ANDERSON, Mo. —
Students in the McDonald County High School band are counting down the days until they leave for Washington, D.C., where they are scheduled to take part in some of President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremonies later this month.
As a representative of Missouri, the 55-student band is in the running to perform in the inaugural parade, which is set for Jan. 21 along Pennsylvania Avenue. But that’s not guaranteed and, as of Friday, was still undecided by parade directors, said Laurie Kinder-Lang, band director.
“We may not get selected; they all know that,” she said. “Just to get to represent Missouri is a big deal.”
Bands not selected for the parade will still have the opportunity to perform and compete with other high school bands from across the country in Washington, D.C., Kinder-Lang said.
And aside from its performances, the band will also visit several major tourist attractions, including the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Aquarium, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Hard Rock Cafe, she said.
The trip’s $800 cost per student has meant nearly a year of selling candy bars and coupon books, and stocking the concession stands at University of Arkansas football games in Fayetteville, said Carley Hendrix, a trumpet player and drum major.
“We’ve been fundraising a lot, working really hard to get community support as well as state support,” said Hendrix, a junior.
Hendrix said she looks forward to the 24-hour bus ride with her friends and “band family.” She also is eager to visit the U.S. Capitol for the first time.
“I’m really excited to see what this trip has in store for us,” she said. “It’s a life-changing experience. Not many people get to go to the inaugural ceremonies.”
Bryan Mendoza, a sophomore tuba player, said he will be excited to be in Washington, D.C., regardless of whether the band gets to march in the parade. Yet there is a little bit of pressure as well, he said.
“It’s a big responsibility because this little band from McDonald County is representing the entire state,” he said. “We have to look good for the other states, but we have to be ourselves at the same time.”
Mendoza said he and his classmates would not be preparing for their trip without the support of their school, families, friends and neighbors.
“This has been a long journey, and it’s taken a lot of work,” he said. “It’s been worth it.”
Jeff Whitehill, a sophomore trumpet player, said he was “pretty pumped” when he learned the band would make the trip to Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s a very good honor to be representing the state, ourselves and our own community,” he said.
In addition to seeing the sights of the Capitol for the first time, Whitehill said he looks forward to playing in large performance or concert halls — a change from the small, concrete-walled, acoustically challenged band room of McDonald County High School.
“A lot of us have never experienced that,” he said.
The trip to Washington began last year, when the band performed in New Orleans during the halftime show at the Sugar Bowl and placed third in that competition, Kinder-Lang said. That showing encouraged her to audition the band to be part of the inaugural ceremonies, and she solicited letters of recommendation from across the state, including a letter of support from Gov. Jay Nixon, she said.
The band is scheduled to leave McDonald County High School at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16, and return on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Also in Washington
Sanjay Jenkins, a junior at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, will attend the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington, D.C., scheduled for Jan. 19-23. Participants will study and discuss campaign strategy and presidential politics with historians and political experts.
WITH MUG OF SANJAY