By Tim Haddock | For The Signal
It literally rained on the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., on Monday, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the Saugus High School band and color guard.
Through the raindrops, the Saugus High Marching Centurions joined the Memorial Day ceremonies in the traditional parade down Constitution Avenue and the National Mall.
About 70 members of the band and color guard marched proudly with their parents and families watching and marching alongside them.
“I loved that I was able to do this for my band, with my band for the country,” senior drum major Raquel Atilano said. “It was just a great experience for all of us.”
It was the pinnacle of a Memorial Day weekend in the nation’s capital for the Saugus High band members and families. It included trips to the White House, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court and Arlington National Cemetery.
It was at Arlington National Cemetery where the band members paid tribute to the American soldiers who died in times of war and conflict at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a sobering reminder of why Memorial Day is celebrated in America. It gave some of the kids a deeper appreciation of the significance of the day and it made participating in the ceremonies in Washington, D.C., all the more significant.
Band director Bob Grigas said the visit to Arlington National Cemetery made the students “very solemn, very serious.”
“They said it was an incredible experience,” Grigas said. “They didn’t realize how big everything was. The history, how long it took people to create what we’ve created. They said they have more of an appreciation for everything that they do and everything that they have.”
The trip to Washington, D.C., created memories that will last a lifetime. Visiting historic monuments and landmarks was only part of it. Playing a Smash Bros. tournament the first night at the hotel in Virginia was another.
Junior Rodrigo Del Rio, who will be a drum major for the band next year, said he liked visiting the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
“It was very different than all the other buildings in D.C.,” Del Rio said. “It’s not actually one building. It’s almost a more natural thing, there’s a bunch of small waterfalls and stuff and quotes from Roosevelt carved into the surface of the rocks. It’s very peaceful.”
One quote that stood out for Del Rio was from Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy speech given in the early months of World War II. It was in 1940, before the United States entered the war. But it was also to urge Americans to support the countries in Europe fighting for democracy and supplying them with the arsenal to do so:
“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Atilano said she enjoyed visiting the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was really beautiful, especially at night,” she said.
The day before the parade, the band visited the White House, Lafayette Square, the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. The band ended the day in a music clinic with Col. Dennis Layendecker, the conductor of the United States Air Force band and orchestra.
“Everyone was just laser focused on the colonel, and giving such great information to the kids that they came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I want to change some things,’” Grigas said.
Del Rio said he learned how to be a better conductor after watching and listening to Layendecker.
“I was assuming it would be a lot of intonation stuff,” Del Rio said. “For me, because I’m going to be drum major next year, something that really stood out to me, when he was talking to Raquel about conducting, he was telling her, don’t just keep time the whole time. Use some expressions, show them dynamics, cue them in.”
The day of the parade, the band toured the U.S. Capitol and visited the Supreme Court before heading to the National Mall for the parade. While they were warming up and preparing to march, it started to rain. It was definitely a soggy start to the parade.
As the band made its way to the end of the parade route, it started to pour. The harder it rained, the louder the bands played. Some of the band members said it took on a rave feel, with music and dancing in the rain. One of the bands from Michigan started playing and others joined in keeping the music going well after the parade ended.
“We ended up very drenched,” Atilano said. “They have an incredible brass section and they just kind of went crazy after the parade. We were hyping them up. We were listening, dancing with them. The drum major was dancing. It was really fun.”
Soaked by the rain and the holiday ceremonies, the Saugus High band finished the day with dinner at the Catholic University Pryzbyla Student Center.
It was a comforting end to a packed weekend of sightseeing and Memorial Day activities. Before the parade, Grigas said he wanted the band to enjoy every minute of it.
“We’re just going to have a good time and have some fun,” Grigas said. “We’ve been preparing for this for a long time and I’m ready for them to rock out.”