What time is it? It’s time to see Alta Hawks play Wildcats in a television event that attracts millions of viewers every week. A group of band students at Alta High on Friday flocked to the school’s auditorium to catch themselves in the most-recent episode of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” a trending show on the Disney+ streaming service.
Cheers erupted during the finale, when the members of the band appeared on the screen. The Alta student-musicians played and danced around the show’s stars, who performed their version of the iconic “We’re All In This Together” tune that was made popular in 2006 by former teen stars Zac Ephron and Vanessa Hudgens in the first “High School Musical.”
“I was just like, ‘Hey, that’s me!’ That was so cool,” said senior Sarah Rock-Ward, who appeared on-screen several times. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I am actually on that screen.’ I mean, ‘High School Musical’ was my childhood, and here I am, getting to do this with all of my friends.”
Rock-Ward was among the some 50 students who were hired by Disney to appear as extras in the show. The appearance was arranged by Alta instrumental-musical teacher and marching band adviser Caleb Shabestari, who was contacted in June by Disney casting agents in search of high school-age band students who could quickly learn to play a song for the show’s finale.
Shabestari opened the opportunity to seniors and just-graduated students who had participated in marching band during their time at Alta. It took mere moments to attract a full roster of teenagers excited to be in the “HSM” reboot that is filmed mockumentary-style.
All Alta students were required to send in a head shot to producers and sign an non-disclosure agreement that prohibited them from publicly discussing their time in front of the camera and in rehearsal. The students also were paid for their time and talents.
Ten days later, the cast of Hawks were on set at East High in Salt Lake City, rubbing shoulders with the actors who would reprise the roles of Troy and Gabriella. A 13-hour day of shooting resulted in about three minutes of screen time for the Alta students.
“It was a fantastic experience for the kids,” says Shabestari, who also was paid for his time advising the students through the process. “They got to see what professional musicians go through.”
Senior Madi Bowles said Alta High students were streaming the show on their phones throughout the day to catch a glimpse of their classmates in Episode 10. Even though she graduates in a few months, she said she’d jump at a chance to appear in another episode.
“I would love to do it again. The show was renewed for another season so I am hoping they will have us back,” she said. “It would be so much fun to do it again.”