After more than a year of planning, the Benicia High School Panther Band will depart for New York City on Tuesday, March 13th, to perform in the historic and well-viewed St. Patrick's Day Parade. Typically, this parade boasts 150,000-250,000 marchers and over two million spectators lining the route. The Panther band may quite possibly be the only high school band representing California, as they bring their Panther Pride to the east coast.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the few remaining events where no cars, floats, buses, trucks or other vehicles are allowed. This year, the parade will be held in honor of all American veterans, from every branch of service and from every war or conflict.
As a delightful prelude to this trip, the Panther Band played their piece, “A Weekend in New York” at the 'Music in Our Schools' event on Wednesday night. Have a listen and notice how the Panther Band sounds just like a professional orchestra. Part of the tuba and saxophone section stood and scurried around the high school bleachers during the piece, which put the audience in the middle of the city, complete with the romantic energy of taxi cabs and people on foot. It firmly put everyone in awe of their New York state of mind.
There is an interesting history that is worth telling about the parade. It has been running for 251 consecutive years, and started more than a decade before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. According to one website, the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York was held in 1762 by a group of Irish military and ex-patriots, who served with the British Army stationed in the American colonies. The wearing of green was a sign of Irish pride in the colonies because it was banned in Ireland. The parade participants enjoyed being able to wear the green, sing Irish songs and play Irish tunes which held deep meaning for those who had fled their homeland.
The band has been gearing up all winter by reviving their marching practices to build endurance for the parade route, which covers about 42 blocks. They have done countless laps in the upper parking lot of the high school.
I attended the last practice, and as they came around the bend towards me, even while they played a song I’ve heard dozens of times before, my heart leapt at the thought of how it will sound on 5th Avenue. They added elements to entertain as well as impress.
The band will also get to experience New York City by seeing a Broadway play, the 9/11 Memorial, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and will receive music instruction with a conductor from the New York Philharmonic, to mention a few. For many, this will be their first time in New York, and will surely rank as one of those trip-of-a-lifetime events. Eleven parent boosters took time off from their busy lives as well. They volunteered to chaperone the students and to also enjoy their time with the band, a bittersweet time for the senior parents as this will be the last school trip they will attend with their child.
The Panther Band will start their march at 1 p.m. EST, (10 a.m. Benicia time). Here is a website that declares they will run a live stream of the event.
Please keep the band in your thoughts as they make the long journey over spring break, and especially to the band director, Mr. Patrick Martin, who will be driving all the equipment to New York and back.