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Menno marching band returns from 'trip of a lifetime'

MENNO—Members of the Menno High School marching band returned Wednesday from what Band Director Brooke Van Zee called the "trip of a lifetime."

On June 9, 51 students in seventh to 12th grade embarked on a six-day trip to New York City, where the group visited historical sites and performed at Battery Park, located near the Statue of Liberty.

On the first day of the trip, the band performed a composition of patriotic ensembles and other band pieces in front a "decent-sized" crowd at Battery Park. Because of the park's location near where visitors purchase tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty, Van Zee said there was a steady flow of tourists who stopped in passing to listen to the band.

"It was nice performing in front of people who don't know the kids," Van Zee said. "You perform in Menno and it's in front of the same people every time, and here it was people they had to really wow."

Going into the 2016-2017 school year, Van Zee said the performance acted as an outlet for students to perform on a large stage and helped many prepare for the school's band season. For some students, the performance eased nerves. But, for others, it heightened nerves—at least for a few moments.

"They wanted to make an impact with their performance because they wanted to be remembered," Van Zee said. "It opened their eyes to how much work performing takes, and we had a couple of slip-ups, but I also think the most important thing is that they learned something."

For the rest of the trip, Van Zee said the students and 12 chaperones visited sites like the Empire State Building, the financial district, stock exchange, 9/11 memorial and spent a day at Coney Island.

Overall, the trip cost approximately $55,000, which was funded through various fundraisers over the past three years. Because of its success, first-year director Van Zee said she plans on taking students on similar trips every four years.

Aside from the musical and historical lessons learned throughout the week, the one Van Zee noticed most was how intrigued the students seemed to be by a large-city culture.

Menno's population is approximately 587 people, and many students live on farms and the furthest they travel from home is Yankton or Sioux Falls, Van Zee said. So, for many, the band's trip brought the ability to look into a "different way of living."

"Overall, it's a big shock for some of the kids to see how much ethnic diversity there is," Van Zee said. "We're just grateful to give these kids from a smaller community an opportunity like this."