Parade officials from London visited the school, and officially invited the band to march in the 2015 London’s New Year’s Day Parade following a performance by the Band of Warriors at 8:30 a.m.
International Goodwill Ambassador Catherine Longworth, a former lord mayor of Westminster, read and presented the band director with an official invitation to the event, which is expected to attract as many as a half-million people onto the two-mile route along London streets.
“In recognition of an unparalleled reputation for outstanding performance abilities the patrons and the organizing committee of London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival take great pleasure in extending an invitation to the Cherokee High School Band of Warriors …
to participate in the 29th annual New Year’s Day Parade and Festival, to be held in London, England,” Longworth said, reading the invitation.
The parade garners international news coverage and is seen on TV by tens of millions of people, according to officials.
Cherokee High School Band Director Garrick Cheyne said the London parade has more performers than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, bringing as many as 10,000 performers together in London, and getting invited to march in the London parade is “a very big deal.”
About 150 students are in the band, and Cheyne hopes to have 200 by next year.
Cheyne said the invitation was kept a secret from band students until Thursday, when parade officials traveled to the school to make the official announcement.
“I called it the worst-kept secret in Cherokee County,” Cheyne said. “(The students) knew that we had applied, and they knew that (Thursday) was going to be a special day and they were going to perform. … So most of them had pieced it together, but it was not official until (Thursday) morning.”
The band played its halftime show for the parade officials, and held a reception after the invitation to thank the officials and celebrate their visit.
Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said Thursday he congratulated the students on its invitation.
“Cherokee High School and its triumphant Band of Warriors are to be commended for their selection for such a prestigious event,” Petruzielo said. “I know they will represent their school, the school district and the U.S. with honor as they help ring in the New Year.”
Cherokee High School Principal Debra Murdock said the school is “very excited” about the invitation.
“It’s really the culmination of a lot of work by Mr. Cheyne and that band,” Murdock said. “They have just worked, and worked and worked … We’re thrilled — only 16 bands are represented from the states — and it’s a huge honor and true recognition of how hard our kids have worked. We just could not be more proud.”
Cheyne said the Band of Warriors is grateful to the Board of Education and the Cherokee High School administration for all their support.
“Without their help and support, we wouldn’t be able to take big trips and plan big events for the kids,” Cheyne said.
Longworth also presented the school with a City of Westminster coat of arms, and, along with Bob Bone, executive director of London’s New Year’s Day Parade, congratulated the band members.
Bone said it was a treat to have the Cherokee High School band and other bands march in the parade, and explained England doesn’t have high school marching bands because the schools don’t have American football.
Bone and Longworth expressed their love of the “movement of marching bands.”
Cheyne said the band hopes to raise funds throughout the next year and a half before the trip, and “hopefully be able to take almost everyone.”
“It’s really exciting to see the students be rewarded,” Cheyne said. “We have 15 months to prepare and fundraise. It’s is open to the whole band.”
This year is Cheyne’s fourth year as the director of the Band of Warriors, and he said the band has grown tremendously since he started.
“When we started the band had 50 members and now we are over 150,” Cheyne said. “Next year the band will grow to over 200. Our middle-schoolers were also here (for the announcement). The eighth-grade students from Teasley Middle School came to watch, because they’ll be part of the band next year when we travel.”