The official invitation from Westminster in London to bring the West Monroe High School Marching Band to perform in the New Year's Day parade. (KTVE/KARD)
A gift from the City of Westminster to the West Monroe HS Marching Band. (KTVE/KARD)
WEST MONROE -- It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to march in one of the largest parades in the world.
The west monroe high school marching band will take the world stage in two weeks, performing in the New Year's Day parade in downtown London.
"I've never been out of the country before, so it'll definitely be a new experience," said Kara Martin, a euphonium senior. "We're known around Louisiana, but I never would thought that someone in London would have picked us from a select group of bands to come."
Freeman says the parade is even bigger than the Macy's Thankgiving Day, which brings in about 500,000 people. The New Year's parade will be broadcast throughout Europe.
"This band has traveled extensively across the United States, but never outside of the country," said Robert Freeman, the head band director.
"This is a culmination of a lot of hard work, and not just in rehearsals but just overall commitment," said Freeman.
Students and parents made sacrifices to cover the $4,000 travel cost, like one teen who picked London over his first ride.
"I sold my truck that I just bought three months ago in order to pay the down payment on London," said Isaac Harris, a euphonium senior and drum major. "I could always go back to London as vacation, but I'll never be able to march down the street in the biggest parade in the world."
"We have students who have worked two jobs as well as go to school to help pay," said Freeman. "Not just students, but families have sacrificed in a big way to make sure that their child could go."
The chance came a couple of years ago when the band was noticed by judges at the Chik-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, GA. Those judges had connections to London, and asked the marching band to apply for a spot in the New Year's Parade. One thing led to another and eventually, in November 2012, the Lord Mayor of Westminster flew to West Monroe's doorstep with an official invitation.
"We were asked to play one song when she got here, so we played and after she spoke, she just wanted to hear more," said Freeman of the experience.
The parade route is less than a mile, but rolls through historic parts of downtown London. The band will also perform at the famous Cadogan Hall, home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Students are juggling high school life and classwork, all while spending extra time practicing for London.
"High school is a difficult thing to do on it's own, much less, being part of such an active organization like the West Monroe Marching Band," said Freeman. "These guys that are going are not only perfecting a marching show, and working towards individual playing for all state and honor band tryouts, they're also doing extra rehearsals for London. Quite a commitment for them."
The band has already shipped off their instruments before-hand to be checked by customs, so Freeman said the band is doing as much preparation as they can without them.
For many seniors, this trip means more than just an opportunity.
"This is like my last trip with Rebel Band, and it's just going to be really special for all of the seniors," said Martin. "We're going to go out with a big performance in a big part of the world."
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