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Local marching band heading to London for New Year's Day parade

Posted at 11:03 AM, Dec 29, 2022

GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — A local marching band is taking its act on the road, packing its bags for a trip across the pond to appear in the 2023 New Year’s Day Parade in London England.

It’s a celebration that is more than two years in the making for the West Geauga High School marching band.

“We’ve been at Disney world. We’ve (been) in Severance Hall. We’ve been to Chicago,” said band director Jason Branch.

Branch is always looking for opportunities for the band to play at unique events and thought London might make a perfect destination while on a trip overseas. He contacted the parade director and asked what the application process looked like. The school originally got the invitation in February of 2020, but COVID-19 canceled their travel plans.

“Marching band is a uniquely American thing. In London they have British Brass bands. But they don’t have high school marching bands to play for high school football games,” Branch said. “They love bringing American bands over because it’s so unique and their population doesn’t get to see this.”

Two years later, the band received a second revised invitation for the 2023 parade. West Geauga will be one of just eight American bands featured in the parade.

“I’ve never flown before; I’ve only been out of the country once to Canada. So going and performing for something like this is incredible. I don’t know what to do with myself with it,” said senior Jamie Smithingell.

Roughly 160 band members are making the trip to London for the show. They’ve been spending the last several weeks putting the final preparations on their performance.

“It’s a great time to be with people I’m really close with and get a nice senior trip with them to hang out and get to know them better while we’re touring this amazing place,” said fellow senior Morgan Palchick.

Marching in a parade provides some different challenges when compared to their traditional Friday night routines. Brand and his students have been fine-tuning specific movements like navigating turns as a group ahead of their performance.

“It’s just so cool to create music and have that atmosphere that you can (experience) so many emotions with it,” Palchick said. “It’s such a cool concept, that it’s so fun to be a part of a community where you can do that with your friends.”

Despite the delayed appearance in the parade, the school invited students who graduated back and allowed them to join on the trip. Some students said they were excited to experience some of the different customs in London and have a little fun along the way.

“I’ve been practicing my Sherlock Holmes impression so I can do a little razzing when I’m there,” said senior Sam Patterson “We’ve all been pretty excited for the three years that we’ve known.”

The band will be overseas through Jan. 3. You can watch the performance locally here on the PBS affiliate, WVIZ.

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