Local band heading to London for New Year’s parade

JOG COUNTY, Ohio. A local band performs on the road, packing for a trip across a pond to perform at the 2023 New Year’s Day Parade in London, England.

It’s a celebration that the West Geauga High School Band has been preparing for over two years.

“We were in Disney World. We were (were) at Severance Hall. We were in Chicago,” said band director Jason Branch.

Branch is always looking for opportunities for the band to perform at unique events and thought London might be the perfect place to travel overseas. He contacted the parade director and asked what the application process looked like. The school originally received an invitation in February 2020, but COVID-19 canceled their travel plans.

“The marching band is an exclusively American thing. There are British brass bands in London. But they don’t have school bands to play at school football games, Branch said. “They love bringing in American bands because it’s so unique and their population can’t see it.”

Two years later, the group received a second amended invitation to the 2023 parade. West Geauga will be one of eight American bands to be featured in the parade.

“I have never flown before; I only left the country once for Canada. So to go and perform for something like that is incredible. I don’t know what to do with it,” senior Jamie Smithingell said.

Around 160 band members travel to London for the show. For the past few weeks they have been making final preparations for the show.

“This is a great time to be with people I’m really close to and have a nice trip with them for seniors to hang out and get to know them better as we tour this amazing place,” senior companion Morgan Palchik said.

Marching in a parade comes with some other challenges compared to their traditional Friday routine. Brand and his students practiced certain moves, such as group turns, before their performance.

“It’s just so great to make music and have that kind of atmosphere that you can (experience) so many emotions,” Palchik said. “It’s such a cool concept, it’s so fun to be part of a community where you can do it with your friends.”

Despite the delay in showing up for the parade, the school invited the alumni back and allowed them to join the ride. Some students said they were excited to get to know some of the different customs of London and have some fun along the way.

“I’ve been rehearsing my Sherlock Holmes impression so I can joke around a bit when I’m there,” senior Sam Patterson said. “We’ve all been very excited for the three years we know.”

The group will be abroad until January 3rd. You can watch the performance here on WVIZ, the PBS affiliate.

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