- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) - As a late holiday present, James Madison University’s marching band is getting a trip to Italy this month. The Marching Royal Dukes will be seen, and heard, among revelers in the Eternal City’s New Year’s Day parade for the first time.

About 250 musicians, staff, band alumni and family will travel for the parade, according to the club’s spokesperson Chase Maszle, 19. The sophomore, who is a converged media and computer information systems major, played cymbals on the band’s drumline last year when JMU performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.

“In my opinion, you can’t really compare the two,” the Pittsburgh native said. “Going international with that group of people and representing your school on an international scale is a spine-chilling thing to do.”

The club takes a group trip each year and periodically travels internationally. Maszle said that while the 2013 trip was fully funded by the university, this year’s was left up to students to finance, forcing some band members to stay behind.

The Marching Royal Dukes will depart for Rome and Florence on Sunday and will remain in Italy until Jan 4. The parade runs along the Via della Conciliazione from Castel Sant’Angelo to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

Music will be peppered with street performances and festivities will culminate in a blessing from Pope Francis, according to Minnesota-based organizers Gateway Music Festivals and Tours. Held in conjunction with World Day of Peace, the spectacle draws an estimated 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square each year, according to organizers.

Mark Hoffman, director of marketing for Gateway Music Festivals and Tours, said he has worked with Dukes Director Scott Rikkers for years to bring the band to the parade. Not only are the Dukes the only college or university band marching in this year’s parade, but Hoffman said they are also the only Virginia group scheduled to appear in the celebration.

Maszle said the band is excited to see its alumni for the parade and vice versa.

“(Alumni) are all very excited to see the Dukes beginning to propagate all over the globe,” he said.

Hoffman said the Dukes’ reputation as “one of the bigger and better college marching bands in the U.S.” made them a suitable choice for the parade.

“With it being just such a big event with huge crowds, having a band that can produce a big sound helps,” Hoffman said.

The Marching Royal Dukes will perform the film score from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Maszle said the music should be youth-friendly, respectful of St. Peter’s religious symbolism and “relevant to the audience that’s going to be there.”

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Information from: Daily News-Record, http://www.dnronline.com

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