At 6:00 a.m on Friday, April 12th, most students at Walpole High were probably sleeping, or just waking up to face the last day of school before April vacation. For the music department, however, 6:00 was the meeting time for the highly anticipated trip to Philadelphia. Sleepy students collected in the auditorium with breakfast in hand as they waited to be piled onto the buses for the long road trip. After a lot of yelling “Yeah, Philly!” (the catch phrase of the trip), the students loaded the coach buses and, after months of excitement, were finally on their way to Philadelphia.
The seemingly tortuous 8 hour bus ride was surprisingly short, as the group stopped at two rest stops on the way. While some students took advantage of the long ride and caught up on sleep, others listened to music, watched movies, and moved around the bus to see other friends. All three buses had their own dynamic and some even had their own chants, which made the trip a bit more competitive but more fun.
The first stop in Philly was at the Philadelphia Zoo, and having only an hour and a half, students ran around to see as many animals as they could. Popular animals were the red panda, the sea otters, and the cats (jaguars, tigers, etc.) After a quick stop at dinner, and a long day behind them, the group finally got to the hotel. Tired as they were, everyone gathered in the group meeting room to discuss the agenda for the next few days, and were finally sent to their rooms to sleep.
Saturday was the day of the music clinic, the actual purpose for the trip. Students from the Orchestra, Band, Jazz Choir, and Chorus dressed up to perform for a professional who then went on to critique their performances and give tips on how to make them better musicians. All groups performed the same music that they did during the spring concert, which had been on Wednesday, April 10th. The instructor focused on the small things that all come together to make any performance more professional, and gave the groups numerous aspects of their performances to improve on for future years. After the clinic, everyone changed into their casual clothes and headed to the mall for a quick lunch; after that, the students traveled to the Franklin Institute. The museum featured many interesting exhibits, like amazing machines and even a sports section where visitors could test their reaction time and their balance on a surfboard.
This jam packed day still had more to do, and the next stop was a dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in the midst of the beautiful city. One of the most interesting moments of the day happened when, after dinner as everyone waited for the buses, some of the drama club kids decided to perform a flash mob on the sidewalk. But the best part of the agenda for the day was bowling, where Walpole High kids filled up the lanes and showed their competitive sides. When cosmic bowling started, the lights went off, the blacklights and music came on, and the dancing bowlers did everything from the Cupid Shuffle to a congo line. “The best part of the Philly trip was definitely bowling,” said senior Chris Nash; “It was a huge dance party.” Happy but exhausted, the students ended the night back in their rooms and prepared to wake up to their last full day in Philly.
Sunday had a very simple schedule: spend the entire day at Six Flags Great Adventure. Students spent all day going on some of the most extreme rides the world has to offer. Kingda Ka was very popular, being the tallest roller coaster in the world as well as the second fastest. Other extreme roller coasters included Bizarro, El Toro, Superman, Green Lantern, and Nitro, among others. Not all of the kids liked the big rides, and others took turns at the amusement park games, and many were successful: the bus ride home was filled with giant stuffed animals. Mr. Michael Falker, music director, decided to call all of the students to the hotel meeting room and proceeded to tell them that they were the best group he had ever taken. After that, he invited students to put on some music and perform in front of the trip members. Freshman Gemarre Gunn performed part of his original song, “Light It Up;” a group of freshmen girls did the Cupid Shuffle; sophomore Ariana and senior Becky Chariton did their signature dance to “Sexy and I Know It;” and junior Nikki Mich and sophomore Kayla McBrien did the Cup Song from the movie “Pitch Perfect”.
The last day of Philly was very bittersweet, and many students were reluctant to leave. Packing up and putting everything on the buses, the music department finally left the city and headed to the aquarium in New Jersey. The aquarium featured Mighty Mike, a huge alligator, and a shark tunnel that many students found fascinating. There were even tanks where visitors could touch sting rays and baby sharks, among other creatures. The actual bus ride to Walpole then began, and that was when students slowly began to hear about the disaster in Boston. Checking in on their families and friends, the buses were abuzz with chatter at the next rest stop as they all rushed to find information. After a long bus ride that was both anxious and dreary, they arrived at Walpole High at around 8 p.m and departed from each other.
This trip, that happens every two years. was phenomenal for all that attended, and many chaperones as well as Mr. Falker told the group that it was the best and the most well behaved bunch that he had ever had. For the seniors, Philly was one of the events that marked the end of senior year; and for everyone, it was a great memory.