O’Dowd Musicians’ Magic Moment

Symphonic Band and String Orchestra Performs at Disneyland


Ava Dioli, Contributor

Over spring break, O’Dowd’s Symphonic Band and String Orchestra went to Disneyland and got the opportunity to be directed by Ryan O’Connell, one of Disney’s own music composers, record music in a professional studio and perform live music in the California Adventure park. 

Ryan O’Connell has composed music for Fox, Netflix, Cartoon Network, NBC, and CBS. Most notably, with co-writer Valerie Vigoda, he wrote music for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. He also assisted with orchestrations for “Sinatra 100” on CBS, and “Michael Bublé’s Christmas in Hollywood” on NBC, as well as providing orchestrations for Randy Rainbow’s Grammy-nominated album “A Little Brains, A Little Talent.”

On a sunny Friday with clear blue skies the Symphonic Band and String Orchestra performed three medley-style songs for an audience of about one-hundred Disney goers and passersby. One featuring various Looney Tunes songs, another featuring spaghetti western style music from the movies “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” and “Hang ‘Em High”. The third feature tune was a medley of music from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. We performed on the Hollywood Backlot Stage in California Adventure’s Hollywood Land located near the Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue! attraction and the Turtle Talk with Crush theater.

It was amazing to finally go on this trip! I’d been looking forward to it since my audition before the start of freshman year when I first learned about the Disney trip that happens every other year. I would go my sophomore and senior year. Unfortunately, Covid caused the lockdown and we were unable to go my sophomore year. Senior year it worked out and we were able to attend!

The trip turned out to be a great bonding experience for the band as a whole. I got to know members of the band outside of my flute section and it was really fun to talk to other people I wouldn’t normally talk to. 

The studio recording session was fascinating. We experienced what it’s like to be a professional musician. We practiced sight reading music (where you play a song for the first time the whole way through without prior preparation) and how to go deeper than just playing the right notes and rhythms. We played the Marvel opening theme, music from the movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “The Lion King”. Our director, Ryan, taught us the most important things to look for when sight reading, which are key and time signatures, dynamics, accidentals, tempo and if there’s a road map. 

After the first time we played a song, he worked with some specific groups of instruments on what he wanted changed. This gave other groups of instruments time to work out any mistakes or practice the most difficult parts of the piece. After playing the song two to three more times, he decided we were ready to record. When we recorded, we used wireless Bluetooth headphones that did a countoff and played a metronome to keep us in time. After playing, the staff working in the sound booth played our music with the clip from the movie so we could watch the scene while listening to ourselves play. 

Our director, Ryan, taught us about the power of music in films and how it can add another level of emotion to the film. The end goal is to move the audience and make them emotional. How to do that goes deeper than what’s written on a page of music. 

Overall, it was a really great experience and we all had a blast. 

Here is what some of the band members had to say about their experience: Viktor Gonzalez ’24: “I found the workshop extremely intriguing and was definitely a highlight of the trip. I also felt a lot closer to my bandmates by the end of the trip. It was an interesting perspective of the behind-the-scenes action in classic Disney movies.” Viktor Gonzalez is a junior and plays the saxophone for Symphonic Band, Advanced Jazz, and Jazz Combo. He’s been playing since third grade.

Genna Koceniak ’23: “I thought it was a really great experience. It was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes recording studio and get the experience of wearing the headphones and seeing how it was done. It was cool how the music we played made the movie intro or scene so much more engaging and intense.” Genna has been playing the flute for ten years and is the First Flute player for Symphonic Band. 

Thank you to our band director Mr. Randolph for organizing this and making it possible!