Celebrating Jim Yarnell, ASH Disney Program Founder

“My last concert at Disney is a mixed blessing. It is sadness and happiness all wrapped up into one; even amounts of both feelings. But I'm surrounded by really good friends, people that I have been working with for 20, 25 years, so it is really super special. Having the students and colleagues from ASH here with me makes it a moment that I will never forget. “
Jim, music teacher

After 25 years of meaningful collaboration with Disney, and an upcoming retirement in June 2022, this year’s performance held even more meaning for Jim Yarnell, the ASH Signature Program founder. Looking back over the decades, this 25 year jubilee celebrates the musical story between ASH, Disneyland Paris and the thousand students who took part in this unforgettable learning experience - in large part thanks to the passion and dedication of this very fine ASH educator. 

“Undoubtedly the success of the collaboration between ASH and Disney has been the human rapport and relationships that have built up over the years, very much due to Jim. He is a fabulous educator, he has a passion for giving as much as possible to his students. Giving them different opportunities, taking them out of standard contexts and getting them to think outside of the box - getting them to be creative thinkers. Jim and I have spoken so many times through the years about the impact that you make on a young person as an educator, or through an experience like this, I definitely think that the passion to give that opportunity to his students has been a driving force behind the success of this program. Every time ASH comes back to Disneyland its like welcoming home family.  ASH will never be forgotten when we talk about the workshops, as they were the kick off group for that to happen and for these workshops to be a part of the Disney performing arts educational program. “
Sue, Director of Disney Performing Arts Program for 32 years. 

“I went on this trip in the fall of 1994, the year we went was the first visit from ASH. It was a great experience to be invited to the relatively new EuroDisney, and a chance for the band to perform for an outside audience. I remember Mr. Jarnell being very excited about the trip and us all preparing very diligently for it. I got to play a solo on the flute during our performance, and it has always been a random fun fact to roll out that I've performed a solo on a stage at a Disney resort!  We also had a flute trio my senior year, which Mr. Jarnell actively supported. I remember my band experience very fondly, and continued on to play the flute through my four years of university in the Wind Symphony at Cornell. What a legacy Mr. Yarnell leaves for the school.”
Kristin, Class of 1995

“I have nothing but good memories from the Disney experience. I participated in two of the high school trips and have wonderful memories of them. But, my first Disney trip as a student was actually as a 5th grader, when in 1997, I went with the Middle School choir. At this very young age, it gave me an idea of what "being a performer" really entails. It's so valuable to see something like Disneyland from both sides - the public side that's all "sunshine and rainbows," but which is created/possible only because of this much-bigger "backstage network," marked by strict rules, discipline. It was a rude awakening, in some ways, but one that did not feel heavy at the time because the trip was just filled with so many moments of fun. The Disney trips have played a significant role for everyone in my family, so I appreciate the opportunity to share.”
Stephanie, Class of 2007

“I experienced the Disney trip from many angles. As a young elementary schooler and middle schooler I often tagged along on the trip with my dad. At that age there was naturally the excitement of going to Disney. But the backstage experience left a lasting impression - seeing half built props, characters walking in costume, strict rules to follow, expected disciplinary actions. Quite a shock - but an early message to learn truly what it means to be a performer. Soon I was part of the band, and didn't just get to come along, but actually got to perform on the stages with my friends. The rules and discipline stuck. But experiencing this with your friends truly got us connected in ways that other performances didn't. 

As years progressed, I soon became a teacher and got to chaperone the high school students on this trip. Seeing it through the eyes of the students, showed me how profound, meaningful and educational this trip actually is. My last Disney trip was in 2014. This was a true moment I would never forget. For the first time I was the conductor of the band (while I was a student teacher at ASH). A moment that felt like a full circle - where I truly knew the students and got to celebrate the moment together. 

I've been on the Disney trip more than 10 times. I've been with the choir, the jazz band and the concert band. I've been there in snowstorms and heatwaves. Each time that I was there was a unique experience. Each time that I was there helped me form the musician and educator that I am today. When people who haven't gone on this trip hear that students go to Disney, they think it is “the fun and magical amusement park”. Of course it is, but it is also the most educational trip that I have experienced as a person, student and teacher. “
Michelle, Class of 2007