Trojan band makes its mark in Hollywood
WORTHINGTON — The “Spirit of Worthington” Trojan Marching Band returned from its California tour late Tuesday night, having accomplished what it set out to do in two notable performances over the Thanksgiving weekend.
“When we marched in the Hollywood Christmas Parade last Sunday night, the crowds were really cheering for us,” confirmed Autumn Arnt, a senior member of the band’s color guard and one of the 135 Worthington High School (WHS) students participating in the trip.
“It kind of felt like we were famous, with all those cameras focusing on us and the red carpet underneath our feet; it felt really good.”
But don’t just take Arnt’s word for it.
WHS band director Jon Loy said representatives from Gateway Music Festivals and Tours, the coordinating entity for all 12 of the marching bands featured in the 86th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, confided that the Trojans were the top group of the bunch.
“They told me the parade’s producers were very impressed with us and that, in their eyes, our band was the most outstanding one there,” said Loy.
Other viewers may judge the band’s energy and enthusiasm for themselves when the full Hollywood Christmas Parade is nationally broadcast in the coming weeks (on the CW network, AFN and the Hallmark Channel at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 22).
Throughout the 2017 parade season in competitions closer to home, the WHS Trojans’ “Hooray for Hollywood!” show earned numerous first place or parade grand champion trophies, boding well for its warm reception at Disneyland and on Hollywood Boulevard.
“The students were awestruck by the enormity of the venue and the overall production,” said Loy of the legendary parade, which was hosted by actor Erik Estrada and television travel personality Laura McKenzie, along with actor Dean Cain and Montel Williams.
“But they met the challenge head-on and were as professional as they have been at every stop this season,” Loy continued.
“They took the moment and owned it.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz was the parade’s Grand Marshal.
Lori Fauskee, parent of senior saxophonist Brittin Fauskee and one of about 55 adult chaperones and band staff on the trip, was thrilled when the Trojans approached as she watched from her bleacher seat across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
“It was awesome to see, after all the hard work they had put in,” said Fauskee. “It seems like the band members work together so nicely and are like one big family.
“They have each other’s backs and work towards a common goal.”
WHS assistant principal Tony Hastings was also a chaperone for the week. His daughter, senior Taylor Hastings, is a color guard member.
Throughout the Trojans’ California sojourn, which included a walking tour of downtown Hollywood, a brief stop at the La Brea Tar Pits, a visit to the Griffith Observatory, a meal at the Hard Rock Café, free time at Disneyland and Universal Studios, a couple of hours at the Santa Monica Pier, a premier viewing of the Disney movie “Coco” at El Capitan Theatre and a version of the renowned WHS “Turkey Bingo” following a Thanksgiving dinner at the group’s hotel, Hastings says the students were excellent and on their best behavior.
“They were well behaved and very respectful, always doing what they needed to do,” said Hastings.
“They did an awesome job representing Worthington, and we heard lots of positive feedback, whether that was from the tour coordinators, the bus drivers or even random guests at places we ate.
“The band members were very professional in how they presented themselves in their performances on the red carpet and at Disneyland, and they put on the best show they possibly could,” he added.
Hastings believes the experience was a valuable one for the students.
“The whole purpose for being there was to march in the Hollywood parade, and they absolutely rose to the occasion and shone, but it was also nice for the kids to see a different part of the country,” Hastings said.
“LA is such a huge metropolitan area, and it was interesting to see how the kids reacted to noticing homeless people and garbage on the roadsides,” he observed.
“Some of the kids may have gained a greater appreciation for Worthington and Minnesota, even as they represented their city and state so well, because they could see the contrast and realize how nice a community we really do have — and all the support our community poured into their trip.”
Indeed, Arnt, along with her friend and fellow color guard mate Kasen White, echos Hastings’ thoughts.
“On our first day, walking through Hollywood, it was so cool to be where the stars live,” said White. “And when we were in the parade, it was really exciting because these were people who don’t know us at all and they were still so responsive.”
One local couple that got to know the band members much better was Phil and Rita Smith. The Smiths, owners of Worthington’s Smith Trucking, drove to California with the semi containing the band’s instruments, garment bags and show props. They later joined the group on its various tours and outings around Los Angeles.
“As outside observers, it was fun for us to see that the kids enjoyed each other and got along so well together,” said Rita.
“Watching them see and enjoy the ocean, and take everything in, was terrific, and the kids were fun to be around.”
Because the Smiths have journeyed throughout the United States over the years, Rita is quick to endorse the educational value of travel.
“It really does broaden your horizons to see what the rest of the world is like,” said Rita. “We had the best of all worlds, being able to experience these new things from the kids’ perspectives, and it was the privilege of a lifetime just to grasp a little of the other side of Hollywood.”
Loy is pleased that his students delivered on the promise of excellence they had hinted at all season.
“Our kids knew they were marching for a purpose — that is, demonstrating all that they represented and stand for — and because they knew that, it showed in their performance,” said Loy.
“They felt confident and lifted up behind the scenes, knowing that parents, staff and the greater Worthington community were all behind them 110 percent, so they were able to exude that air of confidence and flair on the parade route.”
Loy expressed gratitude to the many service organizations, businesses and individuals who made the trip possible. He was also glad the weather cooperated and that the group was able to avoid the worst of the infamous Los Angeles traffic in its travels around the metro area.
“The kids behaved appropriately throughout the tour and were great musical ambassadors and representatives of ISD 518,” said Loy. “They were the only Minnesota band in the parade, and everywhere we went, they stood out in a positive manner.”
“Being able to see the bond that exists among the band students, and the strong leadership from the upperclassmen, was great,” Hastings said.
“The kids did us proud and represented us well, and it’s great that the school board and school support the band and allow these trips to happen; it’s well worth it.”
Students Arnt and White concur.
“I’m glad I went,” said White. “It was a really good experience.”
Nodded Arnt, “We did a good job of representing Worthington and Minnesota, and we caught a lot of people’s attention with our show and music.”
National broadcasts of the entire Hollywood Christmas Parade (on the Hallmark Channel, AFN and the CW network) are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. For more information, visit thehollywoodchristmasparade.org/spirit-of-worthington-trojan-marching-band.