Small school band goes big time at Disney World

Parade: The Perryville High School band leads a parade at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

March 28, 2004|By Amanda Ponko | Amanda Ponko,SUN STAFF

PERRYVILLE - The Perryville High School marching band traveled to Orlando, Fla., this month to lead a parade down Walt Disney World's Main Street at Magic Kingdom.

"It was definitely fun. We were the first thing anyone saw," said tuba player John Reinhart, a senior at Perryville. "It was kind of neat; no one in Cecil County had ever done that before. ... I had a blast."

After the band's 30 members heard in December that their audition tape had been accepted, the students raised more than $500 each for the trip by selling candles, fruit and Valentine's Day flowers and by performing outside a grocery store.

"Some raised the money all by themselves," said 11-year band director Jill Welsheimer. "They work together like a big family. They have a lot of desire, a lot of drive."

Disney typically chooses bands with more than 100 members, she said, so it was a surprise when she and her students found that the Perryville band had been chosen.

"We must've impressed them enough," Welsheimer said. "A lot of people said, `I heard they don't take under 40 [members], and we said, `Well, they took us.'"

Principal Vince Cariello said the band's exceptional fall season and overall quality and dedication warranted appreciation. He said he and the faculty are ecstatic for the students.

"They work very hard," he said. "Jill Welsheimer does an outstanding job here." Welsheimer devotes dozens of hours a week to her students, she said. She directs the band during and after school and teaches a general music course, piano and theater.

"I can't put my hours spent into a certain amount of time," she said. "I live here, basically."

Nevertheless, she said, she enjoys her job and her relationships with her students, who she said are like her children.

The students toured Disney World during their stay March 4-9, visiting the resort's parks, including Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Magic Kingdom. On their free day, some students went to Disney's Animal Kingdom while others basked in the sun poolside at their hotel. The students didn't know until they got to Orlando that they would be leading the parade in front of hundreds of spectators, Welsheimer said. They were surprised to learn that the band would be the first thing spectators on Main Street would see and that a much larger band would be behind them.

"It didn't matter that the band behind them was 150 [members]," Welsheimer said. "They were still going to be better."

Junior Jorge Ayala, a trumpet player making his first visit to Disney World, said the big crowd and the bigger band behind Perryville's weren't intimidating.

"We match the same power and intensity of other bands," he said. "We're unique; I think that's why we were selected."

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