Baldwin High band to march in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade

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The last time Baldwin Highlander Marching Band drum major Luke Barone, 16, was in New York City was in 2006 to watch his older brother march with the school band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

On March 17, it will be the Luke's time to proudly don a uniform of purple, white, black and gold to perform in The Big Apple and in an iconic spectacle: the St. Patrick Day's Parade, And the Whitehall teen is excited as are all his band collegues

''I think it's going to be a really cool experience,'' band director Greg Steele said.

The largest of the city's many parades, this year's will include an estimated 150,000 participants and an expected 2 million spectators. 

It will also be televised regionally in New York City, with news teams providing international coverage.

Named for the most widely recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, the first parade took place in New York City more than 250 years ago.

The joint trip of the marching band and the drama club will begin with a March 14 departure in three chartered buses. 

''We sold a lot of hoagies,'' Mr. Steele said of the trip financing. The trip cost $975 per student.

While the parade will be the focal point for the band, the drama students' main focus will be participating in a workshop with Broadway actors and singers.

There will also be attendance at the Broadway musicals, "Newsies" and "Phantom of the Opera,'' for all 120 students.

Drum major Kalee George, 18, of Baldwin Borough, who plans to pursue performing arts after graduation, said the trip is a perfect blend of her interests.

The students also will take a guided bus tour of the city, in which they will visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Statue of Liberty and more.

''In planning trips, I try for a unique, one-of-a-kind experience,'' Mr. Steele said. "In addition, I want it to be educational — traveling out of state is educational for some students as is being able to see historic sites in New York City; that is really important.''

The parade begins at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue at 11 a.m., marches up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street ending at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue

The Highlander band will play ''Yankee Doodle Dandy'' over and over along the route.

Baldwin Borough sisters Jill Weida, 16, who plays the snare drum, and Natalie Weida, 14, who is in the color guard, said they are thrilled to be part of such a big event, which also casts the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in the spotlight.

''It will be great to represent Baldwin High School,'' Jill said.

Mr. Steele said the band submitted an application to march in the parade and the school received an acceptance letter.

Kate Marze, 17, of Whitehall, who plays the baritone, said holding the nearly 10-pound instrument upright for the 3-mile parade route will be hard work, but rewarding.

''You get to the end and look back and remember all the clapping and smiles,'' she said. "'You walk out exhausted and sweaty but feeling pretty good about yourself.''

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:

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