As if seeing the Big Apple wasn't enough, members of the Granite City High School concert band snagged first place in a recent national competition in New York City.
Senior Kirsten Robles, 18, said the big win "shows the dedication our band puts forward every day. It shows how hard we work and how hard our director works for us."
Granite City band director Wyatt Roberds said the concert band received three awards during the WorldStrides Heritage National Band Competition March 23 in New York City.
"It was the first time we have ever done a national competition," Roberds said. "I didn't know what to expect."
Roberds knew Granite City's concert band, which is composed of ninth- through 12th-grade students, would be up against "really, really good bands" from Hawaii, California, Missouri and North Carolina.
Roberds said he could not be more pleased with how the students performed. "They were awesome," he said. "It all came together, and they did a great job."
The concert band played three pieces: "A Festival Prelude" by Alfred Reed; "With Each Sunset Comes the Promise of a New Day" by Richard Saucedo; and "The Boys of the Old Brigade" by Paddy McGuigan.
Roberds said the band received a superior gold rating, won first place among seven bands from schools with more than 1,200 students and an award for the most outstanding concert band. The band maintained the highest score in the concert band category for the entire competition.
The Granite City band received their awards during a ceremony aboard a cruise ship, which was floating around Manhattan Island.
Senior Kristin Schellhardt, 18, of Granite City said she never expected the concert band to win anything since the competition was stiff.
"It absolutely floored me when we won," she said. "It was such a surreal experience."
Fellow senior Allison Thompson, 17, of Granite City also said she did not expect the band to win first place. "I knew we would do well, but I didn't expect us to do that well," she said.
A lot of fundraisers helped make the more than $75,000 trip a reality. The cost was about $1,200 per student. Fundraisers began in August, and Roberds said students sold everything from butter braids to pizzas.
"If I wanted to go, I had to work for it," said Schellhardt, who plays the euphonium.
In preparation for the competition, Roberds said the concert band practiced one day a week after school for two months straight.
The 63 concert band members and 26 adults headed to New York on March 21 and returned Tuesday.
In addition to participating in the competition, band members took in the sights of New York. They visited China Town, Little Italy, Central Park and Times Square. They toured the 9/11 Memorial and NBC Studios. They went to Rockefeller Center and the American Museum of Natural History. Plus, they saw "Wicked" on Broadway and "Stomp" Off-Broadway.
Schellhardt said her favorite part of the trip was seeing "Wicked."
"I know what it's like to be in a concert band setting," she said. "It was really cool to see those other facets of music."
Thompson also said seeing the Broadway show was "amazing. It exceeded my expectations," she said.
"It was a great time and a wonderful experience," Roberds said. "I think the kids got a lot out of it."
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 618-239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.