Only three years after the Schenectady High School Marching Band was reinstated, it played Friday in front of its largest crowd yet: The National Independence Day Parade.
The Washington, D.C., march is a major annual event, televised around the country.
Since being reinstated, the band has gone through several changes in leadership, gained experience at choreographed moves while playing and wearing uniforms dating back more than 15 years.
But the band has won numerous awards along the way. And on Friday it was rewarded with a national audience in the nation’s capital.
Krista Hawk is the band director and, after giving the band some quick final advice, she watched from the sidelines, eager to see them wow the crowd.
“I told them to just play their best and stay focused — and they really did it,” she said. “It was just phenomenal.”
At the beginning of the day, when the students were driven to the parade location from their hotel, they were totally silent.
“I think they were a little nervous,” Hawk said. She, too, was a bit apprehensive. But once the band saw others readying for the parade, the musicians became ecstatic and were ready to go — as was Hawk.
Hawk, who stood at the end of the parade, received texts from a couple of the students in the band, telling her they were on their way toward where she was standing.
“My heart filled with so much pride for them,” Hawk said about finally being able to see the band playing at the parade.
The parade took place along Constitution Avenue. The band was the 89th group of out 121 that marched that day.
Megan Battibulli, 18, is in the band’s color guard, and also remembers being a little bit tense before the parade. But the nervousness didn’t last long for her either.
“I was a little bit nervous but once we got started, I wasn’t nervous anymore,” she said. Like other performances, she was able to lock down her emotions and push through whatever nervousness she had previously felt.
“During the parade my whole mindset was, ‘I hope I can see Obama,’ ” she explained.
Although she didn’t get the chance to see the president, she still described the parade as a great experience for her.
Aleda Kirstein, 16, and Sam Ceglia, 16, both trumpet players, were amazed at the size of the crowd.
For Kirstein, it was a thrill to walk past their supporters who had come down from Schenectady and to recognize them in the crowd.
“I felt very appreciated,” she said about the support she received from the crowd.
“You can see people in the corner of your eyes and you realize how big it is,” Ceglia said.
“It will always be something I’ll remember and something I’ll cherish,” he said.
After playing in the parade and reaching the end, according to Hawk, the band members were still ecstatic, laughing and giggling with one another.
“I think this is tremendous positive recognition for our program,” Hawk said.