Tonganoxie High School choir members take on New York City
The Chieftain Singers traveled to the Big Apple during spring break and returned home with a gold award from Heritage Music Festival.
During spring break, 16 Chieftain Singers, three other vocal music students, their teacher Joyce Steeby, accompanist Carolyn Day and 12 additional adult sponsors, spent a four-day weekend in New York City.
While there, the Chieftain Singers competed in a music festival at New York City's Riverside Church.
"The Chieftain Singers were one of four chamber choirs and, of the four, they were the only chamber choir to receive a gold," Steeby said. "The other three received silver."
The trip began when the group left Tonganoxie at 3 a.m. March 16. And it ended March 19, when they returned to school at about 10 p.m.
"We all wanted to stay longer," Steeby said. "No one wanted to come back -- I wasn't ready either."
The four days were packed with activities.
The group toured Carnegie Hall and even sang a couple of songs there. They went to the Empire State Building at night, ate at the Hello Deli where owner Rupert Jee, who's appeared on the David Letterman show, took their orders.
The group saw a Broadway musical production of "The Lion King."
"It gave me goosebumps several times, the opening sequence took your breath away," Steeby said.
From a ferry, the group viewed the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
They visited Ground Zero, which Steeby described as the "most touching moment of the entire trip."
The THS singers sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the site, near a memorial that lists the names of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
"There were a group of people there who had come to pay their respects. When the kids started singing, they stood up so close that it was odd it was so close," Steeby said. "... It wasn't that they were pulling closer to hear, it was more like they were pulling together -- they were comforting each other."
Among the group, the singers later learned, was a mother who had lost her child when the towers fell.
After attending Sunday's Cardinal's Mass at the St. Patrick's Cathedral, Steeby ran into a choir member who invited the group to tour the choir loft.
Steeby said the group took a couple of trips on the subway.
"I was a little bit leery about the subway," Steeby said. "But I thought, 'Well, people do this all the time and we'll see how it works.' And it worked beautifully."
They shopped on Fifth Avenue, spent an evening at Times Square, walked through Central Park, perused FAO Schwarz and splurged on cheesecake at the Ben Ash Deli.
And they gained a new feeling for New Yorkers.
"We always hear about the rude New Yorkers," Steeby said. "But we didn't run into any. They were all very gracious and welcoming."