Band sets sail for France trip


Tiger Paw Photo

Head band director Mr. Vance Brakefield conducts the band at the senior farewell concert on May 8.

The Oakville Band is making OHS history by travelling to France with a group of over 100 members to perform for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy this June.

“This event is bigger than any of us have ever realized,” said flute section leader Christina Meier (12).  

The band was invited to attend this event in France through “Historic Programs,” whose mission is to connect people with important events that have shaped world culture.

“Based on our performance at President’s Cup (Washington DC in 2017), not only the quality of our performance, but also the kid’s behavior, expectations, and working around the soldier positions, they sent us the invitation to France,” said director Mr. Vance Brakefield.

To pay tribute and honor to soldiers that have fought in the war, the band is performing three times in three days. First at the Brittany American Cemetery, then the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the main event, the D-Day Memorial Parade at in St. Mère-Eglise.

“For the two cemetery events, we’ll be performing a piece by John Williams, called Hymn to the Fallen. For the other events we’re doing, the public event at St. Mère-Eglise, we’re playing a lot of jazz songs,” said Brakefield.

In order to make a connection between home and abroad, the band is also taking on another project while they are in France.

“There are over 300 missouri soldiers who gave their lives and are buried in the cemeteries that we’re visiting. Students are going to be assigned a gravesite, visit a Missouri soldier’s grave, and lay some Missouri sand on it,” said Brakefield.

This trip isn’t just for the current OHS band members, but the 8th grade class will also be going to France with the high school. 

“We had a mini marching camp and that was pretty interesting.  A lot of eighth graders had to learn to march for France, so Mr. Brakefield decided to make it a whole freshman class thing, so in that way it’s going to help marching season move faster,” said saxophone section leader Sophie Kettenbrink (10).

With a big trip comes a big price tag. Each student is responsible for coming up with around  $4,000, with a total cost of the trip around $500,000. The band program and parents have done extensive fundraising through craft fairs, butter braid and poinsettia sales, and reaching out to businesses. One of their fundraisers is making and carrying cards to represent an American soldier.

“We’ve collected cards from anyone who’s served in the military or wants to represent a family member. They are going to be carried in the pockets of our students while in France. We’re calling this Marching in the Footsteps of Valor, because not only are we honoring the soldiers that are there, but in gratitude of other people who have served before,” said Brakefield.

For the senior class, this trip will be the last one they take as a member of the OHS band.

Drumline section leader Jake AuBuchon (12) said, “I’m super pumped for it. It’s my last trip as a senior so it’s a huge one to end things with. I was on the Washington D.C. trip, so now it’s like a full circle going to France as well. I’m excited for it.”

This trip is unlike any other trip before. The band has been in the planning process for about two years and has been learning the songs since February.

“This is more than just going to get a trophy or competing in a competition. It’s a privilege to be going to honor our soldiers, especially those who never came home,” said Brakefield.  

With this being the first international trip for the band, students will be getting a whole new experience.

Brakefield said, “I think student travel is a wonderful way to show students that music is bigger than what we do here in our own school and community. I think the opportunity to go to Europe and to witness the sights and experience the culture is going to be really special.”