MHS band students visit Orlando over spring break

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The Marshalltown High School Marching Band traveled to Orlando and Disney World recently as part of a trip that Director Brett Umthun arranges once every four years.

Every four years, band students at Marshalltown High School get the opportunity to take a once-in-a-lifetime educational trip over spring break, and for the third time, Director Brett Umthun loaded up the bus and headed south for Orlando.

Among other activities, the group visited the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach and Ron Jon’s Surf Shop, Hollywood Studios, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios and participated in an instrumental workshop including a movie soundtrack sight reading and the evening parade at the Magic Kingdom. Umthun, who is in his 14th year with the Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD) always tries to make each trip a little different and gets excited about it whenever it comes around again.

“I’m already starting to think of different things to do for the next trip. We might go to Orlando, might go to New Orleans, might go to Chicago or New York, so there’s some other options for kids to have musical experiences,” he said.

The students who do attend are asked to chip in themselves and fundraise in various ways.

One of the coolest aspects of the trip and the partnership with Disney, Umthun said, is the chance to learn the soundtrack from a movie — this year, they learned songs from “Moana,” “Star Wars,” “The Lion King” and “The Haunted Mansion.”

Izaiah Warnell, a junior who plays bass clarinet in the concert band, said it was generally “a really fun experience” although, in his view, the ride wait times at the Magic Kingdom compared to the rides themselves “weren’t worth it.” On the other hand, the rides where the lines were actually well worth it.

“Actually seeing everything was really cool as well. Seeing Magic Kingdom, seeing all the light and stuff, seeing Universal, seeing the Transformers because everything is to scale one-to-one. Everything’s really cool to see life-sized,” Warnell said.

Winner Banissan, a percussionist, also went on the trip, said the parade was a highlight, especially hearing the cheers from the crowd and seeing familiar faces who traveled down all the way from Iowa to watch them — many from Marshalltown. Warnell said once they started playing, muscle memory kicks in, and instincts take over.

“I would say I was a little nervous at first, but then I realized I’m never gonna see these people again,” Banissan said of the crowd.

And for Umthun, he’s happy to play a part in an experience that the kids will remember for years to come.

“It’s a huge bonding experience, and I always (ask), at the end of the year, what’s your favorite memory from band? And a lot of them will reference their band trip or marching band or something to do with the big group,” he said.

So despite having to sit on a charter bus for over 50 hours in total on the round trip, the 74 students who made the trek are glad they did, and Umthun is thankful for the community members who participated in the band fundraisers or donated money to help students make such a memorable experience a reality.


Contact Robert Maharry

at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or



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