Santa Monica High School’s (Samohi) marching band made history on the first day of 2009 by participating for the first time ever in London’s New Year’s Day Parade.
One hundred and thirty four students marched one mile from London’s Parliament Building to Piccadilly Circus. They played two numbers that were both written by John Philip Sousa, “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.”
The band also played a short program in Trafalgar Square that they usually perform at halftime at Samohi’s football games. This program included some Beatles songs, “Hang on Sloopy,” “Jazz Bird Land,” and “Tear the Roof Off That Sucker.”
The committee that coordinates the parade in London, according to SAMOHI Band Director Terry Sakow, chose the band after they won a high school band competition at Riverside City College in 2007. Representatives from the committee, including the Lord Mayor of Westminister, made an effort to attend the competition after hearing about it from one of their many contacts in the United States.
Sakow explained that the band had the invitation in hand since October of 2007 but the challenge was to figure out which students would still be in the band when they went to London. This was difficult because the seniors would be graduating before they went to London and freshmen wouldn’t be starting to participate in the band until the summer of 2008. Thus, the real preparation didn’t really start until last June.
Most band students paid their own way in order to make the trip, but scholarships for those in need were also made available through fundraising. Funds were raised through a direct-donation drive where students wrote an appeal letter to friends and relatives. Other funds were received through the selling See’s Candy, an E-waste drive, and by selling Christmas wrapping paper.
The band members also got a chance to do some sightseeing in London, including Windsor Castle, Oxford University, the Tower of London, and some city bus tours.
Sakow noted that in his 19 years as Band Director at Samohi the band hasn’t often performed out of state or out of the country. The last time it did so was at the July 4, 2003 celebration in Washington D.C. “It is definitely something we want to do again in four years,” stated Sakow. He wants to wait that long so a completely different group of kids can get the experience.
Sakow also said, “The students had a really good time and learned a lot from the experience.”
Tenth grade piccolo player Taylor Weary told the Mirror “that she felt a sense of pride by representing the U.S., California and Santa Monica” in the parade. She then exclaimed, “This is a New Year’s we are going to remember for the rest of our lives.”
Another band member, 12th grade trombone player Josh Harling, stated that what he liked best about participating in the parade was the reaction of the spectators that lined the route.
Four musical numbers from the band’s appearance in London can be viewed on youtube at: youtube.com/watch?v=_ck-NbYbKJI.