagne, a resident of Amherst, attended the meeting in the auditorium. He listened to his daughter, Amanda Fulton, 15, a freshman at Souhegan, as she and her songmates mounted the stage to perform with the chorus. The auditorium’s professional lighting and sound system added a Hollywood flair to the pre-trip recital. Soon, Amanda and others would take wing. Their adventure was just around the corner – 1,303 miles away.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to perform at Disney,” Amanda said. “It’s an experience of new horizons and group involvement.”

Loretta Jackson may be contacted via email: