A New Orleans Orchestra Trip with the Eureka High School OrchestraChris Forsythe
Group travel provides plenty of rewards for students, chaperones and directors alike. The rich heritage of music in New Orleans enticed the Eureka High School Orchestra director. A New Orleans orchestra trip contains numerous educational treasures and made for an iconic destination choice for the Eureka High School Orchestra. Taking a trip every year presents a challenge that Director, Mary White, is glad to accept.
“I think sharing our music with different people in different places is an extremely valuable learning experience for my students, and I am fortunate to teach in a school that supports student travel,” said Mary. “We are able to take a trip every year by working closely with Music Travel to control student costs and stay within a reasonable budget.”
With the promise of New Orleans on the horizon, it was an easy task to get the buses loaded for an early morning 3 a.m. departure. Along the route, the group made a quick stop for lunch. They arrived at Mardi Gras World for a late afternoon of Mardi Gras history and culture while watching artists and sculptors create floats for the upcoming parade. After dinner at Hard Rock Café, they gathered for a Haunted History Tour. This tour explores the ghastly deeds of the old French Quarter where ghosts still haunt the legendary Vieux Carre. After a long and spooky start to the trip, the group checked into the Hyatt Place New Orleans for some much-needed sleep.
The students and staff enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel and were quickly off to the St. Charles Streetcar, the oldest continuously operating line in the world. Operating since 1835, this historical streetcar experience is a must-do when in the French Quarter. The streetcar transported the orchestra to Tulane University for a 90-minute clinic with Maxim Samarov.
Dr. Samarov was born in Moscow, Russia in a family of musicians and started his music studies at the age of five. He studied cello at Junior College of the Moscow Conservatory and later at Jerusalem Music Academy and Southern Methodist University, and performed extensively as a cello soloist, chamber music player and orchestra member in Russia, Europe, Israel, and the United States. He received his degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Michigan State University. He has appeared as a guest conductor with Pleven Philharmonic and Rousse Philharmonic in Bulgaria, Sinfonia Bucharest in Romania, and Fleur de Lys Chamber Orchestra in New Orleans, and conducted the premiere recordings of Symphonies #4, 6, and 7 by Canadian composer Alan Belkin. In 2016, he co-founded the New Orleans Chamber Orchestra, a professional ensemble with a mission to showcase the rich classical music tradition of New Orleans. As a composer, Dr. Samarov is the author of a symphony, a guitar concerto, an opera “Feast at the Time of Plague,” and a number of chamber works; his cantata “Ars Moriendi” was premiered by New Orleans Chamber Orchestra in June 2018. He performs regularly as a substitute cellist with Louisiana Philharmonic.
From Tulane, the group enjoyed lunch with all its southern charm at the House of Blues. Known for an iconic blues-themed atmosphere, lunch featured local favorites even a foodie would enjoy.
Not to be missed while in the Big Easy, the National World War II Museum was next on the itinerary. The Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.
Riverwalk Marketplace was the choice for shopping, sightseeing and dinner. The hardest part of the evening was deciding which amazing restaurant would be chosen.
Of all the destinations available, Mary explained why she chose New Orleans for an orchestra trip:
“Each year when choosing a destination, I do a lot of research to select a location with rich musical, cultural, and historical significance. I am looking for a destination that will offer something of interest to all of my students. I chose New Orleans as our destination as it is a treasure trove of all three! I wanted to explore the genre of jazz with my string orchestra students, a genre we don’t experience as often in the traditional setting.”
It only seemed fitting that the next stop on the adventure be the world-famous Musical Legends Park.
Musical Legends Park is centrally located in the French Quarter with an ever-changing list of local performing ensembles. The Park provided an intimate, courtyard venue with drinks and snacks from Cafe Beignet. The location presents the very soul of New Orleans and its rich jazz heritage. Back to the hotel for rest before another big day in the Big Easy.
The next morning was hotel check out and bus loading before heading to the French Quarter for free time. Narrow streets, quaint dwellings with iron-trellised balconies, old shops and cafes make this the city’s most famous area. The beautiful 18th-century buildings are protected by law and can only be repaired or remodeled by special permit. Many photos were taken with the backdrop of St. Louis Cathedral, one of the oldest and most photographed churches in the country.
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a Swamp Boat Tour along Southern Louisiana’s swamps and bayous. The travel party saw nesting grounds of alligators, egrets, raccoons, ducks and water snakes while learning the history of the Cajun people whose ancestors moved from Nova Scotia more than two centuries ago into Louisiana’s swampland.
No time to slow down, the group lunched in route to Oak Alley Plantation. A powerful testimony to the rich history of the antebellum south, Oak Alley allowed the students to explore all facets of her plantation past. The Slavery at Oak Alley exhibit, Civil War exhibit, Sugarcane Theater and Big House offered an experience as compelling as the plantation’s 25 historic acres and 300-year-old alley of oaks.
To cap off the day and tour, the group boarded the Natchez Steamboat Cruise for live music and dinner. The two-hour excursion featured many sights along the Mississippi River, entertainment by the Dukes of Dixieland and an out of this world New Orleans buffet.
“From street musicians to an evening in a jazz garden to the live music on the riverboat cruise, students were exposed to so many different kinds of music! Historically and culturally, students enjoyed learning about life in New Orleans today and centuries ago and were impacted by the things they saw and read at the WWII museum, at Oak Alley Plantation, and on the Haunted History tour. To top it all off, New Orleans is FUN! Mardi Gras World, swamp tours, great food, amazing sights…New Orleans was EXACTLY the right destination for my amazing students!”
Departing that evening via motorcoach, the group stopped for a quick breakfast and arrived home early morning after a very rewarding and culturally stimulating three-day tour of NOLA.