During home football games, the Seymour High School marching band plays for about a hundred people.
But on a recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the band marched along Main Street U.S.A. and played on a stage with thousands of people watching.
It was a thrill for the band’s director, Kevin Cottrill; his assistants, Debbie Carroll and Ellen Mirer; the 165 students who performed; and the 35 parent chaperones.
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“It’s a rush of adrenaline for me,” Cottrill said. “I’m so excited for the kids. I think about my kids on the trip who never leave Jackson County potentially their entire life, so we’ve taken them on a trip, they’ve seen Disney, which Disney caters to the world in vacations at least. So to play for that crowd is really a thrill, and I think the kids get quite a rush from that.”
This was Cottrill’s fourth Disney trip, which occurs every four years and requires submitting an audition tape to the Disney Performing Arts Program to get accepted. He said former director Steve McGrew began taking students to perform there in 1987.
The band left May 22 on four tour buses and arrived at Disney the next morning, when they ate breakfast before going to Blizzard Beach Water Park.
Their Magic Kingdom marching performance was at 2:30 p.m. May 24, going around the area of Cinderella Castle and playing popular tunes “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars along with a drum cadence.
“The crowd really, really liked those musical selections,” Cottrill said. “We got the music in the spring and started working on it. They were pretty much brand-new to the kids.”
The band’s three drum majors, seniors Jenna Hardin and Sam Silver and junior Josiah Rudge, each led a different section of the band on the route. Silver was in the front and had a GoPro camera attached to her uniform so others could see the march from the band’s perspective.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend, Cottrill said he was told around 100,000 people were in the park that day.
“I was not expecting that big of a crowd,” Hardin said. “When (Cottrill) said that, we were like, ‘Whoa! Not a Seymour High School football game.’”
Hardin said it was a neat experience because the band was treated well backstage beforehand and got to meet the other band that marched in front of them.
“It was really cool because we played popular music, so the crowd was into it, they were dancing, they were singing,” she said. “It wasn’t like a regular marching band song that people wouldn’t know, so it was really cool to entertain them that way.”
The next day, the band members swapped their purple and black marching uniforms for tuxedos and dresses for a concert and symphonic band performance on the Waterside Stage.
Only 100 members could fit on the stage for the 30-minute concert. They played “Enchanted Spaces,” “Back Home Again in Indiana,” “Bond…James Bond,” “Pie in the Face Polka” featuring Hardin on clarinet, “America” from “West Side Story,” “Salute to the Armed Forces” and a jazz piece.
“The stage sits in between a pretty large section of stores, and there were thousands of people over the course of a half-hour that walked past,” Cottrill said.
Hardin said she liked the stage performance.
“Once we started playing, people stopped and sat down to listen,” she said. “It was definitely neat to see all of the different kind of crowd members you could get from all over the world. You never knew what you were going to get.”
The band accompanied Hardin on “Pie in the Face Polka.”
“That was fun, and I was definitely honored that (Cottrill) decided to feature me in it,” she said. “It was really cool.”
During the trip, which went through May 27, the band visited all four major Disney parks — Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot — and went to a Blue Man Group show.
Since everyone behaved well on the trip, Cottrill let them “park hop” on the last day by visiting any of the parks as long as they went with a chaperone.
“The trip was tremendously successful because the students’ behavior was excellent the whole time,” he said. “That was really great, and we just had the best parent help.”
Hardin said in the time leading up to the trip, all of the band members were excited. Several of them had final exams to complete beforehand, and they were ready for a break.
“It seemed like every 10 minutes, you’d see a band person, and they’d be talking about Disney,” she said. “Everyone was set on it and ready to go, so there was a lot of excitement with it.”
It cost each student $700 to go on the trip. The band consists of nearly 185 students, but not all of them chose to go. Members participated in a variety of fundraisers in the past few years to help with expenses.
Cottrill said the trip could have cost close to $1,000 per student, but the band booster organization paid for the buses, which cost nearly $40,000.
Along with the band boosters, Cottrill said the band received a lot of support from the community and school officials.
“We’re proud our community and our school corporation support the trip, and we think it’s great for us to get out on a world stage and perform outside of our community,” he said.
Cottrill said all of the band members benefited from the experience.
“Just the fact that they are a really special individual part of our larger group and their individual footprint on our group is huge,” he said. “To have the kids prepare something to a professional level and to go on a trip and to see the world and see Disney, there’s just a lot of exciting things in there.”
For Hardin, it was a great ending to an exciting senior year. In November, she was a member of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band that played in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She later learned she was accepted into the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and the Marching Hundred band, and she recently graduated from Seymour High School.
“I couldn’t have ended it better,” she said. “I’ve been hearing about that trip since sixth grade and did fundraising for it trying to get ready. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of fundraising, but it was definitely worth it and definitely a good way to end it.”
The Marching Hundred consists of more than 200 members, and only about 10 percent of them are music majors. Since Hardin will be a music major, she said she has to play in the band for at least two years.
The band plays at all home football games, one away game and an Indianapolis Colts game. Depending on her schedule, Hardin said she may try out for the pep band that plays at men’s basketball games.
“Right now, I feel like my opportunities are endless,” she said. “Why not try anything else because who knows what could happen?”