Sunday, May 1, 2011

Home Sweet Home

After a long drive through the night, we arrived safely at Saint Patrick High School at 11:45 a.m. Sunday morning. We finished our trip Saturday with fantastic UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival performances by the Percussion Combo and Jazz Band. Both groups received welcome comments from judges. Before we began our trip home, we had a final dinner with and farewell to our tour guide, Donna Hoffman, and bus driver, David Dewey. The trip was exceedingly smooth largely because of their efforts. In appreciation, the students presented them with a monetary gift and school sweatshirts.

In a couple of weeks we will try to have a reunion/party for the trip at which time we will share pics. More details to follow.

Thank you for your support of this trip. Thanks to chaperone John Spizzirri for helping me and Mr. Lea manage the students and the trip activities. We hope that this trip made music, made memories, and made history for the students of Saint Patrick High School.

More miscellaneous pics from the trip:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Let it snow....

So the plan was to get up bright and early, be on the road by 8 a.m., get to Rocky Mountain National Park by 9:30, and enjoy the scenic vistas and majestic nature before the weather was supposed to roll in later in the day. Everything went according to plan except, of course, the weather. As unpredictable as Chicago weather can be, it's nothing compared to springtime in the Rockies. Today there was consistent snowfall that began to accumulate as we headed up the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. We hoped to get above the weather in order to see the continental divide and western slope, but the weather did not cooperate. After about one hour in the park, we decided to leave and do some shopping at the Fall River visitor center. After lunch in Estes Park, we decided to travel south with the hopes of better weather, again to no avail. On the bright side, the students were treated to the sights of Big Thompson Canyon and the Lyons, CO area.

After a short respite, we had dinner and went to the Jazz Festival concert. Tonight's lineup featured the Festival All-Star Band and jazz legends Chick Corea, piano and Gary Burton, vibraphone. The performance was stellar and included their take on Eleanor Rigby, Strange Meadow Lark, and Blue Monk among others. For the month of April, the Shamrocks have been treated to performances by artists that have won a total of 25 Grammy Awards! To say that they have been exposed to great music is an understatement. This month has been one to never forget.

We will be on the road tomorrow, so I may not be able to post an article. Plan on the students arriving a couple hours earlier on Sunday than originally planned. We hope to be on the road tomorrow night by 6 p.m. local time.

Some pics from the day:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The UCCC Was On Fire!

....with great music that is. Day 3 in our journey was all about the voice. Shamrockappella, Northern Colorado Voices, New York Voices, and grade school, high school, and college vocal jazz ensembles from all over the country. Literally. There are groups at this three-day festival from ILLINOIS (obviously), Georgia, Maryland, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho.... well you get the idea.

The Shamrocks did a wonderful job in their premiere festival performance. Soloists Luis Rivas, Jimmy Keating, and Kevin Jandrists were recognized for their outstanding performances. Following their HOT performance, the judge/clinician began working with them, until the fire alarm went off! We had to vacate the theater and while outside, the clinician continued to help out our singers. The running joke was that the fire alarm went off BECAUSE of the Shamrockappella performance. Truth is, we don't really know, so maybe it did!

After a great dinner at Three Margaritas restaurant (don't worry, nobody was served alcohol), we returned to the Union Colony Civic Center for a FANTASTIC concert with Northern Colorado Voices and the world famous New York Voices. NYV played alongside the UNC Jazz Lab Band, who just received the Downbeat Award for Outstanding Collegiate Jazz Big Band. They performed for about 90 minutes to a standing ovation and an encore.

We returned to the hotel energized and inspired. We begin tomorrow bright and early, loading the bus at 8 a.m., so it's off to sleep.

Below are some pics from today:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder....

As I type this, we are now in Greeley after a fantastic day of activities and sight-seeing.

Day two's activities began at Peterson AFB, home of the Falconaires, the Air Force Academy's Jazz Ensemble. It's a professional military group that serves to promote the Air Force Academy and the USAF music program. Their members are accepted only by audition and have trained in some of the top music schools in the country. The Falconaires treated us to a performance, clinic, and tour of the facility. During their performance, our students were able to sit in with the band and watch their skill up-close. Afterwards, our students played and received great suggestions and then heard a performance of their music by the members of the Falc's. The group then broke up and received small-group clinics led by the pros. You can hear how great the Falcolnaires play by clicking here: It is from their latest release that, along with some USAF Academy swag, was given to every student.

After a filling lunch at the Golden Corral, we made our way over to the Air Force Academy. While there we toured the academy grounds, Visitor's Center and saw a video about the academy. The highlight of the visit, however, was our trip to the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. Built in 1963 by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (the same firm that constructed the Sears Tower & John Hancock Building), it actually features four chapels of different denominations - Protestant, Catholic, Judaism, and Buddhist. Its most prominent feature are 17 enormous spires. Soaring 150 feet in the air, the chapel can be easily seen from Interstate 25, several miles to the east. According to their website, "The Cadet Chapel staff's mission is to inspire men and women to become leaders of character through spiritual formation."

Our tour guide, Donna Hoffman, then led us on a bus tour of Denver. While there we saw the state capitol, performing arts center, Lower Downtown (LODO), Coors Field, Pepsi Center, Invesco Field at Mile High, and some of the city's historic buildings. We concluded our day with dinner, a traveling Mariachi band, arcade, and other entertainment at Casa Bonita.

Time for some sleep.

Here is a slideshow of today's activies:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day One's Activities

Yesterday, we pulled in to Colorado Springs with inclement weather, unable to see any of the mountains along the way. This morning we awoke to a mostly clear sky with an incredible view of the front range of the Rockies.

Our day began bright and early, boarding the bus at 8:15 a.m., on our way to Pikes Peak via the Cog Railway. Due to the recent snowfall and high winds, we were not able to go to the summit, but nonetheless it was a tremendous experience. Most of the students have never been to mountains of this size and were in awe of their sheer size. The tour guide spoke of the history of the railway, the ecosystems, and the history of Pikes Peak. One of the more interesting facts is that America the Beautiful was written by Katharine Lee Bates while on the summit of Pikes Peak overlooking the spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties of the United States.

After our descent, we made our way to the Garden of the Gods to have lunch, see an informative movie on the history and geology of the park, and take a guided tour of the park itself. The students especially loved the tour because they had a chance to climb on the rocks.

We will be dining this evening at The Airplane restaurant. In the meantime please enjoy the slideshow of our day's events. Go Bulls & Balckhawks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

We're Here!!!

We made it safely to Colorado Springs, pulling in well ahead of schedule at 10:20 p.m. local time.

Some pics from our day:

Loading the bus at 4 a.m. at Saint Pat's

Unloading in Colorado Springs.

Tomorrow we are off to Pike's Peak! Time for some sleep....

We're off!

We left at 4:45 a.m. Thank you to all for your punctuality and your assistance. We're on our way!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trip Meeting

Thanks to all who showed up at our final trip meeting last night. If you were unable to attend, please click the important trip documents listed in the right sidebar. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Welcome to the SPHS Music Trip Weblog

I will make every effort to write about and post pictures of our travels here. Feel free to visit and comment on the daily activities. It's going to be a great trip and, in a way, you'll get to experience it with us.