RALEIGH — N.C. State Universitys marching band is about to give its reputation and the universitys another bit of international burnishing.
At the invitation of the city of Madrid, the band is traveling to Spain, where it will march in that citys main Christmas-holidays parade, the Cabalgata de Reyes Magos, on Jan. 5.
It will be one of just a handful of bands in the children-oriented parade, which can draw upward of half a million spectators and is televised all over Europe, said Paul Garcia, director of bands for the university.
Our band has done quite a bit to boost its visibility in the past few years, but until recently we hadnt been getting out of the region much, so this is just fantastic, Garcia said. It will be a great learning experience for the students as well as an opportunity to share our music and a little about N.C. State.
The evening parade marks the eve of the Epiphany the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem which is a big night for kids in Spain, because they get to open gifts.
Only three U.S. bands are invited to play, and they had to pass muster of a panel of judges who review the bands résumés and videos of their performances.
It will be the first time outside the U.S. for many of the students, Garcia said.
And they will not only get to play in the parade but will get to soak up some history and culture, since theyll be in Spain from Jan. 2. to 10. The itinerary includes side trips to Barcelona and Toledo, visits to various museums and cathedrals, and some traditional meals such as tapas and paella.
Toledo officials asked if the band would play there, too, so it is planning two performances in that city, Garcia said.
This will not be the NCSU bands first time on the international stage. In 2010, the band traveled to Dublin to march in that citys St. Patricks Day parade, which also gets massive media exposure.
It won the award for the best band in that parade, even though Garcia had been initially told it wasnt eligible for the prize.
The trip to Spain will be done without any money from taxpayers, Garcia said. The 185 band members who are going will pay their own way, at $2,500 each. He does plan to use some endowment money to pay the cost of shipping some of the larger instruments so the drummers, for example, dont get stuck with massive baggage fees.
Drum major Aaron Thomas, 22, of Fuquay-Varina said he hopes the huge audience will be receptive. Thomas said the band plans to play what it hopes will be a crowd-pleaser, Los Peces en el Rio (The Fishes in the River), a Christmas carol that Spanish kids are taught at a young age.
With luck, he said, they will sing along as the band passes.
Thomas said he was thrilled to be able to go, in part because hes a senior and will likely be headed for graduate school.
Ive never been outside the country, and Ive done band since 9th grade, so I realized that this would be my last year , he said. Going to Spain will really be the icing on the cake.
After a particularly grueling season, which included playing eight home football games and two away, as well as other performances, the rest of the band was in a similar frame of mind about the trip, Thomas said.
Everybodys definitely pumped, he said. We figure that this will be kind of like a reward for all the hard work weve put in.