Submitted by Patrice Harper
On Saturday, Feb. 17, the Natchitoches Central High School Orchestra and 20 parents, grandparents and chaperones traveled to Washington, D.C. to perform at the Capital Orchestra Festival on President’s Day. The Capital Orchestra Festival is an exclusive music event at the Concert Hall of Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Four select orchestras were featured. All participating orchestras were selected by application and audition process through Music Celebrations.
While in Washington, D.C. the group was immersed with knowledge through their numerous sightseeing encounters. Day 1 began very quickly upon arrival. After landing at the airport and collecting luggage the group was met by their tour guide and bus driver and immediately traveled to the newest Smithsonian Museum, the African American Museum.
Next they were on to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and as much as the students loved the Smithsonian Museum tours they also loved the snow that greeted them. After a quick stop at the hotel it was off to an evening tour of the Korean Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. The experience of these memorials was touching and really gives one a true feeling that “Freedom is not free.”
The group woke to beautiful weather and a buffet breakfast at the hotel before departing for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It is built to resemble a mountain with a passage cut through it to represent “Out of the Mountain of Despair, A Stone of Hope.”
Next it was on to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, made up of four outdoor rooms to represent his four terms as President. The group then boarded the Spirit of Washington D.C. for a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. On board, the group partook in dancing and a delicious buffet while enjoying the incredible sights offered from the deluxe yacht. After the “Welcome Cruise” provided by the tour company the group traveled to the Capitol building.
From there they were on to the Albert Einstein Memorial and then Arlington National Cemetery. There were several highlights of this trip and the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was definitely one of those. The emotional experience that one feels when standing before the tomb and watching the wreath laying ceremony or the changing of the guard is one that is almost indescribable. Even the most brute tough guys are really torn to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of the American Soldier. The afternoon concluded with a stop at the mall for some shopping and dinner before returning to the hotel to meet the orchestra guest clinician Dr. Dennis Layendecker. Layendecker serves as director of orchestral studies at George Mason University.
President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 19 was the big day the orchestra had been preparing for over the course of the last seven months. Upon arrival at the Kennedy Center the group was given a tour beginning in the Hall of Nations.
The group had a sound check and dress rehearsal before the performance. The concert was fabulous and the musicians and conductors were exceptional. After the concert the group celebrated at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant and closed the evening with a tour of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the World War II Memorial. The group was delighted that the last day of the trip began at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the White House. With much thanks to our United States Representative Mike Johnson and his staff, the group toured the interior of the White House.
The last stop of the trip was the Holocost Memorial before boarding the airplane home. The group was commended for their extraordinary performance in such a prestigious venue and how well they conducted themselves with such high standards of character. Syll-Young would like to express her sincere appreciation for the support given by the parents, grandparents, school administration, school board, superintendent and community for allowing and providing such an enriching experience for these young musicians.