School represents city in D.C.

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In front of a crowd of thousands, and with video footage being watched from around the world, a band of Suffolk students marched down Constitution Avenue, beginning in front of the U.S. Capitol and ending in front of the White House.

Fifty-eight students from Lakeland High School’s Quiet Storm marching band wore their colors proudly and did their school, city and state proud at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

“The experience was unforgettable,” said band director Alvin Wilson II. “I am so proud of the students. They did a phenomenal job. They represented the state and school with excellence, discipline, proper etiquette, pride and respect.”

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The band was selected to represent the commonwealth of Virginia in the parade and has been fundraising for the trip since last year to cover their $30,000 in expenses.

“It was thanks to the community we were able to go,” Wilson said. “The Suffolk Public Schools’ School Board, Suffolk City Council, churches, local businesses, parents, individual community members — in the community and within the state — all pitched in to make this possible for us. Every cent we were given was used.”

And every cent was put to good use.

“People with no ties to the area complimented me on the band’s performance,” Wilson said. “The minute we stepped off the bus, people were taking pictures. I think people were surprised at our level of intensity, detail, discipline and etiquette.”

For members of the Quiet Storm, the performance started the minute their feet hit the floor on Monday morning.

“When they came off the bus, they were lined up, they walked in two single-file lines, there was no talking, they all moved in the same rhythm,” Wilson said. “They did stretches together, they said ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ together. They were in uniform the minute they walked off the bus. My philosophy is the performance begins the minute you wake up; it’s show time.”

In full uniform and 90-degree heat, the band marched for an hour and a half.

“They were ready, though,” Wilson said. “I’ve had them out marching around the school, doing exercises, running and getting ready for what it would take. It’s hard work, but they understood that great things come from hard work.”

Not only did students have an opportunity to celebrate and memorialize American heroes, they had the opportunity to see some of the nation’s greatest treasures.

“It was an incredible opportunity for the students,” Wilson said. “We had to be at the bus at 5 a.m. on Saturday. Many students came straight from prom, which was the night before. But that day they saw the Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian, Air and Space Museum, the Kennedy Center and the African-American and Asian Art Museum.”

The next day, students visited the White House, Old Post Office, Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol Building and the Lincoln, Jefferson, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.

“Overall, it made for an experience of a lifetime,” Wilson said. “The students got to see where they stood on a national level, and the whole time we were surrounded by historic landmarks. Everything we do, we do to the best of our ability, but we knew we were carrying Virginia with us, and we wanted to make sure we carried it well. We did that.”