Marching in memory: marching band performs for Memorial Day observation in Washington, D.C.

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By Richard Li and Sophia Pan, News Editor and Copy Editor

The Conestoga Marching Pioneer Band took a trip to Washington D.C. after a nomination from Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, to participate in the largest Memorial Day event in the United States.

The band arrived in Washington D.C. on May 26, engaging in a variety of Memorial Day activities that included visiting the Arlington National Cemetery, attending the National Memorial Day Concert on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and marching in the National Memorial Day Parade. Band director Chris Nation believes that the experience allowed students to better understand the observance of the holiday.

“I think they gained an understanding about what Memorial Day really means and the purpose of the holiday and the significant sacrifice that generations of people have made for us to have the freedoms that we have,” Nation said. “I think it was an incredible experience for them to be able to see that firsthand in the capital at the parade and the concert and at Arlington.”

The band’s assistant director Cassandra Hesse felt that the trip promoted a sense of togetherness for the students and the faculty that accompanied them. 

“I think it was really important that we were all in the parade together as a unit, always wearing our uniforms and kind of showing solidarity with that,” Hesse said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day, and it was a really powerful opportunity for them to really feel what it really was about by doing it all together.” 

During their visit to the Arlington National Cemetery on May 26, the band’s drum majors — junior Matthew Fan and seniors Sadie Kantorczyk and Lily Zhou — participated in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument commemorating all unidentified, deceased U.S. service members. The drum majors walked down the stairs leading to the tomb, then Kantorczyk and Zhou placed the ceremonial wreath on a stand in front of it.

Zhou felt grateful for the opportunity.

“When I was in the process of laying the wreath, I realized how much of an honor it was to be able to pay respects to these people that fought for us but whose identities are unknown, and it was incredible to see how much respect people have for something like this,” Zhou said.

On May 27, Memorial Day, the band marched in the National Memorial Day Parade, playing an arrangement of John Philip Sousa’s famous compositions, “Washington Post,” “The Thunderer” and “Semper Fidelis.” The parade was broadcasted live on national television. Nation was excited that the band had the opportunity to perform in front of such a large audience.

“I feel like this stage, like a national stage, was a really spectacular way to to showcase the students and especially the new uniforms,” Nation said.

The band returned to Conestoga on the night of May 27. Freshman Ella Canas, who marched with the band as a part of the clarinet section, believes the trip exemplified the type of opportunities ‘Stoga has to offer.

“It showed me that ‘Stoga offers opportunities that are not only fun and exciting, but also teach you important lessons and help you grow as a person,” Canas said.