PHS choir gets a taste of New York


Students enjoying sunshine and sightseeing at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Students enjoying sunshine and sightseeing at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Ninety-eight Princeton High School choir students got a taste of New York City during a six-day bus trip that ended March 30.

It was one of the trips that the PHS choir department takes every few years for choir students in grades 10-12. On this trip, the school’s Viva Voce and Concert Choir students performed at three locations in between sightseeing and having experiences unique to the city known as the Big Apple.

PHS choral director Mark Potvin supervised the trip with assistance from nine Princeton area adults, including PHS band director Jim Baxter, middle school band director Carol Fillafer, elementary music teacher Susan Moore, and PHS tech director Linda Evans. Others were Potvin’s wife Susan, Fillafer’s husband Richard, Chuck Zarns, and Sam Grover. The group was also guided on tours through a tour-group contract.

The entourage saw New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, attended three Broadway shows, stood atop the Rockefeller Center building, saw Ground Zero of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and went on guided tours.

Even an unplanned 44-block walk, due to an unforeseen circumstance, gave an “interesting experience,” in Potvin’s words.

The choir performances were at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, St. John the Divine Cathedral, and on the plaza of the Lincoln Center for the Arts, the latter two on New York City’s Manhattan Island.


Speedy trip

The group rode on two coach buses that covered a lot of ground in a relatively short time. The only reported glitch was the unforeseen circumstance that led to the 44-block New York City walk for half the group.

What happened was one of the two buses that was to pick up half of the group at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and transport them to Times Square, got stuck behind a six-vehicle pileup along a westside highway.

Once Potvin learned that the bus had no chance of getting to the art museum in time, he decided that the best alternative would be to walk from the museum to Times Square. It was a 44-block walk along New York City’s famous, upscale Fifth Avenue. Since the avenue runs north-south, the blocks are short, Potvin said. The group of 50 made the distance in about an hour, arriving in time at its destination.

Potvin told the group, before starting the walk, “We’re going to have an authentic New York experience.”

Potvin said the walk turned out to be a “blast, a great time.” The scenery included famous NYC landmarks like FAO Schwarz’ flagship toy store, Trump Tower and the multinational Tiffany’s jewelry and silverware building.


The trip 

The trip began at 3:45 a.m. on March 25 at PHS. About an hour later, buses began a four-hour drive to Waverly, Iowa. Besides singing at Wartburg College, the students had a choral workshop headed by Dr. Lee Nelson and Wartburg students of choral conducting.

By about 9 a.m. the following day, the group was at Pier 3 in New York City. The first tour was a narrated boat trip on the Hudson River along Manhattan Island. The same day, the group visited Ground Zero, where a memorial is nearly complete at the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood before terrorists destroyed them on Sept. 11, 2011.

“It was a very serene kind of experience,” Potvin said about being at Ground Zero, where a fountain flows downward. The group was “reflective” and the students “very respectful” there, Potvin commented.

The next experience that day was a subway ride during rush hour to get to the Broadway show “Cinderella.”

At the end of each day in NYC, the group returned to their Embassy Suites lodging in Parsippany, New Jersey.

After a narrated bus tour of much of Manhattan Island on the trip’s third day, the choral students sang at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, a Gothic cathedral so large that the “hang time” for the echo in there is nine seconds, Potvin said. The group later took in the Broadway musical “Matilda,” in the Schubert Theatre. The Schubert is a famous landmark that historic building preservationists kept from being destroyed during a time many old Broadway buildings were being demolished, Potvin noted.

Other experiences in the remaining days in New York City included seeing the cityscape from atop Rockfeller Center, a tour of Radio City Music Hall, time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeing the “Newsies” Broadway show, tour of Lincoln Center, and visiting the American Museum of Natural History.

For people interested in the history of musical instruments, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an extensive exhibit featuring instruments going back to ancient time and from around the world, Potvin noted.

The three Broadway shows were memorable, Potvin said. He talked about the impressive costume work in “Cinderella,” the athleticism of the cast in “Newsies” (the latter about the 1899 paperboy strike), and seeing “Matilda,” which was premiering on Broadway. Matilda started in London and the London cast then came to Broadway to perform. Potvin noted that “Cinderella” has two cast members from Minnesota – Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana.

The group was able to see many other iconic sights as well, including Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the NBC studio building, the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon lived when he was murdered, High Line Park, and more.

Some of the experiences the students may not forget as well, were just their free time to explore and eat food sold by street vendors, Potvin said.

These New York City choir trips bring students “out of their comfort zone,” and show them a “little slice of the world” and how the arts are carried to an even higher level than what they are familiar with at home, Potvin said.