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Trip of a lifetime: Lee County students going to New York thanks to district's commitment to fine arts

Posted at 7:34 AM, Mar 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 13:50:05-04

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — A group of talented student musicians from Lee County is gearing up for an opportunity to showcase their talents in New York City, the nation's big stage for performing arts. This significant trip, encompassing students from six different schools within the Lee County District, has been made possible thanks to the district's commitment to teaching fine arts.

"This is my first trip ever to New York. So I'm excited for everything. I'm even excited to go on a plane for the first time," Kiana Vega said. For Vega and many others, this journey represents not just a musical milestone but also a series of personal firsts.

According to the music instructors the the trip is one of the benefits of having a dedicated fine arts coordinator in the district, a position that has been instrumental in increasing the growth of music programs across Lee County.

Kayla Lisa, the Strings Director at Cypress Lake High School, mentioned the impact of this role on the district's music programs.

"A few years ago, our strings programs were shrinking, and they were really small. We just kind of kept pushing and growing programs. We started 9 elementary programs just a few years ago, and that has helped grow the middle schools, which has now helped to grow the high schools," Lisa explained.

Lisa, who has been teaching music for more than a decade in Lee County, credits the fine arts coordinator for the dramatic increase in student participation in music programs. From a modest beginning with around 400 students in middle school programs across the district, the numbers have ballooned to approximately 3,000 today.

That increase in popularity also led to the formation of this Lee County Honors Orchestra, which has nearly 90 students. These young musicians are not just traveling to New York for a performance at St. Paul's Cathedral; their itinerary also includes attending a performance at Carnegie Hall, participating in a clinic with members of the New York Philharmonic, and exploring the city's attractions.

Student Julianne Stens shared her anticipation for the trip, emphasizing the unique opportunity to perform with a purpose in a city renowned for its cultural significance. "I was very excited for actually going to New York to actually play and having a purpose, to be there like 'I'm playing!'" she said.

To make this trip a reality, students, teachers, and parents have engaged in various fundraising activities, including performances and bake sales. The program is still welcoming donations to help cover the costs of their musical trip.