Band students get experience of a lifetime

Published 11:59 am Saturday, January 8, 2011

After arriving at the airport in Sedona, Ariz., band students were transported through the snowy landscape in pink jeeps.

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Pelham High School Band trumpet player, Drew Romanowski and French horn player Austin Roberts, from Helena, were two of the 108 band students who returned somewhat sleep deprived but awed by the experiences of five days visiting sites around Arizona and marching in the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Tempe on New Year’s Day.

Their whirlwind itinerary began with their departure on a private jet at 5 a.m., where upon landing and check-in, they were whisked through the snowy landscape surrounding Sedona in a caravan of pink jeeps.

“Our practice that afternoon proved we were well-prepared for our program,” Romanowski said.

So the group progressed on to dinner at Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, where a 6,000-pipe Wurlitzer organ (now the world’s largest) played by professional Lew Williams accompanied their cheese and pepperoni.

Linda Roberts, one of the 47 trip chaperones, said she implements ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ for these occasions. “But these are all good kids. I really just make sure they are having a good time.”

Roberts did appreciate relaxing with the other parents at the Kiwanis Park Recreation Center and wave pool, where the students were able to unwind on the second day.

The parade itself was a 1.8-mile journey of about two hours on a chilly day. Even with only about half the band represented on the trip but apparently the entire drum section the band sounded great tooting out “I’ve Got Rhythm,” as YouTube videos attest.

“Mr. Burnside said he was very proud of how the brass stuck in there the whole time. Arms and instruments up and down, up and down. We were pretty sore the next day,” Romanowski and Roberts agreed.

The group also visited Rawhide West, a Western Town and Steakhouse where they witnessed shoot-outs in the street.

Rumor has it that chaperone Steve Hoag dined on rattlesnake at dinner there.

A train trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and a horseback ride through Box Canyon was the most memorable part of this year’s band trip. Students agreed that seeing the Grand Canyon was surreal-like walking into a three-dimensional landscape previously seen only in photographs.

Parent Beth Romanowski said, “The PHS band program is a dynamic package deal with three talented men who expend all their energy making band a great experience. Mr. Burnside is the backbone, alongside Christian Sweatt and Lance Pruitt (HMS band director).

“Being in the band is awesome,” Austin Roberts said. “It’s a tradition that has been nurtured at PHS and I am proud to be a continuing part of it.”

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e-mail at