It’s time to pack the passports inside their instrument cases.
For members of Steinbrenner High’s band, The Marching Warrior Brigade, they’ll need to have their international travel affairs in order come Dec. 27 when the band heads across the pond to England.
The 136-member band has been invited to be in the massive 2024 London New Year’s Day Parade, which will feature nearly 10,000 performers.
The streets of London, from Piccadilly Circus to Downing Street, will be packed with more 500,000 spectators. It also will be broadcast to millions, including viewers in the United States, on PBS.
“This is the biggest trip this band has probably done in a while, at least since COVID,” said sophomore Will Gilleland, who plays the clarinet. “In my time in the program, the furthest we’ve gone on a trip is Orlando, so going to a crazy, new place we’ve never been before — it’s incredible!”
This is the second time the Brigade has been invited to this particular parade, as the band was invited to the 2021 edition, though that was canceled due to COVID.
On March 22, Steinbrenner was reinvited, this time with a lively ceremony.
Bob Bone, founder and chair of the parade, came to the campus in Lutz, accompanied by Duncan Sandys (pronounced Sands), who is the great-grandson of Winston Churchill.
“I know there is a parade you have here on Thanksgiving, which I think is named after a department store,” Bone told the band, tongue-in-cheek, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “They’re half as big and think they’re a big deal, but we take a look at Macy’s every year to get an idea of what NOT to do!”
Sandys, who now resides in Georgia as ambassador to the parade, told the band about the history and expansiveness of London. He also went over the parade route and briefly talked about his great-grandfather, the United Kingdom’s legendary prime minister in World War II.
“Enjoy every sight you can while there,” he said. “There is just so much history on every corner.”
Chip Wood, Steinbrenner’s director of bands, said the international band trip is an exciting and huge undertaking. To help avoid any last-minute disappointments, he’s making sure everyone who is traveling is getting their passports now.
“It’s an extremely well-attended parade,” Wood said. “I wanted to give these kids, and my own son, who is a junior in the band, an epic event with some travel — and I’ve never been to London! … But (passports), the process takes way longer than it used to, so I want to make sure everyone has theirs or updated so they can pack it and go!”
Wood has previous experience leading a band to large-scale events, including taking a band twice to the Rose Bowl Parade in California, the Macy’s parade in New York and even being part of the taping of the Disney World Christmas “parade” in Lake Buena Vista.
At the ceremony, junior piccolo player Meghan Betancourt, was “awarded” being the ceremonial keeper of the official British umbrella. Sandys gave her a small, white umbrella.
It’s a relatively new tradition of the parade, but Bone and Sandys present the umbrella to one lucky band member, who must keep the umbrella in his or her personal custody until the parade.
Failure to do so could result in it raining on the parade.
Betancourt’s fellow band members and friends are encouraged to help her be vigilant in protecting the umbrella — through the threat of an Instagram post, if she slips up on her duty.
“I will feel bad if it rains on the parade,” Betancourt said. “I think they’re all ready to blame me (laughs), ready to post on instagram, if it rains because of me.
“(But) I’m super excited, because I love traveling and I really like playing in front of people,” she added. “Playing in a big parade makes me really happy because I like seeing other people get happy from our performances. And we get performance experience without competition experience — we just get to perform and that will be really good for our program.”
As for what the band’s musical set will be, that decision is an ongoing process.
But one thing is certain, the band leader said. “Whatever it is, they’ll be playing it in London!”
London New Year’s Day Parade
Details: The parade first took place in 1987 as the Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade, but was renamed in 1994, and for 2000 only it was called the Millennium Parade. More than 500,000 spectators attended the 2023 parade, with even more expected in 2024. Performances from the nearly 10,000 musicians and artists will be screened live on network television on PBS.
For more information on the parade, visit https://lnydp.com/. For more information on the Steinbrenner band, visit HillsboroughSchools.org/steinbrenner.
Published March 29, 2023