High school marching band parades through Magic Kingdom Park

Contributed photo
There were 66 band members ranging from ninth to 12 grades that made the trip to Magic Kingdom and posed for a photo with the famous castle in the background, a similar view that was had during the marching band’s performance and parade route. “It’s got a little bit more magic, performing there,” said Band Director Brian Selander.

By Robert Williams


After missing the trip in 2020, the Frazee-Vergas High School bands made a return to Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando in March, along with visits to Universal Studios and the Atlantic Coach for a day at Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Contributed photo
The Frazee-Vergas high school bands got to perform and learn at a soundtrack session workshop at Disney’s Imagination Campus during the March trip to Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando.

“It was amazing. I’ve always dreamed of going to Disneyland and it was magical, like everyone says,” said junior Onalea Maijala. 

Other students were making a personal trip back to the area, like senior Rylie Schwendeman, who had been there with her family 10 years ago.

“It was kind of one big circle going back there and it was really cool to return and see how they change after a decade of stuff,” she said. “I was with my little sister too, so recreating a bunch of family photos was fun.”

The trip is also a jog down memory lane for Band Director Brian Selander.

“We always had that trip in New York Mills when I was growing up,” he said. “You always had that pilgrimage to Orlando every four years and it just becomes one of those things. When you recruit the fourth graders, I can pull up a picture and say this is going to be you in a few years. They get really excited about that.”

This year’s group consisted of 66 students from ninth grade to seniors and 19 chaperones.

“None of these trips happen without chaperone help,” said Selander.

The crew had filled two buses and hit the road from Frazee and returning in the wee hours 10 days later to sirens and the local police providing an escort back into town.

“It’s really nice for me getting away from home,” said Maijala. “You kind of need a break from it all.”

“I always think travel is a really essential part of making a real well-rounded person, seeing different cultures and people,” Schwendeman said. “Going to a big resort like Disney, you see a bunch of different people. That’s probably one of the most diverse places I’ve seen in a while.”

While Disney is renowned for “It’s a small world,” the trip itself is one that broadens the horizons of students and changes their life perspectives.

“It makes the world a bit bigger,” said Schwendeman. “We drove through three big cities and I only knew two before this.”

“There are more opportunities for you that you probably didn’t know about,” said Maijala. “I said the beach was my favorite day, just because I’m a beach person, but second to that was Magic Kingdom.”

While some students were out of their comfort zone so far from home, the band itself brought a different feeling to the people they were playing for.

“There are people who have never seen a marching band before,” Selander said. “How many people had their phones out and some had never seen a marching band. And the music that we played really involved the crowd too. I told the kids, ‘You’ve got six beats of “Sweet Caroline” to play correctly and the audience will go, ‘Bah bah bah’ with us.’ People were dancing in the parade route and it’s fun to know that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. People love to see performances like that.”

“It was a very enthusiastic crowd,” said Schwendeman.

Along with Neil Diamond, the band played other favorites: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

“Those four songs we play at pep band,” Selander said. “It’s peppy stuff and people are going to recognize it while you’re going to have fun playing it. I just mashed them together and they flow right from one to the other. I think the kids had fun playing it and people had a blast listening to it.”

Universal Studios provided a professional musical experience. The band got to work with a composer and played along to a musical score like trained musicians would with a professional conductor.

“He had different ways of getting us through, like sight reading,” Maijala said. “We had never seen the music before and he told us to play like it was a performance and then he’d play it back for us and it was like, ‘Is that us?’ It was really cool.”

“His main thing was hit it perfect the first time; that should be your mentality always,” said Schwendeman. “It was cool seeing that different mentality.”

“To me, that was the highlight,” Selander said. “He sight-read music with them to see what level they were able to play and what they already knew coming into the process. We worked for an hour just playing.”

The band got to play the love song from the movie “Tangled.” They also got to listen to their music as the soundtrack to the film playing on screen.

“The kids got to see the importance of sometimes you get one shot to play this music,” Selander said. “Because you get paid for how many songs you can do in an hour rather than an hourly rate. That was one experience I had not had with a group before and I thought it was really cool and the kids really liked it.”

The trip is an excellent bonding experience for the band in helping them play better together and creating personal memories that will last a lifetime.

“Two days on the bus changes a person,” Schwendeman laughed.

“What music can do for kids, I don’t think they even recognize the value it has in their lives,” said Selander. “What it does to your brain. There are so many more benefits than just getting to play music and what I love are the kids that don’t even realize that sometimes. They’re just here because they enjoy it, but the extra benefit of all the things that it does and we’ve got 60 kids in here for third hour—they all have to do the same thing at the same time or else it doesn’t sound good. Everybody is a starter. You don’t have a bench player to come in when somebody gets tired.”

Selander was quick to thank his volunteer chaperones and the surrounding community members who donated to make the trip a reality for the kids.

“These trips don’t happen without the support of community members,” Selander said. “Coming to our concerts to support us is one thing, but then to provide a little financial assistance along the way with all the fundraisers we do. Some of the organizations really helped out to get the kids to experience this. I look forward to providing these experiences.”

The students feel the same way and recognize the benefit of having a music program at school.

“Music has always been a really big part of me growing up,” Schwendeman said. “It’s just kind of one of those things that you hold onto that helps you through everything. If I’m having a rough day, playing on the piano, or coming to class, it’s a nice little break.”

“This is the best class,” Maijala said. “It is really like a break from school.”

The trip was sponsored by: Frazee Lions; Frazee Education Association; M-Squared; Vergas Lions; Wolf Lake VFW; Wolf Lake Auxiliary; Snappy; Frazee Sportsman Club and KLN Family Brands.