Memorial Day: National spotlight on IRHS band in DC parade

Indian River High School Marching Band members at rehearsal, from left: Zach Lingenfelter (trumpet), Joey Lear (trumpet), Autum Bolles (flute), Fred Stinglin (tuba), Sam Riggins (trumpet), Caylee Schmidt (flute). Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

DAGSBORO — Mother Nature rained on Indian River High School Marching Band’s last scheduled outdoor rehearsal for their big gig in Washington, D.C.

Fingers are crossed it won’t rain on their — and America’s — gala parade on Monday.

Memorial Day 2019 will likely be most memorable for approximately 90 IRHS students as televised eyes of the nation will be on them and dozens of other bands from across America in the National Memorial Day Parade.

Within sight of The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Museum and other national landmarks, Constitution Avenue is route venue for the May 27 parade, which steps off at 2 p.m.

“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for every single band member,” said IRHS senior Kathleen Carter, one of the band’s two drum majors. “It’s not every day can you march in a nationally-televised parade in Washington, D.C. right in front of The White House.”

“It’s one of the biggest things we’ve ever done,” said senior drum major Allie Landrie.

The parade will be streamed live by the parade’s online partners, Military.com and YouTube. It can also be seen of various television affiliates.

From left, Chris Loveland, Alex Corpus and Lena Bird playing mellophones are in tune to one of the selections the Indian River High School Marching Band will play in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

Indian River High School was one of several bands invited by Gov. John Carney last year.

“He did nominate one from each county, but we were the only ones who followed through and took the nomination,” said IRHS band director Nathan Mohler. “Not every state sends somebody, due to the time of year, and things of that nature. Last year I think like 22 states were represented. And Delaware wasn’t, so it’s cool for Delaware to be represented this year.”

Held annually in the nation’s capital, the National Memorial Day Parade shares the story of American honor and sacrifice from across the generations. The parade, commemorating its 15th year, is the nation’s largest Memorial Day event, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to the National Mall to pay tribute to those who have served, are serving, and most importantly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to our country.

“We’re all so excited,” said Allie. “We are all a little nervous because it’s to be televised in front of like the whole country. But we’re so proud that we were the band that was nominated and that we get to represent our state and especially our county. We’re so excited.”

Due to family commitments over Memorial Day weekend, not every band member will be making the trip. About 90 percent will.

And for those participating, the trip is free, thanks to massive fundraising efforts spearheaded by the IR Band Boosters augmented by support from the business community and school district. That was Mr. Mohler’s nomination acceptance requisite.

“I just think an honor of this level, a kid shouldn’t have to pay for it, and I don’t want the parents to have to pay for it either,” said Mr. Mohler. “Our parents obviously attend the fundraisers but that is different. I really think an honor of this caliber should be in a way given to these kids because they earned it.”

From left, Daniel Tull (clarinet), Amber Hills (clarinet), Dylan Tuttle (Trumpet), Brooke Thomas (clarinet), Omar Aldrete (clarinet), Mckenzy Marvel (clarinet), Kaila McCabe (trumpet), Roxy Givens (clarinet) play during a rehearsal as the Indian River High School Marching Band prepares for next Monday’s National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

Booster fundraising, community and business support including several Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legions coupled with a financial blessing from school board “gave us the remainder that we needed to get up to that number,” said Mr. Mohler.

Kathleen said the trip is “very special because it’s free for every single kid because of all the fundraising that our boosters have done and help from the district.”

“Even though we were invited it was very expensive,” Allie added. “We fundraised about $40,000. The boosters managed to fundraise like $27,000 of it, or more, like way over half and then the district and a lot of others helped to finish off the rest of it.”

“Our boosters wanted to make sure this trip was free for all of us. Not all the kids in our band are able to afford the trips we pay for every year. Like this year we went to Disneyworld; it was $700 for each kid,” Allie said. “So, they wanted to make sure this was free for everyone, because it’s such a big once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“We were nominated by the governor, fundraised so that no student or chaperone would have to pay to go, and we are the only band representing Delaware in the parade,” said Lisa Bird, president of the IR Band Boosters.

Kathleen said pride — IR Pride — definitely comes into play.

“It gives us the opportunity to really tighten up our skills because we are going to be nationally televised. We do local parades here, which is great, and we worked really hard for those,” Kathleen said. “But since everybody is going to be seeing us and we’re going to be seen with all these other high school bands we really had to tighten up every single aspect of our marching, our music and everything.”

Travel plans are for the band caravan to leave IRHS Sunday in coach buses around 7:30 a.m.

Sightseeing is part of the itinerary – the various memorials and The Smithsonian.

“We have a lot of really cool stuff planned,” Allie said.

Mr. Mohler said the magnitude of the event merits the cost.

“The number seems high but part of it is we are going to a D.C. parade. It’s not like your local Halloween or Christmas parade. It’s a big nationally-televised parade so there are costs that are involved,” he said. “I don’t want to just roll over there in school buses. And you have to be there a day early due to the nature of organizing this event.”

“Part of the cost, too, is we also get to do a small bit of sightseeing,” Mr. Mohler said. “And what is really excellent is part of the process of these students performing on Monday is Sunday night we get to see the National Symphony Orchestra play on the lawn of the Capitol. They are seeing a top-level orchestra from the United States playing on the lawn of the Capitol building. That is pretty awesome!”

Those tuning in will hear the IRHS band playing tunes by Tom Wallace.

“We’re playing an arrangement of “America (My Country Tis of Thee)”. The arranger is Tom Wallace,” Mr. Mohler said. “Personally, he is one of my arranging idols. I just think the guy is top-tier. He does a phenomenal job arranging all sorts of music and styles of music specifically for marching band. Annually I do at least two of three of his arrangements, because they are just written so well, and they really do help showcase our band’s talents.”

“Tom Wallace is one of his favorite arrangers,” Allie said. “And then also it’s a very bright piece and happy piece to like show off how much we love and respect our country. So, it’s very upbeat; very happy, which is exactly what we wanted to portray during the parade.”

The extended forecast for the metro-D.C.-area is favorable, unlike the storm and deluge that disrupted the band’s May 20 rehearsal.
“I hope it does not rain on our parade,” said Mr. Mohler. “It is a rain-or-shine event so we will make the best of it. The weather outlook looks good. It does look like it might rain in the early, early morning hours. But the next five to six days the outlook looks great: sunny, not too hot. Washington, D.C. is built on a swamp so it might be a little humid over there, but nothing these kids can’t handle.”

“I am really looking forward to having the students of the high school represent not just our school district but also our county and our state,” said Mr. Mohler.

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