Beyond the attention gathered for their performance, the band received national attention as the country faced a government shut down that would have canceled the parade.
"We actually played an arrangement of 'America the Beautiful' throughout the parade route and that was the big musical performance we were involved in," said band director Eric Willoughby. "[The parade] was regionally televised and attended by thousands and thousands of people, it was a beautiful venue to shut down Constitution Avenue right in front of the national archives, so it was a really neat experience for our kids and a great highlight for our band."
Willoughby said the band has been preparing for the event for some time.
"About a year ago we had to send in a pretty in-depth application, which included letters of recommendation along with video of the band in performance," Willoughby said. We sent [the application] to the parade organizers at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and they select bands across the country to be featured in their parade, and we were one of those groups."
He said he had known for more than a month the deadline for the government to agree on a budget before shutting down was on Friday, April 8, the day before the parade. By Friday, however, students had already finished the site seeing portion of their trip, which included staples like national monuments and Arlington National Cemetery.
Willoughby said it wasn't until Wednesday, April 6, that he heard from a parent reports the parade might be canceled if there were to be a shutdown.
Over the next day, information on the effects of the potential shutdown became more clear.
"Thursday morning we got an email and [The National Cherry Blossom Parade website] was updated saying in fact, not just maybe, but it definitely would cancel the parade if the government shut down," Willoughby said.
Although the possibility of a shutdown meant the band would not be seen during the parade, there was an ironic twist that kept the band in the spotlight.
"The funny thing was that [Thursday] morning email that was sent out to band directors all over the country going [to the parade], saying 'if you're in town, give us your phone number, we've got some local news outlets who want to do stories,'" Willoughby said. "Within 30 minutes of giving out my phone number, I had the Washington Post and all four news affiliates calling me wanting to get interviews with our kids and me. So within an hour of that phone call we had three news stations with cameras outside of the [Smithsonian National] Air and Space Museum interviewing me and our students, and the interesting thing was although it was obviously a potential negative thing and the kids were shocked they might not perform, with all the news coverage and all the hoopla that came around with the kids getting interviewed, and the cameras on the buses, [the media attention] ended up being one of the highlights for [the students] because I think they were just taken back by that. It was pretty special."
Fortunately for the bands and parade goers, a budget was agreed upon before midnight, Friday, April, 8.
"We were just glad [the shutdown] was avoided and we were still able to play," Willoughby said, "and the parade was still really well attended."
Junior Meghan Frisby said this was her first trip to Washington and that she enjoyed performing as well as site seeing.
"Besides the fact that we got to march, which was pretty cool, I thought it was really inspirational to see our history especially [Arlington National Cemetery]," Frisby said. "It was touching since I have family in the military, and I'm a big history geek, so I really enjoy that type of stuff."
She said she was not interviewed, but the possibility of not being able to perform was disappointing for the band as a whole.
"We were all kind of upset because, what if we came up to D.C. and we're not able to march, so we were just hoping and praying we'd be able to [march]."