Marching in DC

Marching in DC
Marching in DC The Kokomo High School Marching Wildkats were selected to represent Indiana in the nation’s largest 4th of July celebration – the National Independence Day Parade in Washington D.C.
The Independence Day Parade will mark the KHS Marching Band’s third parade performance in 2017 – following appearances in the Indy 500 Festival Parade and the Haynes Apperson Festival Parade. 
America’s National Independence Day Parade takes place annually on July 4th at 11:45 a.m. in Washington D.C., on Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street before a street audience of hundreds of thousands of spectators. Another 8.1 million Americans will watch the parade from home as it airs live on PBS and CSPAN. 
The parade consists of invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIP’s, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants. 
More than 100 members of the KHS Marching Band are making the trip to Washington D.C. to perform in the parade, and some still can’t believe their good fortune.
“Honestly, it’s crazy to me,” KHS freshman and clarinet player Frannie Kidwell said. “I can’t believe we have the opportunity to play in our nation’s capitol on Independence Day.”
Rachelle Miles, KHS senior and clarinet player for the Marching Wildkats, added: “We have been practicing for more than a month, and it doesn’t even feel real yet. It won’t feel real until we are marching down Constitution Avenue.”
Participating bands are invited to the Independence Day Parade based on recommendations from each state. Kokomo High School was nominated by its Congressional District. Bands must then submit a video recording, photos, and biographical information detailing experience, honors, past adjudication results, and festival ratings to the parade organizers. Marching bands are selected on the basis of overall quality, as well as geographical, ethnic, and stylistic diversity. 
KHS senior and Marching Wildkats Drum Major Wesley Grove believes this is the culmination of the hard work and dedication of the KHS Marching Band staff and students (both past and present).
“Being selected for this honor reflects how much we’ve grown and improved as a marching band,” Wesley explained. “The staff and current band members have worked hard to build a successful music program, but the students before us paved the way by setting an example for us to follow.”
KHS senior and member of the KHS Color Guard Zhane Bender added: “It feels great to be acknowledged for our hard work because we do work really hard.”
The KHS Marching Band has been practicing for their parade performance since May… when they started memorizing music. The students are performing “A Patriotic Salute.” The Drum Line also will perform cadences between each repetition. Early practices also involved marching around Kokomo High School to help the band members build endurance. The band began all-day rehearsals on June 19th. The students practice from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The KHS Marching Wildkats added that parade performances are physically exhausting, especially the Indy 500 parade because the parade route was 3 miles. Frannie noted that she slept for 14 hours straight after returning home from Indy.
While the route for the National Independence Day Parade is only one mile, the band members will have to contend with July heat in Washington D.C., where temperatures can reach well into the 90s.
KHS junior Cameron Robertson, who plays tuba for the Marching Wildkats, noted that the mental challenges of parade performances can be even harder to contend with than the physical challenges. Band members have to focus on keeping their feet in time with the other band members, while remembering their music, and not becoming overwhelmed by the crowds. 
“That mental aspect can be more challenging than you’d expect,” Cameron explained. “When I performed with the Marching Wildkats at the Disney World parade, I momentarily forgot my music when I saw the huge crowds.”
The band members agreed that parade performances are a more intimate experience. Spectators are so close to the bands… close enough, in fact, to offer words of encouragement and positive messages as band members pass by. Cameron remembers receiving such messages during the Indy 500 Festival Parade.
“It gave me chills to see the crowd responding so positively to us,” Cameron said.
KHS sophomore Sarah Johnson, a flute player for the Marching Wildkats, added: “I couldn’t quit smiling. Each time we stopped playing, I just looked at the crowd and smiled.” 
The KHS Marching Band members expect Washington D.C. to be an even more emotional experience. Some are visiting Washington D.C. for the first time. For others, it will be the first time they visit the nation’s capitol while celebrating the nation’s independence.
While in Washington D.C., the students will have the opportunity to explore and visit some historic sites. The band members will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The group also will place a wreath on the grave of John Philip Sousa, “The March King,” who led the U.S. Marine Band for 12 years before starting his own touring civilian band in 1892. Sousa gained fame as a conductor, composer, and arranger. 
Rachelle is excited to experience Washington D.C. for the first time. 
“I’ve been more places through Marching Band than I ever thought possible,” Rachelle added.
Sarah concluded that the long hours of work and preparation are more than worth it.
“It has been so much hard work, but the bonds we create in Marching Band are unbreakable,” Sarah explained. “Band unity is one of the greatest feelings.”
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