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British dignitaries visit with JF band

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By Tom Wilmoth

There’s nothing quite like receiving an invitation in person. Just ask the Jefferson Forest High School band members.

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    On Friday, the band received a special invitation to perform in the 2011-2012 London New Year’s Day Parade and Festival from the Lord Mayoralty of the city of Westminster in the United Kingdom.
    The Lord Mayor is the first citizen of the city and as such is also host to the event.
    For the 2010 visit former Lord Mayor Catherine Longworth and her consort John Longworth represented the Lord Mayoralty and The City of Westminster.  Longworth is a tremendous supporter of the London Parade and Festival. Former Lord Mayor Longworth and John Longworth were  accompanied Friday by London Parade and Festival directors Robert and Geraldine Bone. 
    “It’s        a         wonderful opportunity for the band program, and for the students especially, to take a trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most magnificent cities,” stated JF Band Director David Webb about the trip.
    The band will spend eight days in London, with the parade as the focal point of the trip. But those attending will do plenty of other activities as well.
    The street audience of the parade is estimated to be one million people.
    “We’ll spend the rest of the time sight seeing and learning, things you can’t get from a book or a Web site,” Webb said of the trip.
    The JF band has participated in the parade in both 2002 and 2006, but this was the first time  a personal invitation from the Lord Mayor was involved. The band members will each be responsible for raising money for the trip, about $2,000 per student.
    “It doesn’t come cheap, so we’ll have to get to work immediately on that,” Webb said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’ve done it before.”
    Webb said having the British dignitaries come to the school added a nice touch to the kickoff for getting ready for the trip.
    “It gets people excited up front, to see the face of the parade,” he said.
    “We’re extremely excited for the opportunity. Hopefully we’ll be able to take a good number of students and their families over and represent the community and the school as well as we possibly can.”
    The school found out about 10 days ago that Lord Mayor Catherine Longworth and the others would be visiting the school.
    The JF band will be one of several from the United States attending the parade.
    Both Lord Mayor Catherine Longworth and the director of the parade addressed the students Friday who gathered in the school cafeteria for the official invitation.
    “It’s one of the most important events in the city of Westminster,” Longworth said of the parade festivities, that go through the heart of London. There will be some 10,000 participants and the parade lasts for about three hours.
    “I just love marching bands,” she added. “We’ve traveled all over the United States seeing these marching bands and inviting them to come to London. ...It’s an amazing thing for these young people to get involved in.”
    Robert Bone, parade and festival director, told the band members that they were being invited to “the greatest event in the greatest city in the world.”
    And, after giving them a bit of a lesson in Britain’s history, reminded them that they would be “huge television stars” because their performance at the parade would be viewed by some 250 million people.
    JF Principal Tony Francis told the students the opportunity to participate in the event next year is a reward for the hard work they put in.
    “We’re extremely proud of our band and our band students,” Francis said during the presentation event of the invitation.
    The delegation from the high school exchanged gifts with the delegation representing the parade.