A local high school marching band is eagerly anticipating making its second appearance in an event viewed by millions worldwide.
The award-winning Lakota West Marching Firebirds are scheduled to appear Jan. 1 in the 126th Rose Parade, along with 17 other bands selected for the event, including some from Denmark, Japan and Mexico. Also performing will be bands from Florida State and University of Oregon, the two universities competing in the Rose Bowl Game.
Flutist and Lakota West senior Sydney Scherer said getting to perform not only in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2013, but the 2015 Rose Parade is “awesome.”
“It’s incredible, really,” she said. “I’m still really shaking with excitement for it. It’s a big deal and we owe it all to our directors. They’ve done a lot for us.”
Greg Snyder, the band’s director, who guided band members in the Rose Parade in 2008, said he is “thrilled” the school is on the precipice of its second appearance in front of a broadcast audience of nearly 80 million in 115 countries.
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“Not many schools get to go once, let alone twice,” said Snyder, who is scheduled to retire Feb. 20 after 27 years with the district, the past 18 of which have been spent at the high school. “I can’t think of a better way to finish my career at Lakota West than the granddaddy of them all — the Rose Parade. It’s going to be extra special.”
The award-winning band was invited to the 2015 Rose Parade “because of the band’s demonstrated excellence in a variety of categories including musicianship, marching ability, entertainment and special interest value,” according to Andrea Fox, spokeswoman for Tournament of Roses, which sponsors the parade.
The biggest challenge to practicing the past two months has been the temperatures, Snyder said.
“Cold and band do not go well together … but we know the kids are ready for this and it’s going to be warmer in California and we’re real excited to get on all the planes this Saturday,” he said.
Fundraising by the Lakota West Upbeat Club has knocked down the cost of the trip nearly $200 for each student, from $1,800 to about $1,630, according to Jill Trygier, the club’s president.
Doing so, she said, requires “a whole extra layer of fundraiser” conducted by a dozens of volunteers who join the efforts of the scores of volunteers already helping out with chaperoning, uniforms and other areas.
“It takes an army of people,” Trygier said. “Plus, we had outstanding support from the local community.”
Field commander and Lakota West senior Nick Anderson, 18, said he is “incredibly grateful” for the band scholarship funding and band supporters paying a significant amount of the cost of the trip.
“There’s seven kids in our family and all of us have been through the band program,” said Anderson, who will be joined in the parade by his brother Benjamin, a trumpet player and Lakota West junior. “Our family has definitely seen the benefits of the scholarship program.”
Anderson said he also has many friends who have benefited from the generosity of those who contribute and the dedication of band boosters.
“I know a lot of kids who wouldn’t have been able to go to trips or been able to do marching band in the first place have been able to now all thanks to the many scholarships that the school and West Chester both have,” he said.
During the trip Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, band members will take part in numerous activities, including decorating a Rose Parade float, visiting Universal Studios, dining on the Queen Mary and attending a Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.
Anderson, will follow in the footsteps of two sisters, Christina Brunsman and Elizabeth Scott, who performed with the Marching Firebirds in the 2008 Rose Parade.
“It was a lot longer than we had anticipated, but it was really awe inspiring,” Brunsman said. “It was fun and it took everything out of us. We were all really happy at the end and really excited and had lots of adrenaline pumping.”
Her advice to her brothers and other band members? Enjoy the moment.
“Don’t get so caught up in missing notes or getting out of step,” she said. “Just live in the moment and take it all in.”