Lancers returning to Rose Bowl Parade for 25th anniversary of marching band's first appearanceBy CHRIS GAROFOLO
Union Leader Correspondent December 28. 2017 12:58AM
LONDONDERRY — Twenty-five years after its first appearance, the Lancers marching band is headed to Pasadena, Calif., for its fifth Tournament of Roses Parade.
Andy Soucy ought to know, the energetic music director of the Marching Lancer Band has been with the high school since it opened in the 1970s.
“This has always been the most thrilling parade … this is the top of the pyramid, there’s not another parade that gets this type of exposure,” he said. “They have almost a million people in the streets. That’s like (the population of) the state of New Hampshire.”
Soucy and his 265-member band will fly today to Pasadena, taking nine different flights.
The Lancers are one of a dozen high school bands selected, said Soucy. The only other band representating New England is the University of Massachusetts Minutemen Marching Band.
“There’s something about this parade,” he said. “The first half-hour we’re playing straight music because that’s how long it takes to get through all those TV cameras — it looks like a Hollywood set — and it’s just really exciting. There’s nothing like that excitement.”
In southern California, the Londonderry band will perform at Pasadena City College on Dec. 30, Disneyland on New Year’s Eve, then comes the parade on Monday, New Year’s Day.
An estimated 60 million Americans watch the Tournament of Roses Parade on television, another million line the 5.5-mile route.
The Marching Lancers are one of the largest high school marching bands in the country, and were invited to march in Pasadena in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011.
Under Soucy’s leadership, the band played on the Great Wall of China in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, during both inaugurations of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., and other excursions to Florida, New York City and across the Granite State.
“I think we have the most well-traveled program anywhere. I really think so,” Soucy said. “They’re nice kids — 81 percent are on the honor roll. They really put in a lot of extra time.”
The high school’s band room is a living tribute to its many accomplishments.
A banner from the 2004 Tournament of Roses Parade hangs near the entrance, and photographs and trophies line the walls. Soucy’s office is covered from floor to ceiling with bumper stickers and band memorabilia. Added this month was a proclamation from Gov. Chris Sununu, touting the long history of success.
“It’s kind of astounding, there’s so much history behind the band … you just realize how much the band has actually done and gone through, and you’re being a part of that program,” said Brian Murphy, a graduating senior who plays in the drumline and hopes to be a firefighter some day.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s not something that I really expected would happen — I know the band has gone in the past, but I never thought that I’d be in the next group to go,” he said.
Alexa Calligandes, a LHS freshman who plays mallet percussion, can hardly believe he’s making the trip.
“A lot of people don’t get to travel as much as we do, and it’s great because we get to showcase what a little town in New Hampshire can do,” she said.
Students lined up on Dec. 21 to ship out their gear with a moving company ahead of time. Given the sheer amount of bodies, equipment and cases of water, it is cheaper for the band to ship its clothing and instruments to California a week ahead of their departure.
“I never dreamed we’d do something like this,” said Maiah Morani, a senior color guard captain with the band.
“For my first three years, we went to New York … and that for me was huge,” she said. “When you’re a part of it, people get very excited when they see you. It’s very humbling, it’s very exciting.”
Joining the band for the 2018 trip is LHS Principal Jason Parent and district Superintendent Scott Laliberte, who said it is unusual for faculty to follow the Lancers to California.
“This is an unusual honor, so we were very fortunate to be invited,” Laliberte said.
The success of the Londonderry marching band is a testament to Soucy’s career, the superintendent said. He praised the Friends of Music organization for its commitment to fundraising — no taxpayer money is used — and community outreach.
“One of the things that Andy has done is he has put a structure in place that really promotes that kind of opportunity for kids. There’s a reason why these opportunities come up for Londonderry, and the reason that we have that notoriety is because the system in place is pretty remarkable,” Laliberte said.
But Soucy is quick to shift the spotlight to his student musicians.
“I think it’s important for them to see the kids have their moment,” he said. “It’s really a close family in many ways.”