Veterans Inspire Traveling Musicians


Band and Orchestra students enjoy a ride down the Disneyland attraction Splash Mountain. Students spent a day at Disneyland before performing for the Veterans at the West Los Angeles Home for Veterans.

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

Members of the Symphonic Band and Orchestra traveled to Southern California to perform for the West Los Angeles Home for Veterans from November 9 through 11. In Los Angeles, they also attended a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall and went to a soundtrack workshop at Disneyland.

According to music director Johnny Johnson, the focus of the trip was the performance for the veterans. “We built around that performance, which was on Veterans’ Day,” he said.

The group, which included parent chaperones, traveled via buses on the morning of November 9.  The group stayed at the Residence Inn at Garden Grove. The trip cost was $280 per student.

On the first night, students watched the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform several songs, including pieces by British composer Edward Britten. Junior Kourosh Arasteh described the performance as “life-changing.”

“It was a really good experience for us because we could see how professionals sounded and how we could emulate them,” Senior Marina Han said.

The next day, attendees went to Disneyland in the morning for a workshop. According to Arasteh, the workshop was about a day in the life of a Disney performer. “It was about what was behind the Disney magic, so that was pretty cool,” he said.

“It was a great growing and bonding experience for us since the band hasn’t really been able to go anywhere,” Han said.

Senior Nick Flemming was also excited to go to Disneyland, as it was one of his last opportunities to travel with the class. “It was awesome that we finally got to go my senior year,” he said.

On Veterans’ Day, students performed patriotic songs for the Veterans’ Home of West Los Angeles. According to Johnson, the performance was well received. “The residents were so appreciative. The staff did a fantastic job of accommodating us,” he said.

The group performed in front of the building, with a large American flag hanging behind them. The Symphonic Band and Orchestra started with “Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, followed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe and finished with “America the Beautiful” by Samuel Ward and Katherine Lee Bates, which Johnson believed was the emotional highlight of the performance. “They were standing up and singing along because they know those songs,” he said. The orchestra also played several songs without the accompaniment of the Symphonic Band, including “Prayer for Peace” by John Williams and “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins.

According to Flemming, the veterans gave the students a standing ovation. One veteran even went back to his room and made a sign that read “Best High School Band.” According to Han, it was inspiring.

“The amount of respect and appreciation we were shown by the veterans was unexpectedly humbling,” Arasteh said. After the performance, the students ate lunch with the veterans and listened to their stories. “I met a retired geologist who served in Korea as the head and only man in his field. He is also a published author and accomplished pianist,” said Arasteh.