The world has certainly been on edge since the Paris attacks, but terrorism fears did not stop three Sultana High School marching band members and their band director from embarking on the trip of a lifetime last last month.
On New Year’s Day, Jade Peters, David Ryder and Michael Groomes performed with Riverside Community College’s Marching Tigers Band in Paris’ first-ever New Year’s Day parade, two miles down its Champs-Elysees.
Ryder, a saxophone player, and Groomes, a percussionist, are juniors. Peters is a sophomore and plays the trombone. In recent years, Peters has marched with the Pasadena City College Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses Parade, as well as the Macy’s Great American Marching Band in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“My goal in life is to travel the world playing my music, so this was a dream come true,” Peters said.
According to Sultana High band director Joe Costantino, who accompanied his students, the Paris parade drew somewhere around 500,000 people and the streets were packed wall-to-wall. He said it was a sight to behold and something he and his students will never forget.
“The people of Paris were in awe over being at the parade,” said Costantino. “For many, it was the first time they had ever experienced something like that and for us, it was really cool to show them how American bands do parades.
“All in all, it was a huge thrill for everyone involved.”
Along with Peters, Ryder and Groomes, Costantino said over 220 high school and RCC students, along with the college's band alumni, participated in Paris’ New Year’s Day parade. The ensemble also played in in front of the Eiffel Tower and at Disneyland Paris.
“It was really cool to see Paris’ take on Disneyland,” said Costantino. “And performing in front of the Eiffel Tower was unbelievable. It was sensory overload.”
Costantino said the opportunity to participate in the Paris’ performances was open to any band member who could pay their own way. The fees were all inclusive and covered sightseeing trips to many of Paris’ famous attractions.
“We saw quite a bit in a few days,” said Costantino. “We went to Château de Chantilly, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palace of Versailles. One of my favorite adventures was the boat cruise we took down the Seine River.”
Like Costantino, Ryder said his experience also was greater than he could have ever imagined.
“Every part of it was absolutely fantastic,” said Ryder. “It exceeded all of my expectations and we saw so much more than I thought we would. To be there was phenomenal and awe-inspiring.”
Sultana High School is home to several award-winning bands, including its Black and Teal Brigade. That ensemble claimed the top prize at the California State Band Championships in Westminster on Nov. 21.
Costantino’s 50-member band triumphed over 22 bands in the Division 2 category.
The RCC Marching Tigers are under the direction of Gary Locke. Over the years, they have performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Fiesta Bowl Parade, the Hollywood Christmas Parade and the New Year's Parade in Rome.
The ensemble also has appeared in numerous movies and television shows, such as the "Austin Powers" series and "Glee."