Marching To Disney: Belmont Bands Heading to Orlando in Feb. ’18

Photo: Something like this

Heading for the long-awaited visit to DisneyWorld – or possibly your annual trip to see Mickey Mouse in the humidity of Florida – during the winter recess in February 2018? If you’re planning to go, it’s a good chance you will be entertained by a pair of Belmont High musical groups.

Next year, it’s likely the Belmont High “Marching Marauders” and the school’s award-winning Jazz Collective – a bit more than 100 kids – will be heading to DisneyWorld during the winter doldrums on a six day, five-night educational performance tour of the Magic Kingdom. 

The trip – which requires the OK from Belmont Superintendent John Phelan – is one of three Belmont students are taking next year. The other two approved last week by the School Committee (foreign travel requires a vote by the six-member committee to be approved) will be a week in June 2018 traveling, studying and performing community service in Peru for approximately 24 sophomores who passed Ancient World Civilization and a week in April 2018 going and studying in China for 20 students who are enrolled in a Chinese language course or taking Modern World History.

For the band trip – by far the largest next year – the musicians will be involved in two workshops at Disney which will result in a recording session, have an exchange clinic with a local school with an experienced marching program with the highlight of the visit will be performing in the daily parade at Disney Springs, the new shopping/eating “marketplace” (once known as Downtown Disney) just to the east of Epcot.

Belmont High Marching Band Replace Roots Saturday as Jimmy Fallon’s Ensemble

Photo: The Belmont High Marching Band with Jimmy Fallon at Harvard.

It’s not every Saturday that Cambridge Police will close down a portion of Massachusetts Avenue to let the Belmont High School Marching Band parade past Harvard College.

But on a gloomy Saturday afternoon, Oct. 24, the 100-strong Marauder Marching Band lined up near the intersection of Arrow Street to head up Mass Ave. with a police escort needed to keep the fans at bay.

Oh, did I mention that the Tonight Show’s host Jimmy Fallon was also there?

And while the band sounded top-notch, the thousands of cheering fans who lined the Mass Ave., Holyoke Street and Mt. Auburn Street came to see Fallon – wearing a black bow tie and sunglasses while riding in a chariot and wearing a laurel crown – named the “Emperor of Comedy” by the student social club, the Harvard Lampoon.

The students presented the former Saturday Night Live alum with the Elmer Award for Excellence in Humor along with a large check for 85 cents at the steps of its clubhouse on Bow Street. 

It was there that the band was mentioned, as one of the students told Fallon there was a mix up with the buses and his regular band, The Roots, was playing at the Belmont High football game. (Note: The game was played the night before.)

Performing the Tonight Show theme – arranged for marching band! – along with “Sweet Caroline” and “Final Countdown,” the band smartly followed drum majors Helena Kim, Gillian Tahajian and Eleanor Carlile through the crowds – screaming “Jimmy” all along the route – and the narrow side streets. The parade was halted for a few minutes as a red Mazaratti suddenly blocked the road at Holyoke Center. (It moved.)

Before the show, the band played selections at the courtyard of the Inn at Harvard with many band parents (including the chair of the School Committee).

The Marauders “replaced” The Roots, when the school received a call about a week ago from a former student who had connections with the Lampoon, which was seeking a marching band to lead the parade, said Arto Asadoorian, the district’s arts director.

If the Lampoon would pay for a couple of buses to ferry the kids to Harvard and back, then they could have their music, said Asadoorian, who came to the parade with the receipt. Band Director Paul Ketchen got the group up to speed with the new music, and it was all systems go for Saturday.

For the band, it was a thrill to play before the biggest collective crowd this year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

“It was an out of body experience,” said Carloias, as she stood watching Fallon receiving the Elmer Award. “Everyone was friendly, and we got to take our phones and take photos.”