NEW PALESTINE — From a tour through The U.S. Capitol building to watching the U.S. Air Force Band rehearse, a recent trip to Washington D.C., was an adventure New Palestine High School band director Shawn Humphries and his musicians won’t soon forget.
Humphries took more than 40 band members and 14 chaperones to Washington, D.C., this summer to see historical sites and perform at some famous national markers.
He hired a tour company to help set up the trip, something he likes to do with his band members every couple of years for a bonding experience and to give students some perspective on how music can always be a part of their lives.
“I want the trip to always be very musical related, and D.C. had just a ton of musical opportunities for us,” Humphries said.
The band played several songs in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Just before the group began the performance, Humphries instructed his students to look at their surroundings and realize how immersed they were in national history.
“I told them, ‘You are about to perform in a place that is unbelievable when it comes to famous speeches in U.S. history,’” Humphries said.
Avery Eller, senior sax player, went on the trip and described the journey as amazing. She enjoyed playing at the Lincoln Memorial, visiting the National World War II Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“We got to see a lot, and while it was fast paced, it was also very relaxing,” she said.
The group visited George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate, had a photo opportunity at President’s Park South, also known as the Ellipse, near the White House, and went to Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard experience.
The trip also included stops at several Smithsonian museums, a chance to watch The National Symphony Orchestra in Concert at the John F. Kennedy Center and a Potomac River cruise.
One of the main highlights included seeing the ceremony at The Marine Barracks with performances by “The Presidents Own” Marine Band and the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.
Watching and listening to the professional bands play was rewarding, Humphreies said. He’s always looking for ways to show young musicians what a professional career can look like.
“In the Air Force band, they are all professional musicians who get their musical degrees and then joined the military,” Humphries said.
The group also connected with two former New Palestine High School band members living in Washington, D.C. — Amy Timmerman, a Senate employee, and Wendy Faunce, a journalist, gave the band members tours of the area and insight, plus explained what being a part of a high school marching band meant to them.
For Humphries, the trip was a memory maker in more ways than one.
He loved educating students, but this — his first trip to Washington, D.C. — gave him a chance meeting with one of his musical heroes.
When the high school group was finished listening to the U.S. Air Force Band rehearse, Humphries noticed a small, elderly man in the background and sure enough, it was retired Air Force Col. Arnald D. Gabriel.
Gabriel served as commander and conductor of the Air Force band, symphony orchestra, and Singing Sergeants from 1964 to 1985.
“I talked to him and got a picture with him,” Humphries said, still beaming.