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Performing in Harmony for One Dream

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It was the middle of the Olympics, a time where people are intensively watching not just the Olympics, but also the cultural events. At that moment, people from different countries and cultures feel that there is no barrier between them; as if wars and hostility have become alien ideas. People cheer in the sports venues and in the streets to celebrate the event.

During this time, here at the Atlantic coast of Maine, I heard that the President of China, Hu Jintao, replied to the Londonderry High School Marching Band thanking them for bringing the two countries closer. The President was touched by the students’ compassion and the $2008 they gave to the earthquake victims in Sichuan. Along with the letter, the band of over 300 performed in Beijing to show their support for the 2008 Olympic Games. News of the letter was carried in hundreds of newspapers and publications in multiple languages on August, 1st; China Central TV even read and displayed the letter on one of its news broadcasts. One Chinese student lost no time in copying the entire English text from the TV screen shots and was the first to post the letter in English and Chinese on the Internet.

Chinese people everywhere were really moved by Londonderry’s friendly gestures. My dad actually talked to one of Londonderry High School’s teachers about her son’s trip to China with the band. Without missing a beat, I launched the Internet and found more about the students’ personal accounts of the trip. What was most exciting to me was that they had come back to the United States, and they were having a summer band camp that week. Everything seemed to attract me and my dad to congratulate them in person and be part of their experience. With no delay, we reached the Music Director, Andrew Soucy, by phone. He invited us to visit him and his band on the campus. The next day, we drove non-stop, from the Atlantic coast all the way to Londonderry, New Hampshire.

During our stay at the high school, we truly felt the kindness and strong spirit of the students. After we got out of the car and walked towards the front entrance, we could hear the crescendo of a deep, pounding beat as we came closer and closer to the band. The sound guided us to the band members, who were hard at work practicing in the middle of a packed hall. We stood and listened to the music for a while, until a brief pause occurred. We used this opportunity to ask the drummer closest to us where we could find Soucy. Without a word, the tall drummer unstrapped his large bass drum, placed it on the ground carefully, and led us through the mesh of bright instruments and musicians to Soucy’s office. As we walked through the band, the climax of the piece rang through our ears, echoing the sound of the on-going Olympics in Beijing.

When we came to the door of Soucy’s office, we thanked the drummer, who gave us a kind nod and quickly raced back to the band, eager to return to do his part within the festive music. Just as we thought we had walked away from the excitement of the band, the office turned out to be even more exciting, with its faxing machines, computers, and scanners, all humming and hard at work along with the people in the office, who were scrambling back and forth arranging papers. From this we understood that we have arrived at the orchestrating center of the music. On the walls and desks we could see pictures and memorabilia from the China experience. It was here that we found the letter from “Hu Ye Ye.” These objects radiated how proud the band was of their China tour, especially the enlarged picture of the whole band on the Great Wall.

Outside of the building, on the football field, we witnessed the great synchrony and logistics of the band: 300 strong band members, conducted by three students standing on top of individual platforms, all supervised by one choreographer in a control tower. Students were playing a diverse range of instruments while marching at the beat of the batons, with firm steps in horizontal ranks towards the audience. We were awestruck by their confidence and spirit.

Inside the building, the band split up into sectionals for hard practice. In this practice room hung a huge streamer they brought from China to remind them of their accomplishment. Together with the band, we stood in front of the streamer, reading out loud the Chinese characters in unison: “America’s Londonderry High School Marching Band China Tour Concert.” With this ice breaker, we felt much at ease with each other. I played a very energetic Chinese folk piece on their grand piano, and they in return energetically gave me a mini hands-on lesson on how to play some of their instruments. We were all happy that I was able to play a short charming melody in the end on the xylophone, and they patted on my shoulder to cheer me on. With that I felt like part of their band.

The students were so open and pure hearted to new people. The building of this character was the result of the upbringing by the parents and the community. With joint efforts, for the China Tour, they spent a year and half preparing for the event. This includes raising money for the entire band member’s travel and instruments’ shipping expenses. When the marching band held fund raising concerts, some of the members of the community just came for the sole purpose of donating money. During their preparation, they heard the bad news of the earthquake in Sichuan, China. To express their concerns to their Chinese peers, they collected donations for quake relief and even added their own money to the amount to make the symbolic number of $2008.

Thanks to the contribution from Londonderry High School’s Marching Band and international friends alike, people in the disaster area have rebuilt schools for the new school year. Some handicapped students even danced at the Opening ceremony of the Paralympics. International exchange and friendship make our world better. People in China and President Hu Jintao were moved by these American students’ sincere donation, friendship, and support for the Olympic Games. China is opening up to the outside world, and they cherish heartfelt friendship. They will remember these American students for their effort to promote the international exchange. We are happy to see that Londonderry’s band’s friendship has gone beyond the national boundaries. All young people of the world have one dream, and Londonderry’s band will march forward and work together to build a bright future for us all.





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