Charlotte Catholic High School marching band students can now confidently claim they’re the best band in the world.
The band took first place among International Bands in the 45th International Marching Band Championship in Limerick, Ireland, in mid-March.
Twenty-four marching bands comprising 1,110 musicians from throughout the world competed.
Charlotte Catholic’s band also performed in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, where it won the Overall Best Band.
“It’s so thrilling to me,” said band director Timothy Cook. “It means a lot to me professionally, but really, I didn’t do much. The kids were so incredible. They wanted to succeed so badly and they did.”
It was the first time the school has earned such distinctions, although students have been to Ireland three times.
The school is allowed to apply to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day parade every four years, Cook said.
During the weeklong stay, marching band students and three teachers toured the country and performed in the two events. They also performed in a concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which Cook said “provided a listening map of the United States.”
Cook said he took music from the Northeast, the South and the Midwest to help the Irish experience American culture.
“They love to listen to us play in St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” said Cook, who has taught at Charlotte Catholic for about eight months. “We were very well received by the local community.… It’s a fascination for them to see that our young musicians are so incredibly well-trained and gifted.”
David Wasson, a senior who plays trumpet, said the highlight for him was the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“I never had that many cameras on me at once. It was almost a blow to the chest seeing everyone there,” he said. “All the green and the yelling – it was really cool. Being in a high school band, you don’t really get that many fans usually.”
The students found out in Limerick that they’d won Best International Band, but it wasn’t until they performed in Dublin that they also won Best Overall Band.
Cook said that, in talking with the judges afterward, he learned the band’s uniforms helped set the group apart during the Dublin competition.
The uniforms are fairly new, he said, making them look brighter and cleaner. Cook said the band wore its traditional shakos for hats, whereas a lot of other bands simply wore ballcaps and or other hats.
“I think it made the judges realize we were serious about what we were about to do and about the performance,” he said.
Cook said the selection the band played helped it stand out: the band played American music, including Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” as well as “The Thunderer” march by John Philip Sousa.
Cook said it was an even more impressive feat to win given that the students did not have much time to prepare, as other competitions throughout the year demanded their attention.
In fact, he said, the students only were able to start practicing in January.
Cook announced the Best Overall award during dinner at the hotel with the students. Although students mostly had been concerned with winning the Best Youth Band award (which they didn’t ultimately win), many did not anticipate winning Best Overall.
Patrick McGinty, director of percussion studies, said the award was a bonus on an already unforgettable trip.
“It almost felt like it was secondary, because I felt like the kids felt really good after the performance,” McGinty said. “The awards were good recognition to show the students that they have been working hard and they do deserve it.”
Cook said he’s looking forward to the next time the school can visit Ireland, adding he’s grateful to share an international experience with the students. He pointed to all the landmarks they visited in their downtime, including the Cliffs of Moher, Clonmacnoise and downtown Dublin.
“Music is unlike any other subject in that it is so cross-curricula. I can teach geography, science and history through music,” Cook said.
“I hope this experience broadened their minds and allowed them to become more cultured individuals.”
Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
Students who performed in Ireland
An Mei Reid
Anna St. Onge
Teachers who went to Ireland
▪ Timothy Cook, Director of Bands
▪ Patrick McGinty, Director of Percussion Studies
▪ Rebecca Hanna, Colorguard Coordinator