October 21. 2016 11:02PM

Londonderry Marching Lancer Band headed to the Rose Bowl

By ELI OKUN
Union Leader Correspondent


Many cheers and some tears erupt from the assembled Londonderry Marching Lancers as they find out they're going to the Tournament of Roses in 2018. (Eli Okun/Union Leader Correspondent)

Members of the Londonderry High School marchng band celebrate after learning the band will perform at the 2018 Rose Bowl Parade. (Eli Okun/Union Leader Correspondent)


LONDONDERRY — As the members of Londonderry High School’s marching band filed into the band room Friday afternoon for a surprise announcement, rumors and speculation looped through the crowd.

Would they be informed of a trip to Ireland? To Washington for the next presidential inauguration?

Was longtime band director Andy Soucy retiring?

Or, perhaps, would it just be some news about the weather forecast for Friday night’s football game?

“I am SO nervous right now,” one boy declared.

“Either way I’m going to cry,” said a girl.

“Is it someone’s birthday again?” asked another boy, eyeing two cakes — covered as to avoid divulging any secrets in the frosting — on the side of the room.

Then Soucy stepped in front of the assembled students, and a Skype call projected onto an overhead flickered to life. Lance Tibbet, the president of the 2018 Tournament of Roses, ended the suspense: Londonderry, he said to screams and cheers, is going to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 2018.

This will be the acclaimed Marching Lancers’ fifth trip to the Rose Bowl since 1992. (Their 2004 performance is the lead photo on the “Rose Parade marching bands” Wikipedia page.)

Music has also taken them to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Florida last year, and both of President Obama’s inaugurations. And with 258 members, they’re one of the largest marching bands in the country.

But for the band members who will head to California for the 2018 Rose Bowl, Friday’s announcement was stunning all the same.

A few minutes after finding out, junior Hannah Fitzgerald, who plays the mellophone, was still catching her breath.

“Now that I’m going, I can’t believe it. I just can’t,” said junior Evan Miller, standing next to her.

Junior trumpet player Sophia Scaccia, the girl who’d predicted she would cry, wiped tears from her eyes. “I was really hoping that would be my senior trip,” she said.

Scaccia is such a self-proclaimed band geek that she has a separate Instagram account devoted to it. “I love the atmosphere, and I love playing my instrument, and I love Mr. Soucy,” she said.

Soucy, who has been at Londonderry High School since it opened in 1978, said he submitted an intensive application at the beginning of the summer. Just 12 high school bands, along with nine others bands, are selected each year.

Londonderry will be the sole representative of New England and New York state.

“Mr. Soucy is, as far as I’m concerned, the premier music director in the country for high school,” said Londonderry Superintendent of Schools Nate Greenberg.

The Marching Lancers will undertake the 5½-mile, 2½-hour parade in front of 750,000 people on the street and about 60 million more on television, Tibbet said.

The next year will include a major fundraising effort for the six-day, five-night trip to kick off 2018. In California, Londonderry will also march at Disneyland.

Soucy said that after their last Tournament of Roses parade, the Marching Lancers went to the beach and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean — an experience he hopes to replicate.

“These kids are so great. They really are great. It’s just fun to work with them,” he said. “They work hard to make the community proud and the high school proud.”