Pennsbury, PA – There are few high school bands who can claim they have performed on 5 different continents, paraded through every Walt Disney theme park, marched the Rose Parade, and been titled as one of NAMM’s Best Communities for Music Education…for 10 years in a row. Pennsbury High School Marching Band is the exception to that claim.
Director Frank Mazzeo is in his 33rd year of teaching in the Pennsbury school district. During that time, he has worked with a variety of the school’s ensembles and has coordinated the program for the past 10 years. Further, Mazzeo has been central in building the program’s stellar reputation. This includes the band’s 37-year stint as the local WPVI Channel Honor Band. During these years, the program (nicknamed the Long Orange Line marching band) was earning its reputation as Mickey’s favorite band. The band first traveled to the Tokyo Disney Resort in the 80s and made history in 2008 as the only band to perform in every Disney Park. This accomplishment earned the band its other moniker as “The Mickey Mouse Band.”
With a history of jet-setting, Pennsbury HS has wracked up the sky miles over the years with trips including:
With the opening of Disney’s newest resort in Shanghai comes a great new opportunity. On a formal invitation from Disney, the Long Orange Line marching band will be the first band to perform at the new resort! And with recent approval from the school board, this invitation will now be a reality. In an interview with Bucks Local News, Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula affirmed, “This is an opportunity that…builds cultural awareness…and can transcend what occurs in the classroom.” Similarly, Mazzeo stated that “the kids are ecstatic! The buzz around [the school] is intense.” Set for April 2020, the Pennsbury students will embark on a trip to China to perform at the newest park and participate in a global collaboration with local Chinese programs.
Mazzeo stated that, in total, 150 students and 13 chaperones will travel to China. So, what does an international trip entail? About $3600 worth of fundraising per student. Students will be participating in a number of (mostly) food-related fundraisers including:
The interview with Bucks Local News explained that, “the band’s first trip to China came at the invitation of the Chinese government who had seen a video of the band’s performance and were eager to have the young musicians perform in China as part of a cultural exchange.” On that same token, Mazzeo has made an effort to provide students on every trip with an experience that “makes their worlds a little smaller.” No matter the trip, Pennsbury band students perform side-by-side performances with local students. Mazzeo stated that the music usually consists of a few Sousa marches and a playing of each country’s national anthem. These experiences have ranged from the Hong Kong (2008) program coincidentally planning the same 2 Sousa marches as Pennsbury to performing side-by-side national anthems with 3 high schools from Australia (2016).
For their upcoming trip to Shanghai (2020), students will participate in a number of cultural and collaborative performances. While many details are still in the infantile stages, Mazzeo has stated that the band will perform in a number of different venues in Shanghai, The Great Wall, and Bejing, including a side-by-side with a group of local Chinese students.
Mazzeo believes that this collaboration “truly captures the spirit of why we travel and the benefit of travelling…When you put on the news and see the great political unrest around the world my students may be able to make a realistic assessment because they have traveled abroad.”
There is camaraderie in music, and as the Pennsbury High School band has learned, there is sameness in sharing music with others. Mazzeo’s students, for the past 32 years, have been true stewards, not only for their school, but for music. In fact, students participated in a student-driven fundraiser concert just this week: “Last year…we raised enough money to build a well in Africa,” Mazzeo explained. “And tonight, we are performing a concert to raise money for underprivileged kids in India for malnutrition and schools.”
These students have formed relationships with their international counterparts and have been part of building a global reputation for their community. Their "band together" attitude has been an integral part of the school’s culture and will definitely carry them into their futures both at home and abroad.
If you know a band or color guard program that extends beyond their program, that represents their band as leaders in the community, and that is a true steward of the activity, we want to highlight them. You can reach out to us via personal message on Facebook (Director's Showcase) or Twitter (@DShowcase). Help us spread the #bandtogether story.
Danielle Lavrenz lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, Morton High School, Waukesha North High School, and Greendale High School. Lavrenz is a member of the DSI Marketing Team and currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she teaches at Greendale High School. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.