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From Westminster to Waikiki, band to march in Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade

In four days, the Owls are going to take flight.

Destination: Hawaii.

The Westminster High School Marching Band, after a year of extensive fundraising and planning along with rehearsing, memorizing and practicing, heads to Hawaii on Dec. 5 to participate in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade.

The third annual parade will go through the scenic streets of Waikiki and end at the foot of Diamond Head Crater.

During the whirlwind trip of five nights and four days, the 85 members of the band also will perform in a memorial concert and take in the sights of America's 50th state.

"I'm so excited," said Lacey DeJordy, 17, a senior clarinet player. "This is probably the best experience I could have asked for from band. It is so surreal. I just can't wait to go."

Last December, the band was invited by the Pearl Harbor Parade Memorial Committee to represent the state of Maryland in the parade. The parade features a band from each of the states that had a ship moored at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack — USS Arizona, USS California, USS Maryland, USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee and USS West Virginia.

Last year, the Chopticon High School Marching Band from Leonardtown represented Maryland.

"I'm excited to represent all the people who sacrificed so much for me," said Drew Miles, 16, a junior baritone saxophone player with the Westminster band."It is a huge opportunity."

During the 1 1/2 mile parade route, the band will have a minute to perform in front of the grandstand, according to Jennifer Jones, marching band director.

The band has been rehearsing a lot of music, from patriotic to big band, she said, adding that she is most excited about performing "God Bless America."

"It is the original score from Irving Berlin to the Marine Corps for Armistice Day," she said, of the arrangement the band will perform. "It's pretty cool.

"We also are doing a fantastic arrangement of 'Amazing Grace,' " she said.

While many of the band's instruments will travel with the members, some of the larger instruments, including percussion and sousaphones, will be rented in Hawaii, with the students receiving them the day before their performance, Jones said.

The sousaphones will be a challenge, as band members perform on tubas in Westminster.

"It is a big physical difference," Jones said, of performing on sousaphones, which wrap around a performer, rather than tubas, which a performer carries on his/her shoulder.

Hannah Dutterer, 16, is not too worried about playing a sousaphone.

"It's a different way to carry it," Dutterer said. "I've never had to play one before. It is going to be an interesting experience."

As for performing in Hawaii, Dutterer is thrilled.

"I'm beyond excited. I didn't expect to ever get a chance to do this," Dutterer said. "I'm really proud of what we've done and am extremely grateful to everyone that has donated."

As of last week, 500 businesses and individuals have donated to the trip, according to the Owls' website. BB&T Bank has partnered with Westminster High School Instrumental Music Boosters for the endeavor, agreeing to match 50 percent of $20,000 the band raises.

Each of the band students was required to pay $600 of the more than $1,600 required to attend the trip.

The remaining balance was funded by the booster club through hours of fundraising and hosting events, as well as writing the governor and other state and county officials, hosting various sales and attending restaurant nights.

"This wasn't supposed to be a travel year for us, but we couldn't pass it up," said Brian Thompson, assistant band director and an alum from the band in the late 1990s.

Typically, the band performs at various competitions locally and on the East Coast, traveling further every other year to competitions in Atlanta and Indianapolis.

"The response from the community has been great," Thompson said. "Everyone is beyond excited."

While the band's main purpose will be its performances, plenty of fun activities are planned, too. The itinerary includes hiking on Diamond Head volcano, visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center and Dole Pineapple Plantation.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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