Wearing a Seymour band shirt, Debbie Carroll was approached by a couple of Walt Disney World employees after the large contingent had marched along Main Street.
They said they see every band that performs in parades at the entertainment complex in Orlando, Florida, and the Seymour High School Marching Owls was the best one they had ever heard.
Carroll and fellow Assistant Director Kyle Lutes and Director Kevin Cottrill are around the band students throughout the year and know their talents, and the compliments from the Disney workers and a few others there confirmed it.
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“Marching down that parade with those kids gives me chills and tears in my eyes every time, and it’s so fabulous to see people you don’t know that are all standing there watching and cheering for those kids through there,” Carroll said. “It’s tremendous.”
This year, for the first time, the band was joined by the color guard, which added even more flair to the performance May 26. The color guard is led by Steve Nauman and his daughter, Lacey Money.
“I am extremely proud of our students, families and talent,” Cottrill said. “We have an awesome and unique band situation at SHS where students can participate in other aspects of our school and still participate in SMOG (Seymour Marching Owls and Guard). To see our band students on the worldwide stage of Disney absolutely nailing it is beyond thrilling for all the directors.”
The band traditionally has taken a Florida trip every four years, starting in 1987, Cottrill said.
“The band directors at that time felt that it would be a great experience if every student had the opportunity to take a major trip during their years in the SHS bands,” he said.
Cottrill has been director of bands since June 2001, so this was his fifth Disney trip.
It costs $904 per student. Organized by the band boosters and school corporation, students are offered ongoing fundraisers and student accounts where profits can be generated, Cottrill said. They sell discount cards and mums in the fall and popcorn in the winter and have another fundraiser in the spring.
The band boosters paid the total cost of transportation for five deluxe coach buses (nearly $68,000) to haul more than 250 people.
The band was selected to perform from an audition of a marching band performance submitted to Disney.
“Disney has a pretty specific audition process where they are looking for groups who play and march with precision and excellence,” Cottrill said. “Our band is always accepted by Disney Performing Arts with enthusiasm.”
Cottrill said he likes the rehearsal process and preparing students to perform for the diverse Disney crowds.
“Also, it is awesome taking students to Disney and being with them for almost a week,” he said. “Everything that Disney does it top-notch, so it’s good for our students to see the company and branding up close.”
Knowing all of the work put in to earn the opportunity to march along Main Street, Cottrill said he gets at least two feelings out of the experience.
“Satisfaction and pride,” he said. “I am proud of our students because they are musically excellent, and we have great students from great families. They work hard, and this trip is the culmination of many years of organization, fundraising and hard work.”
This year, the band performed in the afternoon at Magic Kingdom. At the time, it was more than 100 degrees outside.
They heated it up even more with a powerful Keith Burton arrangement titled “Gershwin on Parade” that combined “Strike Up the Band” and “I’ve Got Rhythm.”
“These two tunes were written by George and Ira Gershwin and combined the march and swing styles,” Cottrill said. “The students did a wonderful job performing this challenging arrangement from memory.”
Band members Isaac Hardin and Will Rinehart, both of whom just finished their junior years, had been to Disney before.
Hardin went with the band in 2015 as an eighth grader and helped carry the banner, and Rinehart went to Disney on a family trip when he was younger.
This time, though, they were in the band — Hardin on trombone and Rinehart in the percussion ensemble.
“I think we definitely caught people’s eyes. We’re a very big band. People don’t really see bands this big, so I really think people were impressed,” Hardin said. “After the fact, you’re like, ‘Wow! I just marched through Disney,’ so you really don’t take it into account because you’re focused on playing.”
He also had a surprise that day when his older sister, Jenna, got engaged in front of Cinderella Castle.
“It was fun just being able to see all of those people out there supporting you, especially your Seymour people,” Hardin said. “There were a lot of people. You could see them everywhere. It was definitely a cool experience.”
Rinehart said the band put in a lot of work to prepare for the performance.
“We had a lot of drumline rehearsals to build up to it, and finally getting to do it, just performing, it felt good,” he said. “There were a lot more people than I expected. It was a great experience.”
After the parade ended, the group spent the rest of the day and trip checking out all of the Disney attractions.
Cottrill said many of the students had never left Jackson County, so it was neat to see their reactions at Blizzard Beach Water Park, Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
“We had long days in the parks where students had all meals paid for and had the opportunity to experience Disney with friends and chaperones. We had a blast,” he said.
“We are happy to offer this experience to all of our students, and it means a lot to me personally because I am the leader,” he said. “Hopefully, the students are exposed to a world outside of Jackson County. In my experience, most students have liked the opportunity.”
Hardin and Rinehart both said they liked spending time with friends.
“There were some cool rides. We’re having fun, we’re screaming, just letting everything loose. It was just a good time,” Hardin said. “You’re with your set people that you have, but then you kind of venture out with other people, and you get to know new people.”
Cottrill said the trip couldn’t have happened without support from the school board, administration and band boosters and planning by Marty Becker and Tim Dawson with Music Travel Consultants. Booster President Tim Hardin organized nearly 25 parent chaperones, four medical professionals and other fine details.
“It truly takes a village, and we have the most awesome support,” Cottrill said. “The 2019 Disney trip was a wonderful success because of our dedicated directors, talented students and supportive parents.”