By Saraana Jamraj
A party of British dignitaries traveled to Parkland to deliver a special invitation: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Eagle Regiment Marching Band was invited to perform at the 2021 London’s New Year’s Day Parade.
In honor of the invitation, the school held an assembly in the auditorium to celebrate. Band Director Stephen Rivero officially accepted the prestigious invitation. To welcome them, band members, students, Principal Michelle Kefford, Superintendent Robert Runcie, School Board Member Lori Alhadeff, and Parkland Commissioners Bob Mayersohn, Richard Walker, and Stacy Kagan were in attendance.
The band performed with the color guard, showcasing their talent and providing the soundtrack to their newest victory.
The performance is set for New Year’s Day of 2021, and the band will join over 8,000 other performers from around the world in one of the largest New Year’s Day performances. They can expect a large audience: The 2018 parade attracted 500,000 attendees and reached over 300 million television viewers.
Executive director and founder of the London New Year’s Day Parade, Bob Bone, Senior Patron, and Steve Summers presented the invitation and spoke to the students about what to expect when they come to London.
“I’m afraid Prince Harry now, he’s gone if anyone was thinking about marrying Prince Harry. Although I do hear he loves Americans, so maybe he’ll be coming [to see you],” joked Summers.
Both Bone and Summers promised the students that they would be welcomed warmly in London, and treated like stars.
“We are open, we are tolerant, and throughout the whole of history, we have welcomed the world, and I think that’s going to be the biggest impact on each and everyone one of you that travels to London,” said Summers.
They emphasized that the British do not have marching bands like the United States, which makes onlookers even more eager to come out and see the marching bands play.
Bone celebrated the differences between the U.S. and Great Britain, but gave students a warning about one in particular:
“When you come to London, never utter the word ‘soccer’,” said Bone.
The band will have a year to prepare and to raise the funds necessary to perform. The trip will cost each student $3,500, in addition to their annual band fees. There are currently 152 members from both Coral Springs and Parkland, and all are invited to perform. The seniors who will have graduated by then were assured that because the invitation was given during their tenure, the invitation still stands for them.
The band is currently seeking corporate and individual sponsors allow students to take the opportunity presented to them.
This isn’t the first time their talent is being recognized. They are two-time reigning Florida state champions, and in November, will go to Daytona to defend their title at the Florida Marching Band Championship. Last year, they also performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Rivero is ecstatic that the band is being recognized and given this opportunity.
“[The band members] were really elated. We talked about everything we do from now being about the students. We’re following through with what we talked about,” said Rivero.
Eagle Regiment spokesperson, Georgia Garnecki, also has two children in the band: Lauren, a senior, and Matthew, a sophomore. Her son was excited by the invitation and hopeful that he would be able to attend.
“These kids work really hard, and they’re a really talented group of kids,” said Garnecki.
Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her Master’s Degree in Mass Communications at Florida International University.
She’s currently the Communications Manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.