Like the World War II heroes they want to honor, the Fort Mill High School band is on a mission.
March to Normandy is a year-long campaign to raise $90,000 for the band’s trip to Normandy, France, where it has been invited to perform at the Normandy American Cemetery. In addition to honoring all the Allied soldiers, the Fort Mill High Band wants to pay tribute to the 28 Fort Mill residents who gave their lives in the war, which ended 70 years ago.
During spring break in 2016, band members will visit Utah Beach, Omaha Beach and the D-day Museum while they are in the Normandy and Brittany regions of northwest France, said Jason Ford, a teacher and Fort Mill High School band staff member.
The band’s spring concert on May 21 will feature classical music paired with music from John Williams’ “Star Wars” performed by Fort Mill High School’s symphonic and wind symphony bands, Pruitt said. Admission will benefit March to Normandy.
“We will pull out all the stops and the students will put on one of the most challenging programs of the entire year,” Pruitt said.
On May 22, the band will hold a Jazz Night at the Museum event in partnership with the Fort Mill History Museum. The jazz band will perform music by Glenn Miller and other World War II era artists with hits such as “In the Mood” and “Pennsylvania 6-5000” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” Proceeds from admission will jointly benefit the March to Normandy campaign and the museum.
The marching band’s show last year, titled “The Bells of Notre Dame,” inspired the idea for a trip to France, band director John Pruitt said.
During the trip, the students will visit the Eiffel Tower and other spots in France, as well as learn about the landmarks in Normandy and hear from World War II survivors, Pruitt said.
“It’s a social studies, historical, and architectural trip as well as a chance to perform in one of the most sacred sites you could think of,” he said.
The band will perform at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France, Pruitt said.
“It’s going to be an emotional time for them and a time of great learning,” he said. “They are educated, intelligent young people.”
Even though World War II took place many years ago, the trip offers the students a chance to fully grasp the history and hear from survivors. Pruitt said the experience will help shape them as adults.
Since the March to Normandy campaign launched, the band has sold nearly 300 March to Normandy T-shirts and has raised more than $10,000, Ford said.
Pruitt said Fort Mill High band boosters and supportive residents are key to reaching the fundraising goal.
“We have the support and faith of the community and we want the community to know how much we appreciate it,” he said. “We wouldn’t even think about embarking on a trip like this without that support.”
For the campaign, the band has re-branded its ongoing Scrap-to-Gold scrap metal drive as We CAN Do It, paying homage to the cooperative spirit of U.S. civilians during World War II, Pruitt said. Aluminum cans as well as other scrap metals such as copper, can be donated.
Donations to March to Normandy campaign will help the band cover the cost of shipping equipment and providing financial aid for students to attend the trip, Pruitt said.
“We can make this trip possible as much as we can for any student that wants to go,” he said.
Pruitt said the band students are already looking forward to the trip, as well as what the next marching season will bring.
“There’s never a dull year,” he said.
Want to go?
▪ Fort Mill High School Band Spring Concert will be 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21 at the FMHS Auditorium.
▪ Jazz Night at the Museum will be 7-8:30 p.m. Friday, May 22 at the Fort Mill History Museum – 310 N. White St.
Tickets are $10 and include admission to the museum’s exhibits “Those Fort Mill Boys Go Off to War” and “Fort Mill Flying Ace, Elliott White Springs” and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are available through the Fort Mill Band Boosters (email@example.com) and the Fort Mill History Museum (803-802-3646).
The marching band will announce next year’s drum majors and show theme.
▪ Fort Mill High School Band and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9138 BBQ at noon to 5 p.m. June 6, 1442 Harris Road.
$10 a plate – proceeds to benefit March to Normandy and Veterans of Foreign Wars
▪ We CAN Do It Campaign
cans and other metals can be dropped off at the Fort Mill High School band shed, in the marked receptacle. Suggested items: aluminum, brass, copper, steel, old stainless steel cookware (remove handles), trampoline frames, old athletic frames, solid brass candlesticks.