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PHS band marches toward trip to Disney World

Updated: August 29, 2011, 09:08


Members of the Portsmouth High School Clipper Marching Band practice their footwork routine during a camp Wednesday afternoon with the start of school one week away (Rich Beauchesne)

By Joey Cresta jcresta@seacoastonline.com August 27, 2011 2:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH — The oft-used quote by champion athletes is, "We're going to Disney World!" The Portsmouth High School marching band can now say the same thing. On the field at Portsmouth High, band members practiced marching drills for hours Wednesday. It's the beginning of a big year for the band. In April, the band — which has ballooned from 89 members last year to 105 this year — is traveling to Disney World, where it will participate in workshops and lead the Main Street Electrical Parade in Magic Kingdom.

After PHS earned five stars in last October's Maine Band Directors Association competition and the percussion ensemble was named world champions at the Winter Guard International Percussion World Championships in April, the musicians hope to keep the sweet music going this year.

"Once you achieve that, you don't want to fall back," said band director Eric Gagnon, during a break in the practice that ran from 1 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. But the students said they will not succumb to the pressure. "We don't strive for perfection. We strive for the best performance we can do," said Ally Stillman, a 15-year-old incoming sophomore in the percussion ensemble.

On the field earlier this week, the marching band is still finding its feet as members shake off the summer rust. The first three hours of practice featured no music, just relentless repetition of marching drills to ensure that, come show time, everyone is in the right place at the right time. Just a week earlier, the band came together during a weeklong band camp.

"It was a true test. By the end of the week, they were all still here," said Lori Lampert, president of the Parents Music Club.
"I had a lot of fun. It was the best band camp of my high school career," said drum major Sabina Gessay, 17, an incoming senior.

Asked if it was difficult to give up the final weeks of summer vacation for practice, incoming senior Kathleen Fitzgerald, 17, said she doesn't mind because it helps prepare her for school and make new friends.

The immediate goal is to be ready for the home football opener Sept. 2, but the band is looking forward to Oct. 15, when it will host a home show at the high school. That event will serve as a fund-raiser for the Disney trip, which costs $145,000.

Katie Borden, 20, a 2009 PHS graduate who is now a color guard instructor, participated in a Disney trip her junior year. She said it's an event with major significance for the band. "It's a really big deal," she said. "It's one of the most magical feelings in the world."

If your Band is planning a trip or cruise, visit: www.straightatours.com or call Ian Davies @ 407.920.6092

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