KINGSPORT — Sullivan South High School’s band is preparing to march in the nation’s capital on Memorial Day.
Almost 100 band members — including 18 eighth-graders who will have just completed middle school — will march May 28 in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
South band director Kenneth Carrico said the South band will be among the largest bands in the parade.
“They called us and actually asked us to be in the parade,” Carrico said.
South and Tennessee High in Bristol, Tenn., were chosen for the parade by Music Celebrations International, although Carrico said usually only one band per state is invited.
Carrico said the South Rebels band will leave May 25, the day after the last day of school in Sullivan County. They will arrive in Washington later that day, sightsee and tour, and then march in the parade Memorial Day morning. Afterward, the group will head home and arrive back in Tennessee that evening.
The cost per student is $480, but Carrico said that was offset by various fund-raisers, including selling fruit and band members placing 14,000 luminaries at East Lawn Cemetery.
Carrico said some members aren’t going because of money or other issues, but 96 students will be among the contingent making the trip. Of those, 18 are rising ninth-graders, three are from Sullivan Middle School, and another 15 are from Colonial Heights Middle School.
“We’ve never done anything that big,” said drum major Erica Morie, a senior.
She said the music has been more difficult than the eighth-graders are accustomed to, but “they’re getting it.”
Trumpet player Chris Ward, a senior, said this will mark his first trip to Washington. He plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and maybe try out for the Pride of the Southland Marching Band his sophomore year.
Vivian Swayne, a senior sousaphone player, said she hasn’t been to Washington since a family trip during her elementary school career. She also plans on attending UT but said she won’t be in the band there.
The band will perform Sousa Palooza in the mile or so march, a compilation of John Philip Sousa marches including “Stars and Stripes Forever,” strains of which echoed on the pavement practice area at South the afternoon of May 3.
Before practicing some marching, however, the group did stretching and relaxation exercises, followed by some step-by-step marching practice. They also worked in groups practicing the music.
Students said they will tour the Smithsonian and other tourist activities while in Washington, as well as see the Marine Corps band perform and possibly take a tour of the White House.
Drummer Jack Rasnake, a senior, said he looks forward to the White House tour and the Smithsonian. He plans to go to East Tennessee State University in Johnson City and major in business or psychology.
Baritone player Natalie Stacy, a freshman, said she’s been to Washington before but not to perform.
Carrico said the band was able to give out about $3,000 in scholarships to assist 10 students who otherwise couldn’t attend. He said many seniors are going, including one who graduated early in December.
Carrico said the parade tops off a good year for the band, which he said did well in marching competitions in the fall.
Carrico, who is completing his first year as a band director at South, said the plan is for the band to take a big trip every two years.
The next one on the horizon is an invitation to the Sugar Bowl at the end of December 2013.