Knoxville — In a little over a week, 40 members of the Knoxville High School Band will make its quadrennial excursion down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, La.
Of course, the band members, along with four chaperones and Director Ben Varner, will travel to the Big Easy by bus, all 16 hours of the trip. Varner is a 2005 KHS alumnus, in his first year as his alma mater's band director, who made the trip himself his senior year.
"I remember it all being pretty cool," Varner said.
Among the highlights of this year's trip are visits to the National World War II Museum, a jazz set at Preservation Hall, a cruise through the Louisiana Swamp and dinner at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Varner and his students are also eager to take part in a question and answer session with jazz clarinet player Doreen Ketchens. The group that took the trip in 2009 said this was the highlight of their visit
These attractions are not the only things students are looking forward to.
"Warmer weather," was Sara Smith, an eleventh grade flute player, immediately said in response to what she is looking forward to. As for how she and her bandmates will spend the 16 hours on the bus, they will pass the time watching movies, looking out the window and sleeping.
In New Orleans, the band will perform twice. The first will be from 6-7 p.m. at Artillery Park across from Jackson Square on March 26. The second will be at Spanish Plaza, from 1:45-2:30 p.m. on March 27.
"I'm glad we're playing outside and we don't have to wear our uniforms," Smith said.
The trip has been a tradition since 2005 with former director, Ross Leeper. Varner went on that inaugural trip and said he intends to stick with the New Orleans destination because the students get something more than fun from it.
"It seems to be a good destination, based on educational value," Varner said. Students took part in three different fund raisers and were able to collect over $5,000 to make the trip.
The band leaves Sunday, March 24, one day after several band members will take part in a solo/ensemble contest. They will return Friday, March 29.
Before the trip, however, the band will hold its Spring Concert on Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. in the KHS gym.