Band Director Daniel Gray said the band was selected and received a congressional recommendation for participation in the parade, which draws a crowd of about a quarter-million people along the parade route in the U.S. capitol and is broadcast internationally.
“I think it is very humbling to have the opportunity to represent our state on such a national and international stage,” Gray said Friday. “We feel a great sense of pride, but also want to represent our state the best way possible. The students and I feel and hope that it serves as a stepping stone to even greater ventures in the future.”
Gray, who has directed the River Ridge marching band since the school opened its doors in 2009, said he expects a great performance from his students.
“We have an incredibly dedicated and hardworking group of students, so I expect their best preparation and performance. I also expect that they, and the parade attendees, will have a great deal of fun and create some lasting memories,” Gray said. “We will have our principal marching with us in the parade, so I know he is as excited as we are.”
River Ridge High School Principal Darrell Herring said he was “a very proud principal.”
“When I received the call informing me that we were selected, I ran to Mr. Gray’s room to let him know,” Herring said Friday. “I am proud of our band program led by Mr. Gray. The students and parents work long hours to ensure success is the expectation, not a goal. Watching all of the hard work come together and being able to play at the nation’s capital in a big step for our program and a great opportunity for the students.”
Gray said the National Memorial Day Parade was the band’s “first major parade event,” and that it is an honor to take part in the parade, which pays tribute to the country’s armed forces.
“In the past, we have done parade and performances in Florida, Tennessee and New York, but this will be the biggest we have done to date. We were also selected to participate in this year’s Atlanta Christmas Parade on Dec. 7,” Gray said.
The band will also get the opportunity to visit some major national landmarks while in Washington, Gray said.
“(On our trip) we will have the opportunity to see the major monuments, visit one of the Smithsonian museums, hear the president’s own Marine Corps Band and participate in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Gray said.
Being invited to play in the capital was a “big step forward” for the growing band program at River Ridge, Herring said.
“It solidifies that the students, parents and Mr. Gray are working in the right areas to improve the program and to grow the band. As we succeed in performing well, at opportunities such as this parade, the students learn that great success is a byproduct of hard work on their part,” Herring said.
Herring said that Gray was a great recruiter for the band, as well as a great teacher.
“They play the music so well and sound tremendous,” Herring said. “He seems to have an ear for music and a knack for great sound… he is very knowledgeable and teaches orchestra at River Ridge High School as well.”
Herring said the Marching Knights were venturing into new horizons, and said their success could be attributed to the students’ hard work.
“They work long hours, and really hard, to be a great band. It is fantastic to see young men and women trying so hard to make the shows, events and performances be the best the school and community has ever seen,” Herring said. “Each time they seem to do better and better.”