Weston-McEwen band trumpets its East Coast trip

The Weston-McEwen band visited and performed in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

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The Weston-McEwen High School band performed in Washington, D.C., and New York City this summer.

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The Weston-McEwen High School band performed in Washington, D.C., and New York City this summer.

WESTON -- It may not have been England and Scotland, but members of the Weston-McEwen High School band will always have the Big Apple and the nation's capital.

As part of the school's tradition, students in the Pipes and Drums band, which includes bagpipe players, highland dancers, drummers and assorted woodwinds and brass, take a major trip every four years.

Band director Rob McIntyre, who took the band to Great Britain for its 2005 trip, wanted to make a repeat visit abroad. But when tough financial times struck, the band -- which relies on fundraising for the trips -- decided to travel slightly closer to home.

Over a week this summer, the 42 musicians and dancers, along with 31 teachers and relatives, hit the East Coast and scheduled performances as well as sight-seeing along the opposite coast's historical sites.

The trip included a visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Liberty Island and the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City.

The students and McIntyre shared photos and stories of their trip with Athena-Weston School Board members during their regular meeting earlier this month.

The band also saved thousands of dollars by having their instruments hauled across the country in a local packing truck, rather than flown or shipped.

McIntyre said the band gave four performances in Washington, D.C., and New York City during the week in June. Each performance follows a script, runs about 40 minutes and includes a narrator and performances by the highland dancers.

The 2009 trip also marked the 50th year of the Pipes and Drums group at the school.

Although bagpipes and drums compositions may follow traditional Scottish anthems, the Weston-McEwen group is unique because it includes brass and woodwinds. Because of that, McIntyre said the musical arrangements the students play are their own original works.

"You can't order arrangements for pipes and drums with band, so we write all our own stuff," he said.

Memorable performances included playing at the steps of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the Old Post Office Pavilion; on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid at the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum; and on Liberty Island, beneath the Statue of Liberty, where the group got a captive audience.

"Several thousand people listened to us play there, from all over the world," McIntyre said.

When they weren't performing, the students and adults saw the sights, such as the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History.

And just being there proved to be among the more memorable experiences. A global mix of foods and visitors charmed many of the young visitors.

"The kids said they were so impressed by the diversity of everything," McIntyre said. "You could walk into Times Square at any time, and there were more people in Times Square at any given moment then there are in our entire town."

Hammell Transport Services, working through Smith Frozen Foods, hauled the band's instruments at no charge, saving the group close to $4,000 -- what it would have cost to pay for the instruments as checked luggage, under new regulations of the airline industry.

The instruments arrived six hours after the musicians in New York City, with the truck pulling up right to the hotel. The driver was provided a room in the same hotel.

"They parked the truck right next to our motor coaches. Then all the boys got out and unloaded all the instruments. That's how easy that was," McIntyre said.

For the return trip, the instruments hitched a ride through a trucking firm out of Pennsylvania that was hauling a shipment of cookies to Hermiston. The instruments arrived about a week after the students.

"It was a very unusual thing to do," McIntyre reflected. "People who were former military people said it was like a military operation. But it all worked out."

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