School Choir Teacher Takes Students on Trip to NYC and Washington D.C.

Performance tours are designed for student musicians and choirs to bring their music and song to new audiences.  These tours include visits to major student travel destinations such as Washington D.C., New York City or Orlando with fun, interesting and historical sites on the itinerary.  In addition to touring, there is a pre-booked performance date at a well-known location, such as the Statue of Liberty or Washington Cathedral.

I recently interviewed a teacher from Hawaii, Cora Palafox Aczon, who has traveled with her school choir for 13 years. Aczon began traveling since 1998 with her student choir to perform in different places like California, New York, Washington, D.C., and even in Vancouver.  Aczon says, “I started organizing these tours for choir purposes.  It is an opportunity to showcase the God-given talents of the students, and also to appreciate other parts of the world.”

Aczon has been a teacher for 16 years at Saint Anthony School (Honolulu), a private Catholic educational institution. As part of its religious mission, the school serves its own community in a variety of ways.  The choir sings at St. Anthony Parish on Sundays, First Fridays, Family Masses, and special days.  They also bring their music to the malls, community gatherings, and other places.  So it made perfect sense to me that the group leader would be interested in engaging students in community service while traveling in other cities.

There is always community work to be done, no matter where the student choir is traveling. Since service is part of the agenda for Aczon’s school trips, I take some time to research retirement communities, churches, and non-profit organizations in the area where her group is touring, to find organizations that serve the elderly, sick or disadvantaged populations. During the trip planning process, I run a few ideas past Cora Aczon to get a feel for what type of site works best for her group. The choir’s performance is always a welcome special event, no matter where they may be booked. Sometimes the choir’s performance location is determined by the travel dates and scheduled openings at host organizations.  If the group leader plans far enough in advance, he or she may have a choice of different locations

It is a long trip to the mainland United States from Hawaii.  The most recent trip Saint Anthony’s School Choir made was to New York City and Washington D.C. Aczon told me, “Some of the students and parents have never been to the mainland U.S.  Most of the students and parents have not gone to the East Coast yet.  They have read a great deal about these places in books, and have seen these places in movies.  The group wanted to have the feel and experience of being there, even just for a short time.” A performance tour is a wonderful way to explore the cities students study in history class. The performance allows students to take time to interact with the community, and get to know people there in a more intimate way.

On their visit to New York City, the Saint Anthony School Choir visited many popular destinations such as the United Nations, NBC Studios, the Empire State Building and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. They also toured Manhattan, dined at Planet  Hollywood and saw the Broadway musical, “Mary Poppins.”  The choir was scheduled to sing at the Statue of Liberty, but the entire group was a bit disappointed when their outdoor performance was rained out. Nevertheless, their visit to NYC was a memorable one and there were many positive experiences on their journey.

The Saint Anthony School Choir’s visit to Washington D.C. and performance there went as planned.  In D.C., the choir visited Arlington National Cemetery, Smithsonian American and Natural History Museums, the Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol, Mount Vernon, and the Holocaust Museum.  The group even attended mass, and sang at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Capitol Hill.  They also performed at the Air & Seaman’s Home – where they were very well received.  Aczon recalled, “The choir’s performance was emotionally moving.  Some of the residents said they were at Pearl Harbor on December 7th and seeing and hearing the kids from Hawaii brought back memories of World War II.”  When student performance groups make a connection to people at the place they perform, they begin to understand that singing and community service does have an impact.

Student tours should provide active learning opportunities.  There must always be time for recreation and fun as well. I feel that performance tours with community service on the itinerary also open up the possibility of getting to know something about contemporary life and the people who live in large urban areas.  With community service as a component to a performance tour, students are able to hear and see the results of their work.  People in the community also have the chance to learn more about the lifestyles of the places where students originate. This exchange enriches all involved.

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Black College Tours

Many Americans and foreigners want to attend a historically black college.  There are many reasons for this.  Students enjoy the prestige of a university founded by an African-American historical figure, intellectual or scholar. The most appealing factors for many students are the university provides diverse academic and cultural programs, faculty, collections, and community that reflect and represent African-Americans’ roles in history, science, culture, and society.

There are some excellent black colleges on the East Coast, many clustered in the Washington D.C. or Virginia area.  So, I decided to create a black colleges tour that focuses on these universities.  The tour is designed for high school students who are deciding which college to attend.  Following is a brief description of each university, highlighting the history of the institution, academic departments that are most distinguished and other facts about the college,

Howard University, Washington D.C.
Howard University was established in 1867. Howard Hall was built in 1869 and is one of the centerpieces of the historical campus.   Located in the heart of Downtown Washington D.C., Howard has the sophistication of an urban university. Currently 10,500 students attend Howard University.  Howard is known for its Arts and Sciences, Business, and Communications programs.

Hampton University, Hampton, VA
Officially founded as a school for former slaves towards the end of the Civil War under the Emancipation Oak in 1861, Hampton University has evolved from Hampton Normal School, to Hampton Institute to the University it is today.  Booker T. Washington is an alumni of Hampton University, and Rosa Parks actually worked there in 1957. Hampton U enrolls approximately 5,500 students and 91% are African American.  Many students are enrolled in the Liberal Arts Program, School of Business, School of Science and School of Nursing. Hampton, Virginia is located on the Chesapeake Bay and offers business, technology and industry nearby as well as access to miles of coastline.

Norfolk State University – Norfolk, VA
Another inner city university, “one of the largest predominantly black institutions in the nation” is Norfolk State University.  It was founded in 1935. Today, Norfolk State enrolls nearly 7,000 students and offers 30 Undergraduate and 16 Master’s Degrees as well as 3 Doctoral degrees.  The University is conveniently situated near Norfolk’s harbor and downtown. The campus has recently been updated in anticipation of the opening of The Tide — Hampton Roads Transit’s newest high-speed rail line — with a station at NSU.

Virginia Union University – Richmond, VA
Founded in 1865 in post Civil War Richmond — which had recently burned — Virginia Union University was established to teach the newly emancipated population.  Because the American Baptist Home Mission Society spearheaded this mission in the 19th Century, the School of Theology is especially renowned.  Liberal Arts, education, teaching and civic engagement are also emphasized. With only 1,500 students, this university offers individual attention in learning.  Famous alumnus include the R&B singer Will Downing and James Atkins, a former NFL player.

Bowie State University – Bowie, MD
This university was also founded in 1865, and is the oldest historically black college/university in Maryland.  The college collaborates with NASA and houses one of the world’s 100 most powerful supercomputers as well as a satellite operations control station. The campus is in a rural setting, but still located within easy reach of Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C.   There are approximately 5,500 students enrolled. With seven residence halls, undergraduate campus life is stimulating. Bowie State University is a leader in teacher education and accreditation, and also houses a Summer Institute in Computer Applications for undergraduate minority students.

A visit to Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD can also be included with this tour. I have omitted a description here because I reviewed this college tour in another article, “High school Groups Take College Tours of Campuses in Washington D.C. area.”

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