Music department jumps hurdles to Disney

Nathan Steele

The Custer High School music department recently embarked on the trip of a lifetime to the “happiest place on Earth,” Disneyland, California. The  road to get there wasn’t always easy, though. To take the 41 students, they had to raise over $38,000, which they did through various fundraisers throughout the year, and by the kindness of donors in the community and from local organizations and businesses.
“The kids kicked butt,” said Custer High Jr./Sr. School choir teacher Hannah Rehmeier, of the group’s fundraising efforts. This year they hosted a pulled pork dinner, a Christmas event with a silent auction and a karaoke night. They also had a gun raffle and sold pies. One student even sold 80 pies.
Many businesses and organizations also made monetary donations to the cause.
“The community and the business owners helped us so much. We really, really appreciate it,” Rehmeier said.
The Custer Area Arts Council was also a major help in the effort.
“The arts council was awesome because they were able to sponsor some kids who needed the support. They were able to attend and have money for meals that they wouldn’t have had otherwise , thanks to the arts council,” said Catherine Halliday, the band teacher for grades fifth through 12th.
The literal roads to get there weren’t easy to navigate either. In fact, the roads through Wyoming were in such poor condition due to weather that the students were stuck for the day in what they now regard as one of the least magical places on Earth, Rawlins, Wyo., or at least “the worst place to be stuck,” said Halliday.
“Getting there was the first hurdle,” said Rehmeier.
Due to the conditions, they didn’t arrive in Rawlins until 4 a.m. and were stuck there until midnight the next day when roads reopened. While there, they “mostly sat at Walmart,” enjoyed the hotel pool and rested ahead of the long weekend.
“They handled it really well. They were in good spirits,” Rehmeier said.
The first stop once they got to California at the end of the day was Santa Monica Pier to enjoy the beach.
“We wanted them to actually see something once we got there,” said Halliday.
“We needed to happy,” added Rehmeier.
The next day they enjoyed a full day at Universal Studios, and on Sunday, they arrived at their main destination, Disneyland. The choir performed a selection of music from their spring concert in the morning at the  California Adventure Park.
“The performance in the morning was great,” said Rehmeier. “It was so distracting and crazy in a way they’ve never had and I’ve never had,” she said, with the sights and sounds of the park still happening all around them.
Although it was just the choir that performed, band students also attended. One day Halliday wishes to take the band there to perform too.
“It’s a dream of mine. I want us to march at Disneyland,” said Halliday.
She said it’s “definitely something I want to make happen in the next couple years.”
Halliday and Rehmeier are also very thankful to the Custer School District Board of Education and superintendent Mark Naugle for additional funding as they got to the gates of Disneyland, finding themselves unable to actually enter the park.
Board members Jeff Barnes and Heather Grace accompanied the students on the trip and explained at the April 8 board meeting how they felt the park wasn’t necessarily transparent in its ticket pricing and what would be included in the price of the tickets. One phone call to the superintendent later, the board was able to fund the last piece of the trip.
After traveling all the way there, after practicing for hours for their performance and after already having raised nearly $40,000, it just didn’t sit right to let the students’ hard work go unrewarded.
“We were at the gates of Disney and we couldn’t get in. [Naugle] made that happen for us,” said Halliday.
“The school board was wonderful. It all ended up in a great day,” said Rehmeier.
After securing the ticket upgrades they needed, the students got to stay at the park until they closed at midnight, which their teachers said they probably enjoyed more anyway.
“They got to work on what you do when things don’t go your way. That’s just a good life skill,” said Rehmeier.
Before leaving the area, they also made a trip to the Grammy Museum, which Rehmeier said was “really interesting and informative.”
The teachers said that they felt the trip was important for the students not only for the musical education, but also because they wanted them to have a new experience by doing things they’d never done before, which for some students meant getting out of the midwest, seeing the ocean, going to an urban setting or experiencing different groups of people.
“Soak it up and enjoy it,” Rehmeier remembered telling the students.

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