Choir is a family affair in the Steamboat Springs School District. That's one reason why some of the district's middle school students have spent time and energy raising money for a trip they won't go on -- at least not this year.
District choir director Susie Ritter has undertaken perhaps one of the most ambitious projects ever for the male and female singing program -- a trip to California with 50 high school students and 10 chaperones.
The group, which leaves Wednesday on a five-day journey that includes a choir competition, a day at Six Flags amusement park, a professional baseball game and 48 hours of driving, has been busy since September raising the estimated $22,000 price tag for the trip.
The fund-raising effort has taken many forms, such as a silent auction, a choir performance and food and CD sales. Including a $150 contribution from the families of each choir member, the group has almost fully funded the trip in just less than nine months of work. Numerous businesses and individuals also have contributed to the trip.
Some of the money was raised by middle school choir students -- part of Ritter's effort to build a choir program that starts in seventh grade and embraces a community mindset.
"We all love each other," Ritter said of the younger and older choir students.
The efforts of the middle schoolers won't be wasted. Ritter hopes to take the high school women's and mixed choir on trips every other year, providing travel opportunities in the future for those students too young to go now. And when it's their turn, they'll rely on help from future middle school students.
"We're all a big, happy choir family," she said.
One of the main reasons for the trip is Ritter's desire that students take with them from high school the positive memories of a trip with fellow students and teachers. And it doesn't hurt that the kids will get to demonstrate their talents to an audience of choirs from across the country.
"I want these kids to remember this," Ritter said. "I also think it's good to showcase our talent other places and for our kids to see other programs."
High school senior Holly Dye, a member of the school's mixed choir, said singing outside of Steamboat is something to look forward to.
"It's exciting," Dye said. "We actually get to go somewhere and sing."
While winning the competition would be nice, the choir has other goals for the trip, Dye said.
"It's just to go out and do our best," she said. "If we place, that would be awesome, but it's about the experience of going and singing in California."
It's an experience Ritter hopes -- and expects -- the kids won't soon forget.
"Fifty kids and 10 adults -- it's going to be awesome," Ritter said.
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