How sweet it is

DHS marching band cleans up in competitions at the Sugar Bowl

Emily Johnson, Kelan Graddy and Robby Bishop perform at the competition in New Orleans.
Emily Johnson, Kelan Graddy and Robby Bishop perform at the competition in New Orleans.

DeKALB – Sarah Trostle did not expect to be on national television on her 18th birthday.

The DeKalb High School senior is the captain of the school’s flag corps, which last week performed with the marching band at a band competition at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

“It was so cool to have my birthday at that time,” Trostle said.

The DHS marching band competed against 11 other marching bands at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and won best marching, best overall effect, best color guard, best in their class and best overall band performance two days before a multi-band halftime performance at the bowl game. The overall band performance award, known informally as the “grand champion” award, earned the band another honor that they did not expect when their bus departed DeKalb.

“It was great to see them pull it together after everything they had been through,” director Steve Lundin said, noting that the band members performed their Cirque du Soleil routine on only four hours of sleep after the 19-hour bus trip to New Orleans.

“It was a big surprise that we did the flag during the pre-game (show),” said sophomore Sean Holly, 15. The band was given its awards in a New Year’s Eve ceremony, but they did not find out until the next day that they would hold a 40-yard-long American flag during the performance of the national anthem before Wednesday night’s game.

Trostle did not have much time to celebrate her birthday. The band members were up at 6 a.m. to get packed, dressed, checked out of the hotel and on buses to get to the Superdome for rehearsal.

“We prepared for that after we won the grand champion,” drum major Claire Spahn said. “That morning we were given 15 or 20 minutes to run through it, and to get to our spots and open it up. We did that for three times and that was it. We made mistakes during those three times but when we actually did it, I could see how proud everyone was to be there and I didn’t see any mistakes.”

The pre-game performance was televised, while the halftime performance was not. DeKalb High School and 11 other marching bands performed “Born to be Wild,” “I Don’t Wanna Stop,” and “I Don’t Care” during the halftime show.

“We walked out and the seats were packed to the brink and we were there to do the national anthem,” Holly said. “When it got to the part where we shook the flag the crowd went wild.”

It was not until 12:30 a.m. that the band members were back on their buses for the long ride back to DeKalb. Through text messages, phone calls and social media, parents back in DeKalb stayed in touch with their children and prepared a homecoming for the band.

“What a sight for them to see coming around the corner: All us moms and dads holding signs, balloons, cheering for them as they return home!” Dawn Campbell wrote on the band’s Facebook page, which was used to coordinate the homecoming.

A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Thursday, the buses returned to DHS, where the driveway was lined with cars, lights and people. As the band members got off the bus, they were greeted by dozens of parents and community members who braved the 15-degree temperatures with balloons, signs and Barbs flags to welcome the band home.

“I was not expecting anything like that,” said junior Michael Verbic, 16. “The first thing I noticed when we pulled into DHS was the candles and lights along the road, and then the big crowd of parents waiting for us.”

“It was very exciting to watch the kids and to have the honor of seeing the kids win the championship,” said chaperone Sherine Elsawa, mother of freshman band member Kareem Elkwae, 15. “I think this is something that the kids will talk about the rest of their lives.”

Visit MidWeek DeKalb on Facebook for a gallery of photos from the band's trip.

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