The New York Experience: EL Students Travel to Big Apple

By Trevor Laliberte

The view of the city from the Top of the Rock, 70 floors up.

The view of the city from the Top of the Rock, 70 floors up.

Forty Edward Little music students, myself included, were in New York City last month for four days of musical and non-musical learning experiences alike, as well as a day on Broadway and every cliché tourist attraction in the Big Apple.

It all started at around 5 a.m. on April 10. It looked like the zombie apocalypse had invaded the school, and these zombies came bearing coffee and suitcases. We spent the next 7 or 8 hours in a coach bus with seats so tacky they probably hadn’t been replaced since the 80’s. At least there was Wi-Fi.

Our first stop was in New Jersey, at Rutgers University, where 2003 EL graduate Colin Britt is in the process of getting his doctorate. Britt has a master’s degree from Yale, and he’s best known for his arrangement of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” that he performed on America’s Got Talent with the Three Penny Chorus and Orchestra. Members of the EL choir and band performed at the college and received constructive criticism from Britt and Rutgers band director Kraig Williams.

Times Square on the first night in Manhattan.

Times Square on the first night in Manhattan.

Day two was when the real adventure began. After the 7 hour drive the day before, we found ourselves in that bus once again, sitting in those tacky seats, getting a whirlwind tour of Manhattan through tinted windows. We were restless as our vehicle braved the city streets choked with traffic. I guess they wanted to make sure we all learned why most people choose to walk in New York.

That first morning, our only escape from the bus was the ferry that circled around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (where they were filming “Celebrity Apprentice.” Johnny Damon and Ian Ziering from “Sharknado” were there) and a 20 minute stop where we stood outside the entrance of Central Park, barely scratching the surface of the legendary heart of New York City.

Finally, we were let off the bus for the afternoon. Our huge group of kids weaved through the city streets. It was always a rush to keep up with everyone and there was no time to stop for anything.

We visited the tightly secured 9/11 Memorial, and immersed ourselves in the diverse cultures of New York in Chinatown and Little Italy. The Elizabeth Center, an underground shopping mall in Chinatown, was lightly scattered with claustrophobic stores selling weird Asian toys and candy and knock-off designer clothes and shoes. I don’t know how I ended up there, but it was nightmare fuel. I wanted out as soon as we reached the bottom of the escalators, but apparently other people are into that stuff.

Owen Kane, junior, tries on a lion head valued at thousands of dollars from the original Lion King production.

Owen Kane, junior, tries on a lion head valued at thousands of dollars from the original Lion King production.

Day three, the theater geeks in the group loved this one. We got a tour of the New Amsterdam theater, the oldest one still standing on Broadway. The theater closed in 1936, but was later reopened as a movie theater. During that time, the space was treated poorly and and a lot of the original architecture and art was destroyed. In the early 90s, Disney bought the theater to restore it, and it was reopened in 1997. In a storage room there, we also saw real props from past musicals including “Mary Poppins” and “The Lion King,” which both showed at the New Amsterdam. That afternoon, we saw “The Lion King” at the Minkskoff theater. “I particularly thought it was cool that a lot of the actors and actresses came from Africa,” said EL choir director Beth Labrie, “it was very authentic.”

On the final day, we started off by having breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The place was packed full, but the food was good and the staff was impressive. All the waiters and waitresses, who sing while waiting tables, are aspiring or current broadway actors and actresses working hard to get their big break. “It was really inspiring,” said Mackenzie Tufts, freshman.

After breakfast, we went to the GE Building viewing spot in Rockefeller Plaza, the “Top of the Rock,” a balcony 70 floors up with views of the city. Inside, there was also a gift shop with prices as high as the altitude. There was a lot of historical information attached to the famous photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper”, showing eleven workers having lunch on a beam while the GE building was being constructed in 1932. The men in the photograph were untethered and over 200 feet in the air.

That afternoon, after some last-minute exploring and shopping around Rockefeller Plaza, it was time to go back home, where winter was still hanging on in mid-April. There was as much sleeping on the afternoon ride home as there was on the early morning ride there. It was tiring, but most will agree that it was worth it.

Photos courtesy of Darima Dashidondokova

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