If you had a chance to share the spotlight with celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, Sam Smith, Meghan Trainor, Brett Eldredge, and Miley Cyrus’ iconic godmother Dolly Parton, would you take it?
Students at EL Crossley knew the answer – a resounding and enthusiastic YES!
The EL Crossley Marching Band will be featured with every one of these famous singers during Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade. Santa is still coming to town, but like most of 2020, the parade will be done differently. It will be nationally broadcast in a television special with several pre-recorded performances, including EL Crossley’s 'March for Christmas,' a marching song set to the melody of 'Jingle Bells.' Camera crews visited the school and safely filmed the band on EL Crossley’s field while following DSBN protocols.
Due to COVID-19, the band hasn’t been able to play their music together as usual, and other adjustments had to be made as well. While normally the EL Crossley marching band is open to all students, this year it was modified to be composed of those enrolled in instrumental music for health and safety reasons. And when they were asked to play in a coveted, televised spot among major artists and other talented performers, it made the opportunity that much more exciting.
“School has been different lately and we’ve been adapting to a lot of new situations, so it was really nice to have everyone playing together again,” said William Grant, a Grade 11 clarinet player in the band. “It definitely wasn’t like a regular parade, but I like knowing that our band will be part of making the holidays feel normal for people. I hope the parade gives everyone some comfort and a sense of hope, even in a strange time.”
Lucas Grant is in Grade 10 and plays alto saxophone in the band, and like his band mate and brother William, he shares the same optimism and hopeful attitude to spread some joy.
“Some families might have traditions to watch the parade that they look forward to, and they can’t go to it in person this time. Now they can keep the tradition going since it will be on TV, and I’m glad our band will bring some music and happiness into their homes,” said Lucas.
EL Crossley is one of only eight marching bands who were asked to perform this year, but participating in the parade is nothing new to this historic group. Since the band formed in 1968, they have marched in the Toronto Santa Claus parade over 30 times.
“Just as the kids didn’t think they’d get to play at all, now they’re about to see themselves perform on national television,” said Janine Barber, EL Crossley’s music teacher and conductor for the marching band. “We’ve all missed the regular extracurriculars. When students get involved, they make friends, memories, and they learn with and from each other.”
Experiences like this are important for students. Grade 9 student and band member Luca Burratini agrees; performing on the synthetic turf field with the band was his first time participating in a group activity like this at his school, and he’s thankful he chose to get involved.
“I was hesitant to join the band at first, but when I did, I felt a sense of belonging with friends and was having fun playing as a group with good people,” said Luca. “Some of the best times of my life have come from music, especially with my family. It’s been pretty cool playing at my school and doing this performance.”
Performing together with a camera crew was a new experience for the marching band. Even in an uncommon year like 2020, with all the challenges students have faced, they are adapting, learning, and embracing the new and exciting opportunities too.
“I’m never nervous during parades, but I was terrified on the field, and I was able to channel that into excitement,” said William. “I love playing in the band because music is part of my identity, and it’s nice to feel a sense of community with other people who have similar interests. I like to believe that by surrounding yourself with the right people, you become the person you want to be. Having comradery with the band and working together to create something is fulfilling for me.”
“I play sports and music, so I’ve learned to harness my nervous energy into positivity, and that helps me focus and perform better. Every time I play, I try to learn from what I do, work harder, and get better,” said Lucas.
“Being a Grade 9, I didn’t know what to expect this year. Even though this year has been weird, I’ve learned to go with the moment. Sometimes life happens the way it’s going to happen, and I think it’s best to enjoy it while you can.”