Not many Georgia students take school trips to Hawaii, but 87 cadets at Riverside Military Academy are doing just that.
The Riverside Military Band, Color Guard and Chorus will represent the state of Georgia today in the 2014 Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade at Fort DeRussey in Waikiki, Hawaii.
Band director Katy Wilson said it is “an incredible honor” for the school to represent not only Gainesville but Georgia.
“This band program has seen much growth over the past five years and this is a true honor and milestone for the program and the students involved,” Wilson said. “We are proud to help commemorate the anniversary of Pearl Harbor by participating in the parade and the events surrounding the parade.”
The parade attracts more than 150,000 people annually, Wilson said, and provides a tribute to veterans, armed forces and “the date that will live in infamy,” Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II.
According to Julie Smith, public relations officer for the academy, the band and chorus will also perform a tribute concert Monday at the USS Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor. The color guard, drum and bugle corps will honor four Riverside alumni buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific on Wednesday with a formal wreath-laying ceremony.
“We’re just so excited for them all to have such an amazing, cultural and educational experience,” Smith said. “For many of these students, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The marching band has participated in the Atlanta Veterans Day Parade for last several years, but Wilson said the trip to Hawaii is the farthest the band has ever traveled.
“There are lots of logistical details involved in this trip and we have been planning for months,” she said. “Going halfway around the world is not easy feat, but we are ready and excited to be there.”
The band received an invitation to participate in the parade in the summer of 2013, and Wilson said they have been fundraising since. Cadets paid a portion of the trip and the school and band program financed the rest with the raised funds.
“We were blessed with generous alumni and friends of the Academy for financial support of this trip,” Wilson said. “Other community members who took special interest in Riverside or the fine arts have been critical in helping us achieve our goal.”
The band commissioned two pieces of music specifically for this trip, Wilson said. “Patriotic Medley” will be performed in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade and “An Airman’s Hymn” will be performed at the USS Missouri Memorial.
Both pieces were composed by Miles Adams, a retired North Georgia music educator and arranger.
The band, along with nearly 20 parent and faculty volunteer chaperones, left Friday for Hawaii. Wilson and Smith said they were thrilled their students would have an opportunity to partake in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We are extremely honored to participate in this poignant and historical event,” Wilson said. “We look forward to representing Riverside Military Academy, the city of Gainesville, and the state of Georgia on the islands.”