EAST LAKE — A remote-control helicopter buzzed over the musicians’ heads, filming their every move. Yet even a few near collisions weren’t enough to break the synchronized marching of East Lake High School’s “Silver Sound” Marching Band members during their final practice last week before one of the biggest performances of their lives.
At 2 p.m. Monday, 67 members of the high school’s band marched just over a mile through Washington, D.C., down Constitution Avenue and past the White House, in the National Memorial Day Parade. It’s a huge honor, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said band director John Fulton.
“This is the biggest trip East Lake has ever taken. Apart from a few trips to Atlanta for a competition, this is probably the farthest they’ve ever traveled,” Fulton said. “It’s incredibly exciting, a bit nerve-racking, but these guys are truly family. They really have each others’ back and care about each other, so nerves aren’t really an issue. I’m incredibly proud.”
The band received an invitation to apply for the parade in January after receiving straight Superior Ratings at a marching competition, and were accepted earlier this month after submitting letters of recommendation and video of their performances. Then it was up to the band to pick a song and get to work, with weeks of extra practices and fundraising for the $800-a-person trip.
Their selection: Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and a drum cadence.
“I’m a tad apprehensive, but we’ve prepared a lot for this and it’s going to be a blast,” said 18-year-old senior Harrison McNulty, the band’s drum captain. “This is the first parade we’ve done for years, and even that one we just went across town in a stinky little Christmas parade. I knew our band was going to go on to do great things, but it’s still setting in that I’m around to be a part of it.”
The National Memorial Day Parade, organized by the American Veterans Center, is the largest Memorial Day event in the nation, featuring celebrities, floats, bands and veterans. The performance was broadcast live to troops around the world, and at home.
The band toured the White House and watched a performance by the United States Marine Corp Band. Then there was a17-hour bus ride home for finals and graduation, said 18-year-old senior Kelli Yeazell, a saxophonist and the band’s drum major.