Grand Haven High School's Chamber Choir and Symphony Orchestra are preparing to travel to New York and Europe during spring break, March 30 through April 8.
While in New York, the groups will perform at Carnegie Hall. The following day, they leave for Germany and then Austria to perform three more concerts before different audiences.
“We’re putting a lot into one trip,” said Melissa Meyers, director of the high school's orchestra program. “Normally, these are two separate trips, but now it's two opportunities of a lifetime into one.”
Meyers, along with Shirley Lemon, the school's choir director, are both excited to take their students on this life-changing trip — but they know that funds must be raised for it to happen.
Eighty-nine students will be going on the trip, at a cost of $3,200 each. Overall, the trip will cost about $285,000.
“The hard thing, of course, has been the fundraising,” Lemon said. “And these kids are involved in not just choir (and orchestra), but in sports and work and school work, and they’ve still put a lot of time into this.”
The fundraising began in June. During the summer break, students hosted car washes, sold water bottles and baked goods, and parked cars for donations during the Coast Guard Festival. The efforts continued into the school year with writing letters to family and friends, sales of mum poinsettia plants, and more bake sales.
Students sent out 250 letters to local businesses and 25 letters to other corporations asking for support. Several businesses from the Grand Haven area have hosted nights when a percentage of sales benefited the Europe trip.
So far, the students have collectively made $50,000. Parents have donated $160,000.
“The kids have worked really hard,” Lemon said. “Fifty-thousand dollars is a lot of money, so that’s really great. The community has stepped forward as well, and that’s just wonderful.”
The group's next fundraiser is a dinner event called A Taste of Europe. It will take place at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave., on Saturday — beginning with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m. Dinner, catered by the Grand Haven Bake House, will begin at 7 p.m.
Choir and orchestra students will be serving and performing during the event.
Tickets cost $40 per person and can be bought at The Bookman, 715 Washington Ave.; and at the school district's Education Service Center, 1415 S. Beechtree St.
The fundraising will conclude with an auction on March 1 at the Harbourfront Grand Hall, 41 Washington Ave. in downtown Grand Haven.
“It’s neat to see the students work for something,” Meyers said. “It’s also great to see the choir and orchestra families coming together and working for a common goal.”
Lemon and Meyers agree that the community has played a huge part in the fundraising process.
“I have had a number of individuals in the community step up and help some of the kids who are struggling to make the payments,” Lemon said. “And that has been really wonderful.”
Meyers said she looks forward to seeing the impact that the culture will have on the students, and Lemon said she looks forward to seeing the impact that the students will have on the world.
“These kids will be incredible ambassadors for Grand Haven, Mich.,” Lemon said. “They will just change lives in New York and Europe.”
— By Emily Anderson, Tribune intern