Two groups of students from Buford High School got an invitation of a lifetime when dignitaries from London, England visited the school on Tuesday morning, Oct. 18.
The dignitaries were visiting Buford High School on behalf of London’s New Year’s Day Parade or LYNDP. Bob Bone, Chairman of the LYNDP; Duncan Sandys, Senior Patron and former Lord Mayor of Westminster and Jonathan Whaley, Director of International Participation for LYNDP came to the school to extend formal invitations to the BHS Band of Wolves and Chamber Chorus to participate in the 2024 London’s New Year’s Day Parade and the London International Choral Festival.
“Our marching band and choral students have been presented an incredible opportunity with an invitation to perform in London, England,” said Melanie Reed, superintendent of Buford City Schools. “Any time our students can be highlighted not just nationally, but internationally, it is a distinguished honor. This is another example of how Buford City Schools stands behind its mission statement “to empower all students to become globally competitive, critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, responsible individuals, and productive citizens.”
The dignitaries were given a tour of the Buford High School campus by band students, Audrey Zachman, Caleb Terry and Janel Sifuentes, as well as Justin Johnson, assistant principal.
The gentlemen were then taken down to one of the sports fields to be treated to a stellar performance of the band’s 2022-2023 competition routine, “Motherboard.”
Following the band performance, the BHS Chamber Chorus accompanied on the piano by Dr. Chris Fowler, BCS Fine Arts Coordinator, sang a gorgeous rendition of the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria” which earned high praise from the dignitaries.
“It always feels wonderful to receive compliments from anyone, but I’m especially glad my students were able to hear from someone else, particularly someone from so far away, that what they are doing is quality work that they can be proud of,” said Taylor Greer, choral director at Buford High School.
Mr. Bone told the students that they would be performing in front of 750,000 spectators that line the parade route in London and to a worldwide television audience of 350 million people. The London’s New Year’s Day Parade is said to be twice the size of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
In addition to the parade, the band and chorus will perform at various concert venues around the city of London during the time that they are visiting, which will be just after Christmas 2023 and returning after New Year’s 2024.
The formal invitation to perform in London was presented by Mr. Sandys who is the great grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Sandys presented the formal invitation to both Erik Mason, BHS band director and to Mr. Greer.
“We are incredibly honored for our students to have this life changing opportunity,” said Dr. Fowler. “It is a tribute to their hard work and the excellence that Mr. Mason, Mrs. Wildes, and Mr. Greer instill in them each day.”
“Bridget (Wildes, assistant band director) and I believe that our primary job for these students is to teach them how to be great people and to provide them with experiences to make that happen,” said Mason. “The chance to travel and see other cultures and their history, as well as the opportunity to perform on such a massive stage is an experience like no other for these students.”
According to Mason, the invitation to perform in London started with the international talent scouts at LYNDP scouring the United States for the best bands. American high school marching bands are one of the most requested performers year in and year out, says Bone. The band had to fill out an application to consider them for the parade. The Band of Wolves made the cut and through the band, the chorus was invited as well.
The band which has been under the direction of Mason since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year has almost doubled in size going from 82 members last year to 155 members this year. The band will grow in size even more before the London trip as more and more students pick up an instrument in middle school.
Currently, the Chamber Chorus is 115 members strong and all 115 members are eligible to make the trip to London as will any rising 9th grader who is involved with the chorus.
There is still a lot of hard work to do before the band and chorus depart for London at the end of 2023. There will be countless hours of practice to make sure they hit all the right notes and nail the choreography.
To many of these students, this trip will be their once in a lifetime chance to travel to a foreign country and have this type of experience.
“I come from a proud but less fortunate Mexican family. When I was a kid I would always dream of traveling to somewhere across the world but I knew I may not ever get that experience,” said Janel Sifuentes, a BHS junior and band member. “Now I have the opportunity to go to London during one of the most important days of the season with the group of people that I owe so much of my growth to.”
The trip will not be cheap as airfare, hotel rooms, food and more will need to be covered. The band and chorus will be doing a lot of fundraising between now and then to raise the necessary money.
“We have many students for whom raising that amount of money will be a huge challenge,” said Mason. “We are hoping that the Buford community will step in and help us get those students to Europe.”
For more information about London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival click here to visit their website.
To stay up to date with the Buford Band of Wolves, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/bhsbandofwolves.
FEATURED PHOTO: The Buford High School Band of Wolves is performing “Motherboard” for dignitaries with the London New Year’s Day Parade and Festival on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Buford High School. Photo by Alicia Payne.