The 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing begin August 8 — and it’s not just the athletes who are stoked.
Tom Glanz, Redmond High School (RHS) class of 2004, Dan Reisinger, RHS ‘06, and Jennifer Arther, RHS ‘06, will be among the 1,800 musicians in The Beijing 2008 Olympic Orchestra.
The orchestra will make history this weekend as being the first and only foreign group ever given permission to perform in Tiananmen Square.
“The invitation is much like that given to The Three Tenors five years ago when they were the only foreign group given permission to perform in the Forbidden City,” wrote Kirk Troen, chief operating officer for World Projects, which is coordinating travel arrangements and schedules for the Beijing Olympic Orchestra.
The orchestra is comprised of three core units — the RED orchestra (representing the United States), GREEN orchestra (Pacific/Islands) and GOLD orchestra (China).
Glanz, Reisinger and Arther were invited to participate because they’re members of the University of Washington Husky Marching Band (HMB), whose director, Dr. J. Brad McDavid, is also the artistic director for the RED unit of the Olympic Orchestra. The students are paying their own way for the trip, which costs a pretty penny, but also includes sightseeing and a chance to be part of the Olympic pageantry.
For these former RHS Mustangs, the opportunity is like putting a cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae that they’ve been building since middle school, when they first picked up their band instruments.
Lots of people join band in elementary school. Some stick it out through high school, but the time commitment scares others away. At the college level, it’s a massive commitment, especially in a PAC-10 band like the HMB. And now they’ve given up another chunk of their summer to get ready for Beijing.
Glanz, Reisinger and Arther said the friendships they’ve forged through their high school and college band years have made the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.
“Band is like a family,” said Arther.
Reisinger agreed, “The feeling of making beautiful or powerful music yourself is much more gratifying than just listening to it. … (yet) if you’re going to make great music, it almost isn’t worth it if you have nobody to share it with.”
Glanz, who plays clarinet and saxophone, recalled how his RHS class restarted the tradition of the Spirit Trumpet — a green and gold painted instrument handed down to the most spirited band member each year — and also started Spirit Trombone and “Dew Keg” traditions. Travels with the RHS jazz band and teacher Andy Robertson cemented feelings of closeness with others who love music, he said.
Reisinger plays French horn and for marching purposes, mellophone, “kind of half way between a trumpet and French horn.”
His favorite RHS memories were a trip to Disneyland with his “best friends” — the band, of course — and winning the Jazz Band Member of the Year award and a $700 scholarship at the final concert of his senior year.
Arther, a clarinet player, said her best RHS experiences were with pep bands, “the times when I was a director and the band would remember the pickups to the song I was conducting, going to Red Robin after games, getting out of school to watch basketball in the Tacoma Dome and wearing as much green and gold as possible. I also fondly remember Mr. Robertson’s endless jokes and food references.”
Now accustomed to performing before huge crowds, the students admitted they were slightly freaked out the first time they high-stepped onto the football field at a packed Husky Stadium.
“Seeing all those people … was so awe-inspring that I got distracted and almost messed up my first move in pre-game,” said Reisinger. “And then when we were done and they clapped for us, it was really cool, too.”
They’ve also come to realize that they’re not just there to entertain the fans but to give moral support to the athletes, too.
Glanz mentioned a week-long HMB pep band trip for the Women’s NCAA first round. “On the charter plane ride back from Nashville, we were on the plane with the team and expected them to be somewhat demoralized after a difficult defeat. However, they immediately integrated with us, thanked us for being there and so spirited, and we actually all had a dance party on the plane coming home. Moments like those definitely fuel my passion for what we do in band and what it’s all about.”
For more information about the Beijing 2008 Olympic Orchestra, visit the Web site at www.beijing2008olympicorchestra.com.
Mary Stevens Decker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (425) 867-0353, ext. 5052.