Surrounded by impossibly large buildings, cheered on by masses of spectators, and supported from thousands of miles away by their hometown, the Cedaredge High School Music Department marched down historic Constitution Avenue blasting the school fight song. After three days of touring the nation's most iconic monuments and performing with other music programs from around the country, Cedaredge High School students closed their adventure with the honor of a lifetime -- marching in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
The community came together to fundraise more than $60,000 to send the music students to the nation's capitol over Memorial Day. Students who had never been outside the Western Slope of Colorado toured the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, and performed in the center of the Air Force Memorial.
Niala Stair, sophomore, shares her wonder at the experience. "I kept thinking about how bands from across the U.S. met at one place to share their passion for music with the audience." She adds, "I was also thinking about how hot it was and how much I wanted to get out of the humidity!" All the Colorado students struggled to transition into the vastly different climate and new culture.
The parade down historic Constitution Avenue featured floats, military bands and groups, and high school marching bands from every state in the country. Cedaredge included the choir in this performance after teaching the singers how to march and carry flags during evening rehearsals.
Noah LaVau, recent graduate, describes what he learned after marching with the band. "Marching is a full-body exercise that literally drained all the energy I had in my body, and I wasn't even playing an instrument. I have such a greater respect for those who do it hours at a time."
In addition to marching in the parade, both groups performed individually at the Air Force Memorial as part of the National Memorial Day Concert Series. The choir also performed impromptu concerts in parks and on the plane ride home.
While in D.C., the department enjoyed a tour from Music Celebrations International. Every student loved both the tour guide, Maria, and the bus driver, Jessie. The bus was filled with laughter and minds being filled with new knowledge about America's military and traditions. Jacob Small, graduated choir member, shares his enlightenment upon seeing the nation's monuments. "When I visited the memorials I truly understood the meaning of patriotism and what it meant to be an American."
Although many friends and family members recorded the performances, no amount of photos or words can describe the incredible experience each student went through. Everyone returned as a different person. Graduated seniors enjoyed their last times with the music program while incoming freshmen were granted an enormous boost to start their high school careers. Director Melissa Gross reflects on the incredible journey. "I couldn't be more proud of the work and effort the students put forth to make the trip a reality; they acted with poise, dignity, and a stoic nature befitting that of a professional delegation representing their state and community. Their experiences and actions were conducted with a maturity far beyond their years. I would like to thank the community of Cedaredge, Delta County, and the state of Colorado for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The experiences and memories attained through this adventure will remain with the students and myself always!"