Tidewater Traveler - February 2008

Dreams Really Do Come True


George Sellers

   Any moment now shirt buttons will begin popping and flying into the street as parents, grandparents and friends swell with pride. The folks carefully work their way to preferred curbside viewing locations, hoping to have chosen a point along the parade route where the band will be playing – not just marching to the cadence of snare drums. On a normal day the air is charged with emotion in anticipation of the beginning of a parade on Main Street USA in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park. To be fully surrounded with loud, well-organized, synthesized music, masterfully synchronized all along the course, and to be visually stimulated by the lights, colors and pageantry of elaborate parade floats and entertainers, one can easily feel absorbed into the entertainment spectacle, not just a spectator. On a normal day the parade is electrifying; on a normal day a parade at Disney World is exciting; on a normal day a Disney parade is an exhibition not to be missed. (Although I would be remiss as a travel counselor if I did not point out that parade time is also a good time to catch shorter lines at some of the popular, high-volume rides and attractions.)
    But today is not a normal day. Today the booming voice of a well-trained professional announcer has just proclaimed for thousands to hear, “Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming to Walt Disney World the Colonel Richardson High School Product of Pride Marching Band from Federalsburg, Maryland, under the direction of Earl and Teresa Jester.” Cheers and applause erupt as the little ole hometown marching band, comprised of about forty musicians and a dozen flag twirlers, parades and performs proudly past the throng of vacationers and well-wishers. Hours and hours of practice adjacent to a corn field have led to this moment when the country high school group leads a royal pageant down Main Street USA and in front of Cinderella Castle.
    What a thrill!
    Dear readers – I suppose you think I am speaking of the “kids,” the high school student-musicians and drill team, when I say, “What a thrill!” Oh yes, I’m sure it’s a thrill for them too, as some of them have never traveled beyond the borders of their rural county. But I cannot begin to describe the exhilaration, excitement, and yes, pride exhibited by the dozens of moms, dads, pop-pops, nannas, and friends who have traveled over a thousand miles to be here for this moment. If you look closely at some of the individuals you will see a hulk of a man with tears on his cheeks because his daughter has just played her French horn solo. A poppop is rolling video; a young mom is literally jumping up and down as her drummer-son passes by. Just imagine the hours of drum practice she has endured!
    Such a trip is a major event for a group of teens, their leaders, parents and community boosters. The students work for it – not just practice and preparation for the performance – fund raising – learning that hard work pays dividends. Thousands of subs – prepared, sold, delivered, eaten, enjoyed. Charts on the band room wall – tracking progress of each student’s earnings through the year – progress toward the goal that will pay their way to be able to perform at Walt Disney World. Some wonder if all the time spent on practice and fund-raising negatively affects academics. Quite the opposite seems to be the norm – it seems that students who are very busy, actively involved in team-type activities, do better academically than their idle colleagues.
    Several high school bands from the Mid-Shore area have participated in Walt Disney World’s Magic Music Days in recent years. The experience is both exciting and educational for the young performers. Though not a live audition, groups must convince the Disney team that they can perform and present themselves in compliance with certain standards. This is accomplished through an application process that includes basic information, video taped performances and photographs. Once accepted the decisions of how to get there and where to stay become paramount. Most groups, once the acceptance comes, choose to stay for several days and take advantage of the trip to enjoy the theme parks and attractions at Disney World. In addition to performing and having some fun, the Walt Disney World Performing Arts Program offers a host of workshops and training experiences for the students while they are in Orlando - seminars focused on teamwork, discipline and artistic growth.
    Anyone who has visited Disney World knows that it can be a costly venture, so Disney’s Youth Group Division offers very good discounts on lodging and theme park admissions to student performing groups. To trim costs further, students often use accommodations that are equipped to allow them to prepare many of their own meals.
    There are performance and training opportunities for all sorts of groups at a variety of venues within Disney World. The parade through Main Street USA is one of the most popular. Another well-liked venue includes a march along Hollywood Boulevard at Disney’s MGM Studios theme park followed by a stand-up concert on the star-studded handprint-and-footprint-terrace of the Chinese Theatre. When a group earns a performance opportunity at EPCOT, the band marches around the World Showcase Lagoon. The Magic Music Days program is endorsed by the National Association for Music Education (formerly MENC).
    So when a high school band or choral member calls or rings your doorbell to sell you a sub, a box of fruit, or a pizza kit, it may be your opportunity to assist in making the performance dream of a young lifetime come true.
May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers and his wife Priscilla are Certified Travel Counselors and Accredited Cruise Counselors who own Travel Selections by Priscilla and George, Inc. and the popular travel Web site www.sellerstravel.com