Band director Jarrod Koskoski is thankful for the $85,000 that the community donated for the band's trip.
For the Seabreeze High School marching band and orchestra, crossing the pond and performing in London's 2019 New Years Day Parade was a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.
SHS Band Director Jarrod Koskoski was so proud of his students that there were moments he teared up during the parade. He watched his students, who spent almost a year fundraising and preparing for this trip, march down the streets of London to the tunes of "Hey Jude" and "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. Confetti streamed in the air, and he saw his students reveling in the pageantry.
“I felt completely and 100% blessed," Koskoski said. "I really did — this is because the kids were buying into what I’m teaching them, and they’re believing in themselves, and the parents in the community were able to buy into that as well. To see all of that, it made me feel like a proud papa.”
About 130 students and 80 parents went on this eight-day trip. While Koskoski said it was nerve-wracking putting all those people on three different airplanes initially, the trip was "absolutely wonderful." He loved seeing his students' excitement when they arrived in London and took in some famous landmarks, such as Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. He saw his students stand on the prime-meridian.
“I just enjoyed seeing them experience a new culture, a new country," Koskoski said.
The musical side of the trip didn't disappoint, either. The marching band was invited to close the parade, being the last of 75 bands to perform. This year's London's New Years Day Parade ended with SHS's marching band playing the British national anthem, "God Save The Queen."
The orchestra was too large to fit inside Cadogan Hall, so the students performed in St. John's Smith Square, which was built in the 1600s and is known as the queen's footstool.
Since arriving back in Florida, some students have written letters to Koskoski expressing their appreciation of the experience.
“This trip taught me a deeper understanding of all things, and after spending a week in the grand city of London, I do believe I know who I am," one student wrote.
Koskoski said that is all he could ask for as a teacher.
“I want to give them the world, and I was able to give them an opportunity to see the world," Koskoski said. "They did the work, honestly. I just helped facilitate that, so they earned it.”
He said he was thankful from the "bottom of his heart" for the community's support in the endeavor to get these students to represent Volusia County in London.
The band received over $85,000 in community donations. The total trip cost $657,000, and Koskoski said they did everything they could to lower the cost for their students, including dipping into the band program's funds. They were able to lower the cost from $3,100 to about $2,500, he said.
“Every dollar that was donated, I can’t thank them enough," Koskoski said. "I’ll forever be in their debt.”