EMORY, VA (WJHL)- Emory & Henry College’s marching band program is only five years old, but it’s already been chosen to perform on an international stage. On January 1st, 2020, the band will march in the New Year’s Parade in Rome, Italy.
“It’s the parade for peace, that ends with the Pope’s blessing in Saint Peter’s Square,” said Matt Frederick, director of bands and associate provost.
Emory & Henry’s band is one of only two chosen from the United States to perform in the parade. Around 40,000 people are expected to attend.
“Being able to go to Rome is something that I’ll be able to tell my kids and my grandkids for years to come,” said Emory & Henry senior Landie Maness, a drum major for the band. “To have an opportunity like this, it’s really once in a lifetime.”
Over the past five years, the band has become a major point of pride for the college of a little over 1,000 students.
“In 2015, we resurrected the program, and built it from 40 members to the 90 members that it is now,” said Frederick. “So about ten percent of the student population is in the band program here at Emory & Henry College.”
“We’re used to doing big football game audiences and competitions,” said sophomore and sousaphone player Gabriel West. “Granted, this will probably be our biggest audience that we’ve ever had, but we’re ready, we’re pretty confident.”
This confidence comes from endless practice. Sixty seven members of the band will be flying to Rome for sightseeing, service work, and the big parade.
“[Practicing] becomes almost an every day situation,” said Frederick. “And then the logistics of packing up the instruments, packing up the uniforms, making sure that we get them on the airplanes, making sure that everything is there that we need.”
Frederick said he reached out to Roman parade organizers more than two years ago to apply for a performance spot. Being chosen this year, band members see the honor as a sign of how far they’ve come together.
“To be able to do something like this as early in this band’s career is really monumental,” said Maness. “I think it speaks to how well we have done over the last five years.”