TPSMEA Trip Strikes Chords with Students


It’s an ordinary Friday night at the San Marcos outlet shopping mall. Giggles fill the cool night air as eight girls, singing some offbeat melody, pile out of a vehicle next to the curb. But these girls are not just any rowdy group of friends looking to go shopping: they’re talented Hockaday musicians, selected by audition to participate in an yearly trip and perform in a special honor orchestra and choir at the Evans Auditorium.

Sponsored by the Texas Private School Music Educators’ Association, this annual event has brought together talented choir and orchestra students from all over Texas, including senior Vivian Zhou and alumna Jessica Kong ‘14, to rehearse and perform advanced music and repertoire together. Some students remember the San Marcos trip fondly not only for the music they made, but for the nostalgic traditions and memories they had.

One is the shopping visit after a full day of rehearsals to the aforementioned San Marcos outlet, where high-end vendors sell wares at discounted prices. “We always have fun running around by ourselves,” Zhou said, “We have to get all our shopping done to be back on the bus by 10 p.m.”

Another are memories with the same teachers who go on the trip every year: Fine Arts department chair Ed Long and former TPSMEA Vice President and Middle School orchestra director, Yung-Fang Ludford. 

“I got to really bond with [teachers]. I definitely wouldn’t have known Mr. Green if it wasn’t for TPSMEA,” Kong said.

Food also plays an important role in memories made during the trip. After the first hours-long bus ride down south, students stop at a certain Panda Express next to the hotel. On the second day, Ludford reserves spots for the group at a Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant. Taco Cabana is on the menu for the third day, after the final performance.

“Mrs. Ludford always get the sopapillas,” Kong said, laughing.

But Panda Express, the San Marcos outlet shopping malls and the sopapillas of Taco Cabana will no longer be recounted and revisited by students. The trip this year has relocated to the Dallas-Richardson area, where the Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts presented the final performance.

The event has seen a huge growth in number of participants, and the previous auditorium did not have the space necessary to host such large concerts. The desire for a better sound quality in performance space also drove the move to the Eisemann.“When you come to the Eismann, you gotta know, that’s the place that holds world-class performances,” Ludford said. “They have state-of-the-art sound. Everything is just totally different.”

Both Zhou and Kong, however, believe the move may damper the adventure of discovering a town far away from the DFW area.

“It’s a place that we already know. When we do have free time to go out and do whatever, it’s sort of, ‘Been there, done that,’” Zhou said. Kong echoed her sentiment: “It’s not the same experience as taking the bus down.”

But with the drawbacks of the relocation, come some benefits. Zhou talks about her family, who will no longer have to drive for hours on end to watch the performance.  “It’s a show that’s much more accessible for friends and family to come watch and support, so they can actually see what you’ve been working on the whole weekend,” Zhou said.

Though returning veterans who have gone on the trip in the past years may lose some of their fondly-remembered traditions, new ones may form.

“I guess there’s a sense of familiarity,” Kong said. “You can be proud to say this is your home.”

Jenny Zhu – Editor-in-Chief