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Inaugural parade quite an experience

| Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2001

The band is back in town.

After tickling President George W. Bush's ears with Sousa marches and showing their colors to the VIPs, members of the North Hills High School Marching Band are home.

And the 132 students brought back more than tired eyes and sore feet when they returned to the North Hills by chartered bus Sunday evening.

Despite the cold and the drizzle Saturday in the nation's capital, the students said their participation in the inaugural parade was a memorable experience.

The band played a series of marches, including 'March Grandioso' by Roland Seitz, 'Sound and Fury' by Harold Walters and 'El Capitan,' 'The Thunderer' and the 'Washington Post March' by John Philip Sousa.

Band members also took advantage of the opportunity to play 'Go Indians,' the North Hills High School fight song arranged by alumnus Dan Reuter.

David Matthews, assistant band director, said community support for the band trip was overwhelming. In a few short weeks, the band boosters and volunteers raised $45,000 to pay for the trip.

'It was a tremendous experience for us,' Areta Kalogeras, the band director, said. 'It was neat being part of history.'

The band members left for Washington, D.C., Thursday afternoon, the day after a send-off concert. They spent Friday taking in sights at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, where they say saw the Constitution.

After breakfast on inauguration day, band members were bused to the Pentagon for a security check-in. Security agents searched the band instruments for anything suspicious. The young musicians eventually were approved by a pack of bomb-sniffing dogs.

'It went really smoothly,' said Mark Kasparek, a junior from Ross who plays the trombone.

Afterwards, the band left the Pentagon for the staging area, where the five 'divisions' of the parade awaited marching orders. Each division was led by a marching band from a different branch of the armed forces.

To kill time during the wait, the North Hills Marching Band and the Ohio State Marching Band entertained each other by taking turns playing from their repertoires.

The two-and-a-half-mile parade route took the students down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House viewing stand.

Despite the pomp of the parade itself, students overwhelmingly said they did not have much of a chance to see much.

Marching is, after all, work. And an inaugural band is meant to be seen and heard.

Musicians are not supposed to gawk.

Senior Steve Benson of West View, the band's drum captain, said when the band rounded a bend in the road, all he could see was an eerie glow from the lights emanating from the presidential viewing stand.

'It was already getting dark, and it was misty,' Benson said.

Kasparek agreed.

'All we could see was the silhouette of the viewing stand and the bands in front of us,' he said.

Senior Amanda Fitzgerald of Ross, the French horn section leader, said the new president was 'smiling.'

'He seemed happy for being cold and wet,' Fitzgerald said.

President Bush acknowledged the salute from Drum Major Matt Fuchs.

Benson said he would have taken a peek at the new president, but he was 'too busy keeping the line straight.'

Senior Matt Misztal, whose family moved to West View from Canada a year ago, said he also was so busy concentrating that he could not see much on the parade route.

The band members then emerged from the glow of the presidential platform and the waving hand of the commander in chief. Their performance behind them, they retreated half a mile to the 'dispersal' area which, according to band members, was well out of potential bomb range.

'It really was an exciting thing,' Matthews said.

Later that evening, the students had their own Inaugural Ball, a dinner dance at their hotel in Maryland. They had breakfast Sunday morning in Washington's Hard Rock Cafe.

As the teens sat under the hanging guitars and drums of the Hard Rock Cafe they thought about the new president's inauguration.

'It made me feel that I am part of American history,' Misztal said.

David Faulk can be reached at dfaulk@tribweb.com or (724) 779-7159.

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