ORLANDO — Mount Airy High School’s marching band recently returned from a trip to Orlando.
The Granite Bears were one of 20 high school bands which came together to perform as one at a college bowl game.
Mount Airy was one of the smallest groups to play in the Dec. 29 Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly known as the Tangerine Bowl. The total number of performers — including musicians, color guard members and dancers — reached 1,600, according to band booster president Beth Pequeno.
While in Florida, the students attended two practice sessions and were able to visit Universal Studios’ theme parks.
“I am proud of how the students have worked to learn their instruments, practiced to march a full show, and pushed themselves to be the best they can be,” said band director Jonathan Jones.
“The support from the families, faculty, and school board has helped tremendously and made a difference in our success. Going to the Russell Bowl was a wonderful opportunity for our students to see not only a bowl game, but work with other directors and learn skills they can take home and improve our program. Many of our students have never attended a college game, so this was an extremely exciting opportunity for them.”
Inspired by the hard work of his students, more than a year ago Jones began seeking out bigger venues where the band could showcase its talents. Being a developing program, Jones said he had no idea last year how big a band he might have this season, so he looked for opportunities to play with other schools in a mass band.
The stadium in Orlando is huge, so it takes a lot of sound to fill up a place that size, said Jones. The 20 bands rehearsed the same three pieces on their own to prepare for the mass band.
Those were: Mustang Sally, made famous by Wilson Pickett, and Shout It Out Loud by Kiss. The third was a jazz standard called Killer Joe, which Jones said has a nice driving rhythm.
“This trip would not have been possible without the support from parents, band alumni, and local businesses,” said Pequeno. “The support our community has shown is amazing. It means a lot to the parents and students to know so many people back home were cheering us on.”