Autumn Friday nights at Chandler’s Hamilton High School often center around football games and the marching band.
But this fall, the school’s student athletes and musicians will bring a bit of Chandler across the pond to Ireland. The groups have been invited to participate in a weekend event to introduce Dubliners to American football, through the showcasing of eight high school football teams along with the college teams from Notre Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy.
What a show it should be, and not just from the Hamilton Huskies football players. Chandler schools swept their division during the state marching band competition last fall, with Basha, Chandler, Hamilton and Perry high schools taking the top four spots, respectively. Hamilton High School also just participated as an invited competitor at the national Fiesta Bowl Band Championships.
Hamilton’s lead marching band instructor, Lisa Brandt, said the Ireland trip has been nearly two years in the making, when many of the students going weren’t even in high school. Brandt and fellow band instructor Chris Holley hope to take between 40 and 45 student musicians on the trip.
Sousaphone player Madison Smith, 14, a freshman at Hamilton, first heard about the trip when she was in eighth grade, after she signed up to be in marching band the following school year.
“When we got our schedules in January or February, Ms. Brandt came to talk to us and said they were planning the trip, two years in advance,” Smith said. “I was excited to be with the band because it’s like a family and to experience a game outside the country and see how different it is. I find marching band a blast. It’s so much fun.”
The logistics of taking half a marching band – the whole group currently has about 92 students – halfway across the globe are incredible, Brandt said. Luckily, she said, there’s the possibility they may be able to borrow large instruments from a high school in Dublin or work with one of the college groups.
It’ll cost each student $2,895, she said, with many of the students seeking help through public school tax credits. The group also put on a rummage and book sale in the fall and is still seeking restaurants that may welcome them to perform in exchange for donations.
The students will likely play many of their “stand tunes” — songs they perform while in the football stands during the game, Holley said.
Junior Thomas Hayden, 17, a trumpet player with the band, said he recently found a collection of Irish books among his grandparents’ library and he hopes to learn more about the country leading up to and during the trip.
When he first heard about the trip, he said, “I thought it was a great opportunity. I didn’t know how realistic it would be at first, financially. I was really stoked to get my parents’ feedback.
“I like playing in front of an audience and putting on a good show. That’s why I like marching band. You get to inspire them with music and the visual aspects,” he added.
In her sixth year at the school and fifth year as lead marching band instructor, Brandt said there is a sense of “excellence” in all areas at Hamilton.
“Dr. (Fred) DePrez has pushed all of us in all departments toward excellence,” she said. “People know about our athletics, but our drama department is always winning awards and the Academic Decathlon is a championship team.”
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