By Suzanne Schmidt
Extra hours of practicing paid off for students in the jazz band at Raymond B. Stewart Middle School when they learned they are going to Disney.
The Zephyrhills students will be playing on the Waterside stage at Walt Disney World Village April 25.
Scott Leahy, director of band at the school, said he is excited for the opportunity.
“We get to perform on a professional stage with sound and lighting,” Leahy said. “It is an exciting opportunity for them to see what it could be like to be professional musicians. It will be great because anybody who wants to come and watch can. It won’t be in one of the parks, so it won’t cost anything.”
While the students are there, they will get to visit one of the Disney parks.
“It is also a great time for them to bond,” Leahy said. “It helps them to become a better team and to learn to work together and support each other.”
The cost for each student to go is about $60 for transportation and ticket to the park. There are about 20 students in the jazz band. Leahy and his students have been selling candy bars to raise money for the trip, but he said he is also looking for business sponsors.
When Leahy first learned of the opportunity to perform at Disney, he decided it would be perfect for his students.
“The kids were getting ready for their evaluations and I told them if they get superiors, then I would look into the trip to Disney,” Leahy said. “We had a video made of the evaluation performance and that is what we sent to Disney.”
The evaluation was at Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School February 12. The students won straight superiors from the Florida Band Masters Association, so Leahy kept his promise and sent in the audition tape.
“In mid-March we found out we were going,” Leahy said. “They were very excited.”
Courtney Wong, 14, plays the tenor saxophone in the jazz band. She said she is really excited about going to Disney.
“It is such a good opportunity to get our music we play out there,” Wong said. “When I found out we were going, I was on stage at a performance. I started freaking out.”
Patrick Hildebrand, 13, plays the trombone in the jazz band. He said he is looking forward to performing and enjoying Disney without his family.
“It is exciting to get to play at Disney because we will be playing for a lot of people,” Hildebrand said. “I have never gone to Disney with my friends before. I usually go with family and my little annoying brothers.”
Zachary Winters, 13, plays percussion in the jazz band. He said he is looking forward to playing on a Disney drum set.
“I am really excited because Disney is providing the drum set for me to play,” Winters said. “It is probably an amazing drum set, because it is Disney.”
He said he worked very hard to make sure he did his best at the evaluation.
“I always play hard everyday, but I put in the most effort I could,” Winters said. “When I found out we were going to Disney, I was very excited.”
After Disney, Leahy is gearing up for the Dynamic Music Fest May 8 in Orlando. The concert band will be competing and the jazz band will give their end of year concert 7 p.m. May 27 at Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School, 30651 Wells Road. For more information, call (813) 794-6500.