Lakeland band pumped for D.C. parade

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Assistant drum major Gary Knight asked the Lakeland High School band members during practice Monday if they were ready for Saturday.

“Yes, SIR,” the 60-some members responded.

On Saturday, the band will be performing in the Suffolk Christmas parade in the morning, and then hosting the Brenda Norris Indoor Drumline Competition.

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The parade is a holiday tradition, but the competition is a new event to raise money for an even bigger parade the band has been invited to — the 2010 National Memorial Day Parade.

“We’ve been doing car washes, doughnut sales, everything we can think of,” said Lakeland band director Alvin Wilson II.

Only one high school band is chosen from each state to perform in the yearly parade in Washington, D.C. The invitation for Lakeland came from D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who apparently had either heard of Lakeland’s reputation or saw them at an event, Wilson said.

“It’s a high honor,” Wilson said. “This is the highest honor I’ve ever had a chance to participate in.”

That statement says a lot. Wilson has been a band director for 17 years, and has led bands to such events as the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, La.

“This is a really strong educational trip,” Wilson said. “They’re already excited as if the trip is going to be tomorrow.”

While in the nation’s capital, the band will have the opportunity to visit landmarks such as Arlington National Cemetery, Wilson said.

The only problem is that the band needs to raise $27,000 to make the trip. The amount includes about $377 for each student, chaperone and staff member to cover transportation, lodging, meals and activities, Wilson said.

In addition to several car washes and doughnut sales that have already been held, and this weekend’s drumline competition, the band will perform on Dec. 19 at the Sam’s Club parking lot near Chesapeake Square from 1 to 5 p.m. A table will be set up for visitors to learn about the trip and drop in donations.

“Hopefully that generates some positive feedback,” Wilson said.

Assistant drum major Gary Knight, a junior, said the event is the perfect opportunity for the band to shine.

“It’s a good showcase,” Knight said. “We’re trying to get our name out there.”

Junior Bryce Williams, a member of the flag section, said band members were excited when they heard of the honor.

“People started going off and jumping around,” Williams said, adding that Wilson is “just not the average band director.”

Freshman majorette Brittany Brooks said she thinks the band is prepared for the performance — something Wilson might not necessarily agree with.

“I think we’re prepared,” she said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m still excited just to go.”

Flag twirler Philina McCray, a junior, summed up the band’s feelings in one sentence.

“You only get to do things like this once in high school.”

To donate to the Lakeland band’s efforts, send a check to Bayport Credit Union, Attention: Lakeland High School Band Booster Parade Fund, 1463 N. Main St., Suffolk, VA 23434.