Blues Heaven - SHDHS In Chicago, Day 4

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Today started out with packing up for the long ride home but first we had a couple of things on our agenda. Navy Pier was first up. It’s a 3,300-foot-long pier housing over fifty acres of parks, shops, gardens, attractions and experiences. A Rolling Stones Exhibit attracted some, the giant 40 gondola Ferris Wheel gave others one of the best views of the city while others shopped and enjoyed the first sunny day of our trip. With a devious plan to tire everyone out for the long bus-ride home, we couldn’t see all of it but between the 46 of us, we gave it a darn good try!

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Our last visit of the trip was to Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven. Chess Records produced and released the music of artists like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Etta James among others. The Stones even recorded at Chess Records at least twice. Willie Dixon, who went to work for Chess in 1952, eventually took over from founders Leonard and Phil Chess and established the Blues Heaven Foundation for young musicians. Following Willie’s death, his widow Marie purchased the current location and opened it as the home to the Foundation in 1997. Marie passed in November but the Foundation lives on. Today Willie’s grandson, Keith Nelson Dixon, gave us a great tour and entertained our students with stories of the artists who have come through Chess Studios. The next time you’re visiting the SHDHS Music Room, look up on the walls for a Chess Studios poster that Keith signed for us.

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Many thanks to our driver, Jacques, who battled some challenging traffic every day to get us where we needed to be.

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Play Ball! - SHDHS In Chicago, Day 3

Day three saw our travellers go in two directions. The Habitat for Humanity group spent the morning at the Lincoln Park Zoo while the band students went to the Vandercook College of Music for a music clinic to strengthen their skills. 

Founded in 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo is located in a natural setting just north of Chicago. For generations it has been one of the largest zoo-based conservation and science programs in the United States. Hundreds of animals are housed at the zoo and the many educational experiences allow visitors to get up close and personal with many of them. 


At Vandercook College of Music our band students worked with clinician Charlie Menghini. Working through their competition scores, our musicians were able to hear critique from another set of experienced ears. Mr. Menghini challenged them with some new ways to approach individual practice, band rehearsals and the way they approach both scores and their teamwork. 

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No trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to Wrigley Field! The second oldest ball park in the country, Wrigley was built in 1914 and hosted its first major league game on April 23, 1914. The Federals defeated Kansas City 9 – 1. This afternoon we watched the Chicago Cubs play the New York Yankees however the Cubs were defeated 3-2. Check out our Facebook page at South Huron District High School Music Program for an archived live steam of the minutes that turned the game from a Cubs win to defeat. 

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After dinner at Andy’s Jazz Club we went to the Chicago Symphony Center to watch “SFJAZZ Collective: The Music of Miles Davis & Original Compositions / Regina Carter: Simply Ella.” We are truly lucky to have been able to spend some time with such talented musicians. SFJAZZ has an interesting way of deciding their yearly program: they choose an artist of the year, with this year being Miles Davis, and then each member of the group is responsible for bringing to the program one original piece plus one arrangement of a piece by the artist of the year. We were able to hear a combination of original and arranged pieces between all the performers. 

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The days have flown by. Tomorrow we have a couple of stops on our agenda before we head for home. Another wonderful music trip in the history books and our second with the Habitat group. 

Follow is on our social channels to enjoy the last day with us: 

Facebook: South Huron District High School Music Program 

Instagram and Twitter: @shdhsmusic

For The Record - SHDHS in Chicago, Day 2

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The first part of our second day was spent in service to others. We had the opportunity, through the SHDHS Habitat for Humanity group, to work with DuPage Habitat for Humanity just outside of Chicago. Our group was split into three smaller groups with some working at the Habitat ReStore, others cleaning up and landscaping a housing development while the third group worked at cleaning up the yard and emptying stored goods out of an existing Habitat home. Hard work for a very worthy cause. Along the way, we found out that Habitat for Humanity Chicago is partnered with the country of Malawi and tithes 10% annually to help families of that country achieve affordable home ownership.

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After a chance to clean up at our hotel and grab a bite to eat we jumped on the “Chicago at Sunset” cruise. Chicago has a magnificent skyline, full of history and architectural beauty but having the chance to see it from our vantage point out on Lake Michigan while watching the sun set is extraordinary!

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Also extraordinary are the desserts we had at Pizzeria Due after the cruise. Oh, my goodness, is it true that eating desserts together cancels out each other’s calories? We sure hope so!

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Most of our travellers have the chance to grab a few extra hours of beauty sleep tonight. The Jazz Combo, however, is off to the Chicago Recording Company to record. The studio has a deep history, recording the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Carole King, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and the list goes on and on. CRC’s post studio and design facilities are used for award-winning commercial work as well as film, television and gaming productions.

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Our Jazz Combo will be working with Bob Breen, one of our chaperones and producer extraordinaire to record Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” Bob has a long career in the music industry, working at and managing Ocean Studio in LA before coming home to work at OIART, the school he graduated from, as Career Development and Industry Relations Manager. Recently Bob purchased a pro audio company (Armor Pro Audio Visual in Woodstock) and continues to produce artists as well. Our Jazz Combo will have a terrific experience! Keep your eyes open for the video.

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Tomorrow we have some new adventures including a visit to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs vs Yankees. Follow is on our social channels to enjoy the day with us.

Facebook: South Huron District High School Music Program

Instagram and Twitter: @shdhsmusic

Chicago (That Toddlin' Town) – Day 1 

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We made it! After a long day we’ve arrived at our hotel but not until we toddled all over this toddling town. While that will only make sense to Sinatra-era music fans there are Buddy Guy fans among our readers who will be as excited as we were to sit in Buddy Guy’s Legends and watch our very own SHDHS Jazz Combo perform for the lunch crowd. We live streamed a portion of the performance so for those who missed it, you’ll find it archived on our Facebook page listed as South Huron District High School Music Program. By the way, it’s not uncommon to look into the dark corners and see the legend himself casually taking in the music but sadly for us, Buddy Guy was performing in Springfield, MO today. His Grammy Awards are housed at Buddy Guy’s Legends and if you check out our Instagram feed, @shdhsmusic, you’ll see one of them. 

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The Shedd Aquarium was our next stop where we experienced fish large and small, crabs, whales and a few very large spiders from every corner of the Earth. Harbour seals and dolphins are just as entertaining as 50 students on a field trip! 

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Chicago has one of the most beautiful parks. Millennium Park is over 24 acres of art, amazing architecture, events and gardens. Of course, a visit to the park isn’t complete without a group photo at the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, more popularly known as “The Bean.” 

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After dinner at the Hard Rock Café we were off for a little retail therapy on the famous Magnificent Mile. With stores like Bloomingdales, Sak’s 5th Avenue and Burberry there may have been more dreaming than shopping but window shopping is a sport everyone can enjoy.  

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Now it’s off to bed to rest up for our big day tomorrow. It’s all about Habitat for Humanity! 

Parachute Plunge 2017!

SHDHS Music Parachute Plunge Raffle Flyer 4 8.5x14We’re doing it again! Yes, that’s right … a parachute jumper is going to fall from the sky on Canada Day and land in the school’s soccer field onto one of 493 evenly marked squares and whoever holds the ticket for that square is going to win a fabulous prize. In addition, there are four cash prizes to be won.

Ellison Travel, who helps us with so many student travel plans, has donated a prize valued at $1000 that includes tickets to the Toronto Blue Jays vs Pittsburgh Pirates game on August 12th plus VIA Rail gift cards to get you there, Keg Steakhouse gift cards to feed you and Fairmont Resort gift cards to tuck you in for a good night’s sleep. Didn’t win first prize? We have amazing cash prizes for our second, third, fourth and fifth place winners, too. Those are some good odds!

The kick-off for ticket sales will be the SHDHS Music Department’s Cabaret weekend. Come and enjoy a terrific concert on either Saturday April 22nd at 7:00 PM or Sunday April 23rd at 2:00 PM, browse the silent auction table and pick up your Parachute Plunge tickets.

Can’t make the concert? Tickets will be available until all 493 have been sold or we hit 9:00 PM on June 30th. We’re pretty sure they’ll be sold out long before the end of June so don’t put it off! Call the school at 519-235-0880 for your tickets or more information.

Tickets are $20 each with all proceeds supporting the SHDHS Music Program.