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Hampton Band to march in NATO festival

| Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
This is the Hampton band in 2014 in the Norfolk NATO Festival 65th Annual Parade of Nations.
This is the Hampton band in 2014 in the Norfolk NATO Festival 65th Annual Parade of Nations.

The Hampton band will be marching for a second time at the Norfolk NATO Festival 65th Annual Parade of Nations on April 28, in Norfolk, Va.

The festival is part of the larger Virginia International Arts Festival and Hampton previously marched in 2014, according to Chad Himmler, Hampton High School band director.

“The 1.5-mile parade route has a very large audience and moves through downtown Norfolk,” said Himmler, who has been director for 14 years. “All of the sections of the band are performing — brass, woodwinds, percussion, color guard, and dance team.”

Each of the 29 NATO nations will be represented at the parade by a float, according to the festival website. Along with high school bands from all over the country, U.S. military and international bands will be playing in the parade.

Himmler said 162 students of the band chose to attend this parade and they will be performing the classic rock tune by Earth, Wind & Fire, “September.”

“The students had a great time on this band trip four years ago.”

Himler said this parade was ideal because it did not create any conflicts with the spring musical rehearsal or performance schedule, which happens a week prior, and it was close enough that students would only have to miss one day of school.

Those attending also had more time to raise funds since it's later in the school year and being in a big parade in a warmer climate is a plus, he said.

For those who have never been in a parade, there are some physical and mental challenges to it. Himmler said band members need physical upper and lower body endurance and embouchure endurance, which refers to being able to play an instrument for an hour straight.

Not to mention band members have to memorize music, keep focus and not get distracted by the crowd, and they must maintain good marching technique and stay visually aligned, both in horizontal and vertical columns, he said.

With more than 100 students attending, help is most welcome and the Hampton band benefits from the Hampton Band Parent Association (HBPA). Parents regularly attend these events with the band to help with chaperoning and other assistance.

Beth Hunkele, president of the HBPA, said she attended the 2014 trip when her two daughters were in the Hampton band and are now attending Geneva College. She will be going this year with her son Jason, a junior, who is a sousaphone player and section leader.

This is her third year attending as a chaperone to an extended band trip and she enjoys it.

“It makes me so proud to see our big band and hear all the positive comments we receive,” she said.

Along with seeing the local attractions, she will enjoy being there with her son. And she said the kids really like the trips.

“Mr. Himmler really goes out of his way to make these trips fun and special for the kids,” she said.

The festival website cites it as the “only one of its kind in the United States which honors the NATO Alliance and its member nations.”

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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