Last Wednesday, I marched down Main Street for a parade. It was sunny and bright and people waved at me and the rest of the Roslyn High School Marching Band, but unlike our annual Homecoming parade, this Main Street was in the middle of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, not Roslyn.
Eighty-eight students, a dozen chaperones — including Roslyn High School principal Scott Andrews, assistant principal Jay Pilnick and band director Pat Patterson — made the trek to the “happiest place on earth” over the school break. Normally, I’d be hesitant to sit on a 21-hour bus ride but this time I couldn’t be more excited.
The coach busses departed from Roslyn High School late on Saturday, Feb. 13 and arrived promptly at dinner time in Orlando, Fla., the following day.
Split into clusters of mostly four to a room, our group settled into Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, one of the 29 places to stay on Disney property.
Though the resort was nice, we had little time there to enjoy it. We were up and on the go.
Days one and two were spent in the nearby Universal theme parks, wandering through favorite Dr. Seuss storybook and Harry Potter attractions in between thrill rides.
Taking in the sights with friends made it even more fun.
The true excitement began the following day, with our arrival at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
After a pleasant morning of rides and walking around the park, the band met backstage at Disney World’s Performing Arts waiting area.
There, after a brief rehearsal, we assembled for our parade. Instruments were readied, uniforms shined, and our Roslyn High School band banner was unfurled.
It was surreal to think that we were following in the footsteps of Mickey and Minnie and other Disney fan favorites who attract thousands of visitors each and every day.
It was even more daunting to think we were walking on the same famous streets that millions of others performers have stepped down before.
There was 44 years of history all around us as we played our 2015 show, Quidam.
The streets were cleared and parents, Disney staff members and guests from around the world watched with cameras and cellphones out.
I looked around and couldn’t help but grin. It was just… amazing.
The next day we went straight backstage at another Disney theme park — Epcot- for our final performance of the season.
Here, we were again treated like professionals, given rehearsal space, staff assistance and quickly readied for the crowds.
As the Marching Bulldogs emerged from the World Showcase area and made our way to the iconic fountain in the center of the park, we could hear the cheers.
Parents who traveled down to Florida were clearly proud and I felt their support around us.
After a stationary performance at the fountain, we marched off toward Future World West, enjoying the smiles and applause of park visitors all along the route.
We celebrated at Epcot, spending the rest of the day eating our way around the World Showcase and finishing with a special, private events dinner with family, fiends and fireworks.
The Disney trip was about more than just collecting souvenirs and getting over my fear of the “Rock n Roller Coaster.”
I made a lot of new friends and stepped outside my comfort zone in multiple ways. Students were required to adhere to a strict schedule, to manage our own money and our belongings. I also learned how to properly tip at a restaurant.
On Friday the 19th , we finished our tour with a visit to Hollywood Studios and finally boarded the busses to head for home.
It was an exciting end to a remarkable band season that saw Roslyn win big at the state championships.
For the seniors, the trip seemed was bittersweet. For freshman, it was a great beginning.
For all of us, it was really hot in February!
But I think for everyone, it was a special week at the most magical place on Earth and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.