MILTON, Ga. – It’s not often a British lord mayor visits Milton, and even rarer still for them to come bearing gifts. But that’s exactly what Cambridge High got Sept. 25.
Catherine Longworth, lord mayor of the city of Westminster, a central part of London, came to town as part of a U.S. tour of high schools, presenting the best marching bands with invitations to be a part of London’s New Year’s Day Parade 2015.
“You have been presented to us as the very best,” said Robert Bone, executive director of the parade. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
In the parade, more than 8,000 performers from all corners of the globe entertain a street audience of around 500,000 – and a global TV audience of tens of millions.
The lord mayor leads the parade.
“It’s a very special opportunity for you to travel to London,” said Longworth to the students. “It’s a very exciting parade.”
The London delegation visited the band students for a surprise visit as they unveiled the news. It was greeted with surprise and excitement by the kids.
“I travel the world listening to young musicians playing,” said Bone. “I am always impressed with North American high school musicians.”
He said England does not have a tradition of marching bands other than in the military, so the high school bands are a spectacle for the audience.
“The North American marching bands are why they stay,” he said.
About 25 bands take part in the parade each year. They are recommended to the parade leaders by band judges throughout the world. Bone and his staff then decide who should take part. There are 16 invitations to go to North American bands this year. The only other Georgia high school to get an invitation is South Paulding High in Douglasville.
For a school that has not existed for two full years, this invitation is a great one, said Principal Ed Spurka.
“We knew we’d have an excellent program, but already it’s doing great,” Spurka said.
Band Director Ryan Borger agreed.
“It’s been a thrill,” he said. “This is an opportunity to build up the reputation of our new school.”