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The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

Instruments in Italy: Westfield’s Band Goes International in 2024

Photo courtesy of the WHS Marching Band

Spring Break. It’s always a unique time for students, whether it be a vacation with family and friends, or enjoying time to relax at home. However, for the band program at WHS, this upcoming spring break will be a once in a lifetime experience unlike any other – a performance tour of Italy.

The trip, which will depart on April 1 of next year, will go for nine days and seven nights. Eighty seven students are going on the trip, and it is open to members of the band program in grades 10-12. The trip coincides with other school international trips, with the chorus going to Spain, and the orchestra visiting countries like Austria and Hungary.

Band Director Chris Vitale explained that the performances will largely be similar to the concerts held at Westfield, with enhanced collaboration with Italian bands. “We try to avoid putting the band in the center of a town square and playing for tourists. Instead, what [Tour Research Consultants, the company planning the trip] does is they find existing Italian bands, whether it be adult bands or student bands that have a following or some kind of social event, and we try to get paired with them and get into the mix,” said Vitale.

This is the third international trip the band has done under Vitale, and is the first trip following a canceled Germany trip in 2021. The band’s last trip was also to Italy in 2018.

The current schedule for the trip involves three public performances over seven cities, with several planned tours, including the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. 

“Rome is a place I’ve always wanted to go, and I feel like finally getting to see it with the band is definitely going to be an experience I’m looking forward to,” said sophomore alto saxophone Joe Michaeli.

The band is incorporating some music that will be used for the Italy tour into their concerts in December and March, so students can familiarize themselves with some of the music in the school’s Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble classes. The selections include a medley of songs from the musical West Side Story, and Italian composer Luigi Denza’s Funiculì, Funiculà.

“We’ve been playing [Funiculì, Funiculà] in the Wind Ensemble, and practicing it a lot. It just reminds me of Italy and it’s really cool,” said senior bass clarinet Kate Finn.

However, students will not only practice the music in class. There will also be after school practices specifically for the trip in the months leading up to departure, culminating in a group performance in Westfield March 28 before the band loads up equipment for the trip.

However, international travel causes some logistical trouble for the band. “The instrument aspect is a big challenge and also a big expense. When you normally fly, you get a carry-on and a check bag, and all the instruments are additional checked bags, so we have to work really closely with the airlines. All the instruments get measured and weighed, and all that information has to be sent ahead of time so they know what we’re bringing, and some of the really big instruments like tubas and percussion will be rented over there. We can’t really go over there using school-owned instruments, it’s hard to fit a bass drum on a plane,” said Vitale.

Anticipation is high in the band for the trip, with many people looking forward to the opportunities it may bring. “I think the sightseeing is awesome, but I think the best part is performing. We get to perform in a whole new environment, a whole new culture; I’m really excited,” said junior Clarinet Evan Bauer.

The emphasis on performance is a common mindset in the band. “I think being in this musical community is being able to perform with everyone. I feel like there’s a lot of talent within this program that needs to be recognized and I think this is a perfect way to share that talent with the world,” said Finn.

The trip comes at a convenient time for the program, as it coincides with competitive success from Westfield’s marching band as well as both attending concert bands receiving gold ratings from adjudicators at the Central Jersey Music Educators Association festival this past March. 

“We have a really strong band this year, and we could really learn a lot by traveling to another country and performing there,” said junior Saxophone Judah Kim.

As the trip nears, everyone involved is excited for what will surely be an experience of a lifetime.

“We found that these international trips are more meaningful for the kids that go on them. It’s a life-altering experience going to a foreign country, with the performance opportunities that we were able to put together on these trips that are more meaningful and important to these students than if we were to take a trip to South Carolina or any domestic trip,” said Vitale.

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