- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - It’s a rainy Tuesday in January, and the Columbus North High School marching band has just eight days and three practices until they march in the parade after the inauguration of Donald Trump and Mike Pence on Jan. 20.

The region is under a thunderstorm watch during this particular 7 p.m. practice, but 150 marching band members aren’t paying attention to the weather. They’re playing instruments in various parts of the high school - the alma mater of Vice President-elect Mike Pence - about an hour south of Indianapolis learning music they started rehearsing that night.

Five kids bang on bass drums in the choir room. Across the hall, six on snare drums tap tap ta-tappity their part. In the cafeteria, 20 members of the color guard get a handle on their new choreography.

But the majority of the band is practicing their parade march formation in the band room, holding imaginary instruments as they march to a count of eight from a metronome clanging over a speaker. They’re dressed in the athletic clothes and sneakers of someone planning to run a marathon. The garbage can outside the band room door is overflowing with bags from pre-practice rushed dinners: Wendy’s, Jimmy John’s, Subway.

Wherever they’re practicing, not one member of the Columbus North High Sound of North Marching Band is wasting a moment. Because they have not a moment to waste.

The band didn’t learn it was selected to perform in the parade until Dec. 21, and even then they didn’t know whether they would be able to raise enough money to go.

“They were very excited, but we said we don’t go unless we have the money,” director of bands Bill Stultz said.

That’s when state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, stepped in and began leading the community to raise money for the group.

The community donated $125,000 to send the band members, plus 30 chaperones and staff members on four charter buses and one semi-truck for equipment, to Washington, D.C. for the parade. They leave at 10 p.m. Wednesday and will travel through the night.

There will be 8,000 people representing 40 organizations marching in the Inaugural Parade on Friday, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and The Culver Academies’ Black Horse Troop from Indiana.

“I had the mindset that if it was meant to be, it’d be,” assistant director of bands Keith Burton said. “I was pretty amazed at how the community stepped forward and made it happen.”

There’s a lot of attention on this band from the high school from which Pence graduated in 1977. Three TV stations, a documentary crew and two newspapers showed up to watch the practice. That only adds to the excitement - and the pressure - of the trip.

“Having the media here today was pretty exciting,” Burton said. “There have only been 57 events of this type. That’s pretty daunting to think about.”

The students are pretty geeked to have a few days off school, Burton said, but they recognize the responsibility and the honor to be selected.

Sophomore and sousaphone player Seth Wilson said it’s a trip he’ll remember forever.

“This is something I’m going to say to my kids and my grandkids,” said Wilson, 16, “that I marched in the Inaugural Parade.”

For seniors who thought their final marching band season ended in the fall, the trip is one last chance to to perform with friends.

“It’s really amazing to be part of something that’s nationally televised,” said senior piccolo player Natasha Davis, 18. “We’re a family and we’re all doing this together.”

As practice continues, the band picks up its instruments and plays scales to warm up. They’re spending less time on the basics and getting right into the music selection: a patriotic mashup of songs including “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “America, The Beautiful” called “A Patriotic Salute.”

Stultz walks among rows of baritone saxophones and flutes, yelling out commands.

“It’s all about the fanfare, so you need to be really aggressive,” he said.

The band played a scale, a uniform and booming sound that reverberated off the band room walls. As the notes abruptly ended, a quick shock of silence hit before a clap of thunder echoed outside. They all laughed.

“It’s a good thing we’re not outside,” Burton said.

As the two-hour practice ends, Burton and Stultz remind the group that there are just three more practices before they leave for D.C., but neither is worried about the students memorizing their music or their choreography.

“The kids are pretty amazing,” Burton said. “It’s an unbelievable culture. They really work to excel, and we’ve set the standards really high. I can’t think of a better group of kids to represent the school, the state.”

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Source: The Indianapolis Star, https://indy.st/2jpGYon

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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