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A sweet experience at the Sugar Bowl

Nansemond River High School’s Magnificent Marching Warriors band traveled south for a New Year’s Day performance that stunned tens of thousands.

The 70 Nansemond River High School students performed at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Halftime Show. Their time in the limelight was in a stadium packed with more than 70,000 people and broadcasted live on ESPN.

Adam Collier-Owens, a 15-year-old sophomore and one of the band’s drum majors, said the most amazing part of the halftime show was just being able to get on the field.

“I feel like the best part of the whole halftime performance was walking onto the field and having the whole crowd scream at us in excitement and in joy,” Adam said in a phone interview. “That was an amazing experience.”

It was an astonishing first for the school and for band director Edward Woodis, who has 19 years of experience at NRHS. Woodis called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for his students.

“It was really awesome. They did such a great job on that level of a stage,” he said in a phone interview. “I was very proud of them.”

The band received the invitation to perform from Bowl Games of America and World Strides in early 2018. According to Woodis, the band managed to raise more than $124,000 from May to December, which covered the costs of the trip.

That fundraising allowed the students to participate in five days’ worth of activities, which include the Battle of the Bands field show competition and the Sugar Bowl Parade. They also learned an entire halftime show’s worth of music with nine other bands in just a few hours.

Woodis said his students placed second in their division and against other high school bands from all around the country.

“It’s definitely pushed them to another level,” he said about the experience.

Adam, who’s been in marching band since sixth grade, soaked in all the culture and personality that New Orleans had to offer. He said everyone he met there was friendly and welcoming.

“There’s nothing better that I could’ve done during my winter break. I really enjoyed my time down there in New Orleans,” he said.

Part of the excitement is excelling on an elite stage, and another part is getting the band precious “bowl experience,” according to Woodis. He also hopes it will create renewed interest in the school’s band for future participants in Suffolk.

“It was a good lead-in to get ready for our concert season coming up,” he said. “’I’m just excited about the future for them.”