Marching all the way to Washington
Sibley to represent state in D.C. parade
Henry Sibley High School’s Marching Band will represent Minnesota in the Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., on July 4. The band was nominated for that honor by Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. They will depart by bus for the nation’s capital on June 30, and on July 4 will be among 50 student marching bands, military, and specialty units, drill teams, drum corps and giant balloons taking part in the parade down Constitution Avenue.
“About 42 percent of the students in our school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, so we have a lot of kids who live outside of privilege,” said Amy Powers, Henry Sibley’s director of bands. “The band boosters and I really debated if we should accept the invitation because we knew most of our kids couldn’t really afford anything like this. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to go for it. We decided that the kids earned it as a team, so we’re going to send them as a team, which meant we were committing to pay for all of them to go.”
Freshman flute player Emily Inserra recalled the team’s excitement when Powers broke the news: “I was so excited and proud that we were chosen. Being chosen compared to every other marching band in the state reflects our hard work ethic and striving to succeed. It really feels good to know that our achievements and talent have been recognized beyond our community.”
It was the community that helped push the band to within striking distance of its goal of raising $91,490 for the trip to D.C. Though school officials had thought that most of the donations for the band’s trip would come from corporations, it was the outpouring of smaller donations that made it possible.
“We’ve gotten about $30,000 in corporate sponsorships, and the rest of it has come from donations within the community,” Powers said. “It’s the most humbling experience of my lifetime.”
While the trip served as an added incentive as the Henry Sibley musicians prepared for their spring and summer competitions, the band has always practiced hard, according to Powers. “Nothing in the way we approach our season from a student or instructor standpoint has changed,” she said. “We’re having the same season we would have any other year. I think our process is what got us the invitation to begin with.”
The Henry Sibley Marching Band’s usual rehearsal time is three hours. However, in the weeks leading up to a competition, the band often rehearses six to 12 hours per day. Their success has shown that “size isn’t the only thing that makes a superior band,” said senior baritone Ronnie Wakeen. “It’s the attitude and work ethic and the teamwork.”
“The student leadership in the band pushes the excellence in the ensemble,” Powers said. “The drive for excellence comes from within the students. Their work ethic is phenomenal.”
Thirty-two Henry Sibley students participated in marching band when Powers began teaching there six years ago. The Warriors are still one of the smaller marching bands in competition, yet membership has increased 70 percent over the past four years and now stands at 78 students.
In recent years, the band has distinguished itself in statewide competitions. Henry Sibley placed third overall at the 2017 Vikingland Band Festival, which is considered the state tournament for Minnesota’s high school marching bands. That third place finish was the highest finish in 25 years for the Henry Sibley Marching Band.
Junior tuba player Devin McIntyre attributed the band’s accolades to the influx of eager band students. “I see so much success from all these up and coming kids who have discovered marching band,” he said. “I think that it’s because we are all driven to be the best players we can be.”
As of last week, the Henry Sibley Marching Band had raised all but $5,000 of the $91,490 it needed to pay for its trip to Washington, D.C. Donations are being accepted online at henrysibleyband.org.