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Florida Today Article
Samantha Boss has seen the monuments, visited the museums, felt the history. Now she wants to return to Washington D.C. with 166 fellow teenagers at her back because she thinks they should see and feel it too, in what she describes as “the chance of a lifetime.”
Boss is the drum major for the Pride of Mel-Hi, the Melbourne High School marching band, which will perform in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade April 14 in the nation’s capital, but only if the band raises enough money to pay for the trip.
The goal is $130,000, about half of which remains to be had, and the deadline is approaching: If the money is not raised this month, director Josh Sall will be forced to withdraw from the festival.
“We’re trying to fully fund the trip to Washington, D.C., and we are committed to taking every member of the band,” he said. “We will not leave anyone at home. … We are looking at about $700 per person, and there is no way every student can afford to go.”
Not only that, he said, but chaperones and four band directors must go, too. It adds up to 188 people.
The move to send the marching Bulldogs to what bills itself as “the nation’s greatest springtime festival” started last school year, when Sall sent organizers a video of a performance in a parade in Melbourne with the hope of being one of 14 bands selected. The application was accepted last spring and plans to raise money were made at once, though actual activities to do so were delayed, first for permission from Brevard County Public Schools and then by the weather.
Samantha Boss, drum major at Melbourne High School,
Samantha Boss, drum major at Melbourne High School, hopes to be able to visit our nation’s capital with her band mates. (Photo: Submitted photo)
“We had to raise $130,000 in less than a year; we had to wait to be approved and then there was the hurricane,” said Kerri Butler, president of the Mel-Hi Band Parent Association and mother of Melanie Butler, a freshman tuba player; and Eric Butler, a senior saxophonist.
Parents and friends keep the orchestras playing, she said. Most high school marching bands, including the Pride of Mel-Hi, receive no public funding.
“All funding is private and most comes from band families; students and families are chartered to fund the operating budget through band fees. This means that if there were no fundraising or donation efforts, each student would be expected to pay $1,100 this year, a huge amount,” she said. “The BPA, essentially the band students and their families, almost completely supports the band program at Mel-Hi, including providing financial, volunteer and technical support.”
So, food has been sold, drawings have taken place, cakes have been baked, cars have been washed and letters have been sent to potential donors, some of whom have given freely; others have baffled the parents and kids by their non-responses, so far.
Melbourne High band members work on their routine beforeBuy Photo
Melbourne High band members work on their routine before performing during the Florida Bandmasters Association Marching Band Contest at Palm Bay Magnet High School in October. (Photo: Craig Bailey, Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY)
“We will keep trying to raise that money,” said an undeterred Dana Nasypany, BPA fundraising chair and mother of percussionist Ethan Nasypany. “Our kids have done a lot of selling, and we still have more to do. The big one, coming up in March, is a pig roast on campus.”
“We’ve had about two fundraisers a month since school started,” Sall said.
“We have had some really generous donors and business sponsorships thus far,” Butler said. “There is always time for more business sponsorships. We have nearly 200 band families and an extended reach into the community that consists of non-band students, band and non-band alumni/alumnae, band families and friends and other interested partners.”
The young musicians talk about their efforts to get themselves to Washington, naturally, because they know the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a big deal and worth the effort.
A weeks-long event that starts March 15 and culminates in the parade, it will have Carla Hall of ABC’s “The Chew” as grand marshal; entertainment by Arrested Development, Well Strung, Billy Gilman, Sarah Potenza and Ty Herndon; giant balloons; and thousands of marchers and spectators. The parade will be televised nationally.
The musicians see themselves not merely as students ready to enjoy themselves, but as representatives of their school and the greater community here.
“Going to Washington D.C. and getting on national TV is a great way to represent Brevard County,” said woodwind captain and flutist Anna Boyd. “Even though out in the community, the Melbourne community knows who we are and what we can do, we want people from other states to know who we are and see what we can do.”
Chase Clough, a member of the color guard who serves as its equipment manager, never imagined having the chance to perform at an event like the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and she too wants to “show people outside our hometown how great we are,” she said. “This is a monumental opportunity, a chance of a lifetime.”
Chad Kirk can imagine such an opportunity because he’s been in similar situations, having played for Florida State University’s Marching Chiefs at major bowl games as well as in parades like the Orange Bowl Festival. Once a member of the Pride of Mel-Hi, he now he is principal of Melbourne High School, and he wants his fellow musicians to know how it feels.
“It’s an experience you don’t forget,” said Kirk, who, like Sall, is a sax player. “The excitement can be a bit overwhelming, humbling. … They are experiences you share with people in your organization for years to come.”
Those experiences will include marching and playing the likes of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” George M. Cohan’s “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and, of course, the Mel-Hi fight song, but they also will include visits to those monuments and museums. And band members are expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Clough and Boss, who have been there, took deep breaths at the very mention of it.
“Inspiring,” Clough said softly.
“This trip will kind of be a celebration of our years in high school, of seeing the band grow and develop, and for me, of having the opportunity to lead,” said Boss, an oboe player who wants to major in industrial engineering and is waiting to hear about that from Georgia Tech. “This means the world to us, because it will be something we will never forget, the first national parade the Pride of Mel-Hi has ever participated in. This will be an accomplishment.”
How to help
To donate to the Pride of Mel-Hi’s campaign to go to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, go to www.prideofmelhiband.com and click on the donate button or contact the Mel-Hi Band Parents Association, P.O. Box 1821, Melbourne, FL 32902.
Melbourne High School is located at 74 Bulldog Blvd., Melbourne, FL 32901.