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Hami Wins Big in the Big Apple

On March 20, 100 Hamilton students were bussed to LAX for a redeye flight to Newark, New Jersey. Departing at 9:45 p.m., students arrived across the coast at around 5 a.m. tired and hungry, but excited. After quickly grabbing breakfast at the airport, students took a bus straight to Battery City Park. They boarded a ferry which took them to the Statue of Liberty followed by Ellis Island, where they explored the area and ate lunch. Then, they went to Little Italy, where they shopped at various stores, typically purchasing souvenirs. Students ate an early dinner at Da Nico before heading to their hotel at Englewood. Chaperones assigned rooms, and students went to their respective spaces to settle in before hanging out with their friends in other rooms. 

Students pose at Battery City Park following their ferry ride.

Humanities junior Samantha Ugolnik sums up the first day best, “I was really tired and it was freezing cold, but it was fun!” 

On day two, students woke up bright and early to eat breakfast at the hotel conference room before being bussed to Times Square. After taking a group picture, students explored local stores before heading to the Stardust Diner for a very entertaining lunch with singing waiters and waitresses. Then, they were taken to the expansive Metropolitan Museum, given about three hours of free time. Dinner was served at the Hard Rock Cafe before students watched “Sweeney Todd” or “The Play That Goes Wrong” on Broadway.

Students, teachers, and chaperones pose for a photo in Times Square.

On the third and rainiest day of the trip, a select group of students attended an hour-long Broadway stage combat workshop while the rest were taken to the Riverside Church early for the main event: the WorldStrides Heritage Festival. AMPA’s winds, orchestra, jazz, and choir ensembles would perform, competing against other programs from different states. After their performances, they would also be able to work with an adjudicator to improve their overall sound, a very insightful and useful experience. Hamilton’s performances began at noon and ended at around 5 p.m., with breaks and other groups performing in between. After around 2 hours of judging, all ensembles were called back into the nave of the church to announce the awards and winners. 

AMPA completely swept the awards, winning over ten of them with the list as follows: 

  • Chamber Orchestra- Silver First Place and Outstanding Orchestra
  • Wind Ensemble- Gold First Place and Adjudicator Award
  • A Jazz Band- Gold First Place, Adjudicator Award, and Outstanding Band
  • Chamber Choir- Gold Third Place and Adjudicator Award
  • Instrumental Sweepstakes
  • Overall Sweepstakes
AMPA performers and teachers pose with their awards at Riverside Church.

Additionally, the Maestro Award, given to an individual with an outstanding solo performance, was given to AMPA’s very own Daniel Flores, a sophomore from wind ensemble. As a clarinetist, Flores actually had to transpose the solo, which was originally meant to be played by a flutist. He was given a month to learn the solo, becoming familiar with the piece and annotating it before “using a metronome to slowly build up that speed,” he explained. Regarding the actual performance, Flores said, “I was nervous, but I just tried focusing on the piece as much as I could.” Flores’s dedicated efforts proved to pay off with the award and the roaring applause of the audience. 

However, students noticed something odd about the awards ceremony and the applause. With an introductory speech by one of the WorldStrides representatives advising the students to clap for everyone, Hamilton adhered to these instructions, clapping for each ensemble that won. However, as AMPA began to win more and more awards, the group noticed a clear lack of support from the other schools for Hamilton. There was a distinct tension in the air that Hami students felt, which was only amplified by the fact that the other schools were essentially not racially diverse at all, unlike Hamilton. A majority of AMPA students discussed this issue among their fellow ensemble members, feeling uncomfortable with the dirty looks they were getting from other groups. But thankfully, this did not affect the justified overwhelming feeling of joy and pride the ensembles felt towards their accomplishments.

AMPA senior and member of the Chamber and Anacrusis choir ensembles Aleksa Gutierrez said, “I definitely felt out of place as a person of color and as part of a very diverse group of students. But we were all still really happy with our achievements.”  

Following the conclusion of the festival, WorldStrides provided a dinner cruise for all the students on the Upper New York Bay, looping around the Statue of Liberty. While the food served and music played wasn’t exactly enjoyable for most of the students, overall, they enjoyed the final event of the trip.

“Spending the dinner with my friends on the deck laughing and talking made it an experience I’ll always keep in my heart,” said Kaiya Duarte, an AMPA choir major. “I realized then how precious these moments are as a senior.”

The wind ensemble poses while on dinner cruise.

After a long day, students arrived back at the hotel close to midnight. Instructed to pack their belongings as soon as they got to their respective rooms in preparation for the next day’s early departure, students speedily packed to get as much sleep as they could. 

By 5:15 a.m., everyone was in the hotel lobby with their luggage, ready to take the bus back to the airport. Once at the airport, the amount of trophies and plaques won by the groups caused minor issues with TSA, but thankfully, they were able to be resolved and everyone was soon headed back to Los Angeles. Arriving at Hamilton at around noon, students quickly went back home to catch up on much needed rest. 

The New York trip was an incredible and memorable trip for everyone who took part in it, and students said they are eternally grateful for the opportunity sponsored by the LAUSD Cultural Passport.

Hami students pose with their Cultural Arts Passports.

“I didn’t want to go home, it was really enjoyable,” Samantha Ugolnik said. 

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About the Contributors
Ambrielle Ayllon
Ambrielle Ayllon, Culture Editor
Ambrielle Ayllon is the culture editor for The Federalist. She is a senior in the AMPA program at Alexander Hamilton Senior High. Ambrielle covers topics like music, fashion, entertainment, and pop culture. In addition, she is also interested in coffee, digital cameras, singing, cooking/baking, and playing guitar. You can share feedback and story ideas with Ambrielle through email at [email protected] or on Instagram @federalistathami.
Siyana Da'Briel
Siyana Da'Briel, Social Media Editor
Siyana Da’Briel is the social media editor for The Federalist. She is a senior in AMPA  at Alexander Hamilton Senior High. Siyana covers news and enjoys talking about local and federal politics as well as economics. She is interested in public advocacy, and using her voice to share information to people who don't have access or understanding. You can share feedback and story ideas with Siyana through email at [email protected] or on Instagram @federalistathami.

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