With War on, N.Y. Trip Is Off

Times Staff Writer

For more than a year, Calabasas High School band and choir members have thought of little else but their trip to the Heritage Music Festival in New York City.

Not only would they be competing against some of the nation's best high school singers and instrumentalists, but they would also see a Broadway show, tour Times Square and take in the view from atop the Empire State Building.

A cross-country plane trip and four nights in a hotel was all the motivation the 120 students needed to raise $150,000 by selling candy, staging carnivals and doing odd jobs.

On Tuesday, however, the music died.

Las Virgenes Unified School District officials called off the trip, citing concerns about student safety and district responsibility as the nation began its war with Iraq. Deputy Supt. Don Zimering had the task of breaking the news to the musicians and their parents at a noontime meeting in the band room.

Zimering's words were met with screams, sighs and sobs, Music Director Josh Barroll said Wednesday.

"The kids are extremely disappointed," he said. "Obviously, they want to go, but they understand that war could break out at any time. I am really proud of the way they are handling it."

Carrie Pereira said her son, Blake, 17, who plays trumpet and sings in the choir, was taking the news pretty hard. "He understands the situation the district's in, but he's disappointed."

Blake and other students each raised $1,000 to $1,300.

Reaction among parents was mixed, Pereira said. Some were upset that their children had nothing to show for the year they spent rehearsing and fund-raising. Others breathed a sigh of relief that their teens would be close to home as troops across the Persian Gulf region resumed fighting.

Between consoling despondent students and teaching classes, Barroll called airlines, hotels and tour operators, trying to recoup some of the students' money. So far, one airline issued vouchers for the unused round-trip tickets and a Broadway theater agreed to honor show tickets through September.

"We understand that it's a tough situation," Barroll said. "We are hoping to get some of the money back so that we can use it to take a local overnight trip to San Diego or Disneyland."

Still, Barroll acknowledged it would be a tough sell.

"They worked for a whole year. We had special rehearsals. We adjusted the entire curriculum to prepare for the trip.

"This was going to be the highlight of the year," he said. "Anything else seems like a consolation."

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