Part of the brass section of the Mill Creek band, freshman Lizbeth Yanez, senior Jill Wissell, junior Jack Skeean, junior Chris Friend and freshman Molly Poynter practiced recently before their trip to London to perform in the New Year’s Day parade. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
HOSCHTON — As Erik Mason peeled shipping labels and organized instruments to be shipped last week, the Mill Creek High band director voiced what everyone else felt.
“Everybody is ready to go,” Mason said. “We’ve done all the planning, this is when the waiting is hard.”
Since the end of October, when marching band practice usually ends, the Mill Creek band has rehearsed for its upcoming trip to Italy and London where it will perform on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday after it learned of the trip more than a year ago.
“Just being in London and Rome is a humbling experience,” junior drum major Austin Mead said. “We call it a rite of passage.”
In Italy, the band will perform “Let It Snow,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” and the school’s fight song; while in London, it will perform “Land of a Thousand Dances” and “Soul Bossa Nova” for the 28th annual New Year’s Day’s parade, which has a 1960s theme.
The 165 band members will be among 20 schools from the United States invited to London.
Mason has led the Mill Creek High band since 2006, and it’s the second invitation his students have received from London. The Mill Creek band marched in London’s New Year’s Day Parade in 2010.
In September 2012, Robert Bone, the executive director of the parade and Roger Bramble, deputy lord lieutenant of Greater London, visited Mill Creek to personally deliver the invitation.
“In recognition of an unparalled reputation for outstanding performance abilities, the patrons and organizing committee of London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival … take great pleasure in extending the invitation to the Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band,” Bramble said last year during his visit.
Along with an appearance in the London parade, the students also have been invited to star in two holiday events in Italy. For that reason, the queen’s representatives last year also hand-delivered written invitations from the mayors of Rome and Frascati, where the events are scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
While Mason said this year’s band sets itself apart because of its work ethic, Mead said it does because all of the members know one another so well.
“We’re a tight knit group,” Mead said. “I could tell you something about every person in this band.”
During its visit to London, the marching band will be part of more than 8,500 performers from around the world entertaining a street audience of about 750,000 and a global television audience of tens of millions.
The historic 2.2-mile parade route features a backdrop of iconic buildings, streets and squares.
Mason said many of the students in his marching band have never visited anyplace outside the United States.
Because Mill Creek isn’t tied to a specific city, and Mason said street parades have dwindled in popularity, the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the band members. After the 2010 trip, Mason said he remembers several of the students saying how appreciative they were to go on the trip.
“I love getting pictures of all kinds along the parade route and getting Big Ben and other tourist attractions in the background,” Mason said.