NEW: STUDENTS RETURN FROM FLORIDA
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
“I think it’s been a great week. I hope everybody feels that way.”
That was the quick assessment from Freeman Junior-Senior High School band director Sheila Wipf around noon on Tuesday as students and chaperones were entering the home stretch of their 30-hour return by charter bus from Florida to Freeman.
“This was just as good of a trip as any I’ve taken and I hope they learned something along the way,” Wipf said. “We had many who had never really experienced anything like this — who have not been away — so it was fun to see them get some real-life experience.”
That came in the form of travel and all that goes along with it, and featured professionally-engineered choir and band workshops at Disney World and the unique opportunity to visit the famous parks of Florida for extended periods of time.
“The important things are always that everybody shows up when they’re supposed to show up so we’re not worried about them,” Wipf said. “And everything worked out just fine.”
This year’s trip included 63 music students in grades 7-12, 17 adult chaperones and three music teachers, and two younger students who just finished their fifth-grade year who joined their chaperone parents on the trip.
The group left in two charter buses out of Freeman at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 7, arrived at Florida later Thursday afternoon and hit the road for home the following Monday afternoon, returning shortly after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 13.
The bulk of the time in Florida was spent at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, and at their nearby hotel in Winter Garden. The choir also spent time at a workshop at Studio B located in the backlot of Epcot while the band visited a soundstage at Universal for a workshop of their own.
The agenda also included a visit to Cocoa Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
“Hopefully the trip was liberating for the kids,” said Darrell Omanson of Omanson Travel & Tour, the travel agent Wipf worked with who accompanied the group to Florida. “This really was a true education for them.”
Omanson had high praise for the students, chaperones and the administrator who accompanied the group, principal Katie Juhnke.
“It’s a good bunch of kids,” he said. “Nice, polite, all that. They say ‘thank you’ when you get off the bus …
“You’ve got to give credit to the administrator who was along,” Omanson continued. “Often times administrators who are on these trips aren’t where they’re supposed to be — it’s not their problem, you know? And I can say your administrator knew her role and performed perfectly.”
As for working with Wipf, he said it was a delight.
“It’s nice working with a seasoned director who knows the business inside and out,” he said. “The trip outpaced my expectations only because of the personnel involved.”
Omanson has a personal appreciation for a music trip like the one taken this past week; he taught music for 28 years in Minnesota and Iowa and was the band director at Lincoln in Sioux Falls for 10 years before starting his travel agency in 1999. And while music was the impetus for Freeman Public’s excursion in Florida, there is great value in it beyond that.
“Even if these are kids who aren’t pursuing music as a career, it also opens other windows,” he says. “A lot of stuff gets lodged away; they may realize later that they learned something along the way but aren’t sure where.”
And then there’s what he calls “the communal effect.”
“There’s value in learning how to get along with each other on a trip like this,” he said, “and seeing how a big group functions as a whole.”