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Riverside band director, wife welcome 4 Marines who evacuated South Carolina
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Cpl. Tiffany Woda watches as the Riverside Military Academy band marches Thursday at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. Woda is a Marine musician stationed in Parris Island, S.C., who volunteered to work with the Riverside band cadets during afternoon drill period following classes. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Four Marines stationed in Parris Island, S.C., are in Gainesville for at least a few days and passing along their musical expertise after having to evacuate South Carolina as Hurricane Matthew is on its way up the East Coast.

Cpl. Tiffany Woda, who is from Haughton, La., was originally planning to go back to her hometown, but the Marines needed to stay within 400 miles of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island. Then she saw a Facebook post from Erin Giove, the wife of Riverside Military Academy band director Stephen Giove, offering evacuating Marines the chance to stay with the Giove family.

Woda jumped at the opportunity, as Stephen Giove was officer in charge of the Parris Island Marine Band before coming to Riverside. She also passed along word to three of her fellow Marine musicians who also decided to come to Gainesville: Cpl. Jose Toranzo Infante, Cpl. Elizabeth Kelson and Lance Cpl. Brianna Munoz. Woda, Infante and Kelson all played for Stephen Giove when he was at Parris Island.

Woda, who plays trumpet, originally thought the four Marine musicians might just be staying at the Giove home waiting out the storm. But the Riverside band director offered her and her fellow Marines the opportunity to work with his band.

Munoz, who plays clarinet, called the opportunity to come to Gainesville and help the Riverside band a “pleasant surprise,” adding that it feels good to be able to “help out and do what you can.”

Kelson, who is a percussionist, appreciates the chance to spend time at Riverside with the band. She noted the value of musicians hearing others play and emulating them.

“It’s nice to be around something I’m familiar with,” Kelson said.

Infante plays French horn and is also helping Riverside’s drum majors.

Infante said he doesn’t know how long the group will be here, with the severity of the storm likely to decide that. He called Riverside “a lovely campus,” adding that “we fit right in.”

Woda is grateful for the chance to see the Gioves again and experience their hospitality.

“They’re taking very good care of us,” Woda said.

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