From the Stadium to the National Stage

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From the Stadium to the National Stage

From the Stadium to the National Stage

Countless hours of preparation in the form of practice, rehearsals, and fundraising have led to an exciting opportunity for Ola High School’s Marching Band.

On Saturday, April 13, 2024, the Ola High School Marching Band, made up of 90 students from the 9th through 12th grades, will be performing in The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C.

Mike Bearden, the Director of Bands at Ola High School, said that he is proud of his students and the dedication that they bring to the classroom each day.

“The band program consists of some of the highest academic scholars. We have students that are on the Student Council and athletes. We have students that are involved in the band, choir, orchestra, and theater,” said Bearden. “These are some of the brightest students that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”

Bearden states that marching band is considered an extracurricular for the students, adding many more hours to the school day and weekends, but it is rewarding in also providing the students with many important skills and life lessons.

“It takes some of the hardest working kids to do marching band. It’s hundreds of hours of rehearsal to get the show on the field,” said Bearden. “It’s a major level of dedication for these kids. As much work as it takes, it’s probably one of the most beneficial things for kids.”

Bearden brings 22 years of experience to Ola High School, two of which he has spent as their Director of Bands.

He is excited for the new opportunities he is embarking on with the Ola High School Marching Band.

Alongside his Assistant Director of Bands, Josh Singleton, both work tirelessly to support the band students and continue to grow and expand the band program.

The parents of the students and the local community are also very supportive of the students, often organizing fundraising events to support the band and help in making the program successful.

These fundraising efforts are important not only throughout the year, but also to ensure the students are able to attend this national parade.

“Parents and students have done outreach to gain support from the community and our friends and families. We have held various fundraisers to help offset the cost so students can attend. We also have a team of chaperones who are parents that will help organize before the trip and provide assistance the whole time,” said Kerri Helm, Band Booster President and Band Parent. “We are so grateful to the community that supports us.”

Throughout the year, the Ola High School Marching Band can be seen regularly performing at football games. The marching band also has received numerous awards over the years from performing in regional and national competitions, giving them experience performing for bigger audiences on larger stages.

“I have dedicated so much of my time practicing music to be a part of this amazing band program. Our marching band season with competitions has really prepared me for such an event as this one,” said Erin Richardson, Ola High School Senior and Clarinet Section Leader.

Regarding the opportunity to perform in a national parade, Richardson stated that “It is a great honor to have our band participate in this awesome experience.”

This is not the first time that the band has performed outside of Georgia, but Bearden hopes that this performance will help improve their chances of performing in larger parades in the future.

“Ola has traveled to Hawaii and Philadelphia, and they’ve been a part of the London Parade,” said Bearden. “They were supposed to do a big parade the year the pandemic hit and they ended up not being able to go. We’re trying to get that pattern of big performances started again so we can one day apply for the Rose Bowl Parade or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

For the students, being able to perform in a national parade is a culmination of all of the hard work they have brought to the band program over the years.

“Excitement is mostly what comes to mind when I think of the Cherry Blossom Parade, having the opportunity to take my love for band outside of a high school stadium,” said Emma Mullis, Ola High School Senior and Drum Major. “I cannot wait to see all of my years of band take me to something on this level.”

Along with performing in the parade, the students will get the opportunity to experience Washington, D.C. by visiting national landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, touring the Smithsonian Museums and the National Mall, and attending a performance presented by The National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.

“I am excited to be given this experience that not a lot of people get to do,” said Ava Shoup, Ola High School Senior and Mellophone Section Leader. “I am looking forward to not only the memories that will be made on this trip, but also the amazing experience of participating in the parade.”

For Ola High School Principal Nicholas Ellis, Ola High School’s band represents hard work and dedication from the entire cluster of Ola schools, working together to prepare the students as they have progressed in their educational career.

“Ola High has a strong and proud tradition of success within our Band program,” said Ellis. “Having our band students perform in a time-honored tradition, such as the Cherry Blossom Parade, will be another great accomplishment for our Fine Arts program. I am very excited for our Mustangs.”

“Historically, we have been a fine-arts-focused community and school, from our feeder elementary arts programs to the hard work at Ola Middle School,” said Ellis. “These opportunities offered at all Ola Cluster schools have helped to build and develop a fantastic arts program at Ola High.”

He is excited that the students will be able to experience elements of their educational instruction on a larger scale.

“I feel that travel helps to connect things learned in the classroom as students will make connections with the place they will visit. Washington, D.C. offers so much history, art, and culture; our students will benefit from this experience,” said Ellis.

Ellis is proud of and grateful for those that made this parade possible for the Ola High School band members, including the dedicated staff, hardworking students, and supportive families and community members.

“I thank Mr. Bearden, Mr. Singleton, our Mustangs, and supportive families who have made this event possible,” said Ellis. “I know they will do a great job and represent Ola High at its best.”

Bearden believes that this parade will be the beginning of many wonderful opportunities for the Ola High School Marching Band.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be their band director. And I think this Cherry Blossom Parade is the start of something pretty special. It’ll be what kickstarts, I think, an amazing future,” said Bearden.

By Erin Lopez